European Bloggers (Un)Conference 'East meets West'
Opening / keynote
Blogging across the divide
A summary of the EJC's first Blogger's (Un)Conference:'East meets West'
As a military junta in Myanmar threatened, suppressed and even killed citizen journalists reporting the civil unrest in the Southeast Asian nation formerly known as Burma last week, a group of bloggers and citizen journalists gathered in Amsterdam to meet each other and discuss the social and political implications of their craft.
About 50 people representing 21 nations attended the European Blogger's (Un)Conference, held in conjunction with Picnic, an annual cross-media event and festival in Amsterdam.
The European Journalism Centre organised the event, inviting and securing visas for bloggers from countries as diverse as Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Macedonia. The EJC also invited bloggers from Western countries like Belgium, France and the United Kingdom for the two-day event, one which seemed eerily relevant in light of the problems in Myanmar.
Evgeny Morozov, director of new media for Prague-based NGO Transitions Online, kicked off the conference on 26 September with a presentation concerning the different tendencies and needs of citizens using Web 2.0 technologies and bloggers writing around the world.
In many instances, Morozov notes, developments like Google mashups are developed for entertainment-related purposes - like mapping the location of chocolatiers around a particular town.
The same technologies can be used, though, to make mashups showing disparities in land distribution in places like Bahrain.
Often it is these unplanned uses of online tools - the creations of folks whose needs are a bit lower on Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs - which have the potential to change the world.
The use of mobile phones in countries with fewer Internet connections is another example. Cellular phones were developed for the purpose of phone calls, but are now used by citizen journalists in Africa to upload video, photos and text to the World Wide Web.
'They're becoming a window to the developing world, used by people who would never have a computer - but they have a mobile phone,' Morozov said. 'Access to the Internet is not needed anymore.'
Following Morozov's presentation, Vanessa Witkowski discussed the challenges multi-lingual magazine and blog platform Cafe Babel is facing as it tries to utilise the developments of Web 2.0. Afterward, Micheal Nederlof gave a blow-by-blow of the surprising success of citizen journalism platform Skoeps.nl.
During the lunch hour - for most, sandwiches and apple juice tucked into kitschy wooden containers sold by Picnic - Cory Doctorow, one of the editors of BoingBoing, stopped by to answer questions about what Technorati calls the most linked-to blog on the world wide web.
Anne Helmond, a New Media Master student at the University of Amsterdam, commented on Doctorow's visit to the (Un)Conference on her blog.
A bit of trivia she didn't mention: Doctorow said BoingBoing, in its six years of existence, has received about 28 phone calls. In all.
Also, Doctorow - who writes science fiction novels as well as blog posts - said that for him, a typical day (well, typical until his wife gives birth to their first child in coming months) consists of waking up around 5 a.m., checking e-mail till around 6 a.m., blogging for another hour, then having breakfast with his wife. The couple leaves for yoga practice until 8 a.m., after which Doctorow comes home to do more e-mailing and blogging for the next few hours. He reserves late afternoon for writing and reading. In the evening he does reviews. Finally, around 9 p.m., the Canadian-born writer heads to bed.
Doctorow used to do the daily grind on Pacific Daylight Time, but after moving to London earlier in September, he's living on British Summer Time.
For another take on Doctorow, check out a YouTube interview with him, in which he raises many of the same points he made at the (Un)Conference.
After lunch, the conference split into three tracks: Developing successful Web 2.0 applications, moderated by leading Italian blogger Luca Conti; Citizen journalism, moderated by British professor and journalism blogger Paul Bradshaw; and a third track about the impact of blogs on society and the political landscape. Belgian writer Luc Van Braekel moderated that track, which garnered the most interest from (Un)Conference participants.
Following the roundtable discussions, about 50 participants chose to join the EJC for cocktails on a boat tour of Amsterdam's famous canals - and a spontaneous supper of Indonesian food afterward.
Friday morning dawned a bit too early for some travellers to the (Un)Conference, but as the caffeine kicked in, a few ambled up to the podium to informally present their latest projects and ask the crowd to weigh in.
Andrew Davies of Greenpeace started things off with a mention about Blog Action Day, 15 October, on which bloggers around the world are asked to post something about the environment.
Next, Luca Conti talked about his new partnership with BuzzParadise, an attempt to spark the blogosphere into reviewing various consumer goods. After Conti finished taking questions from the crowd, Ukraine native Serhiy Danylenko presented his blogging platform and asked for suggestions about how to keep citizen journalists motivated to submit stories.
Next, Kyrgyzstan resident Bektour Iskender presented his three-month old blogger's platform/citizen journalism site, Kloop.
For more about the site, check out an interview with Iskender on Global Voices.
Finally, a representative from the Deutsche Welle's Best of the Blogs awards, one of the largest international competitions for bloggers, took the stage.
He laid out the ins and outs of the awards show, one of the few competitions judged by a panel, not a voting crowd.
The afternoon wrapped up quickly after, with participants revisiting the roundtable discussions they began the previous day for about an hour. The moderators then presented the discussion points to the group.
But even before the (Un)Conference ended Friday, the EJC was invited to hold a second edition in 2008.
Monique van Dusseldorp, the programme director of Picnic/Cross Media Week - a four-day creative festival held at a former gas factory building in Amsterdam - visited the bloggers' conference Friday morning to thank its participants for travelling to Amsterdam and invite the EJC to host the conference again next year.
Wilfried Ruetten, director of the EJC, happily accepted the invitation.
EJC Welcome by Wilfried Ruetten
Keynote Evgeny Morozov