Two more sessions gone, on citizen media and online free speech, and living with censorship. 12 speakers from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, discussing Internet blockage, and the persistent pressure and demoralization that comes with continuing struggle with authority. Rather than list each (herds of bloggers doing this right in front of me), I’ll pull together some common threads:
Andrew Heavens on the death of the Ethiopian blogosphere. Censorship is more than being silenced, but personal attack to limit, silence, and entrap, to encourage self-censorship. Solutions more than just technical or legal, but cultural and social.
Au Wai Pang on Singapore. Psychology trumps technology. From the perspective of free speech taking root in society, what causes a change in psychology? What would you do if you live in a society whereby for all of free speech, people aren’t interested. How do you motivate people?
Razan on imprisonment of Syrian blogger Tariq Baiasi, and the failure of the FreeTariq campaign. Concepts of activism, volunteerism, freedom of speech are not well-defined, and have no empirical meaning in contemporary Syria. Campaign proposed actions without explaining why they were wrong, but this was not understood. This ties into social and self-censorship. Issue is not just what, but how we speak, or live. Censorship is social before it’s political.
Ory Okollah of Kenya on covering the violence after the 2008 Kenyan elections. I had to moderate comments. There was a lot of hate speech going on, really nasty stuff. Afterwards, people saw blogs as a tool that propagates hate. So the good work people were doing got lost in all the negative language. It’s free speech, so people can write what they want, but at some point in a highly charged context, it becomes too much.
Point, over and over, is that the practice of blogging should never be considered in a vacuum; that it’s all tied into contexts and communities, and has relevance, life because of that. My preference would be to get rid of the term. A blog is just a template that lays out writing after all. Call it writing instead and the idea that it’s separate from context leaks away.