- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

Global Voices Summit: Emergence of a Conversation Community

Categories: Citizen Media, Announcements

Orygv05bybethkanter [1] (photo by Beth Kanter [1])

Thanks to everybody who participated – both in person and online to make our Global Voices London Summit [2] such a stunning success!

The conversation was so intense that few people noticed [3] a movie star [4] sitting quietly in the back of the room, listening intently to what bloggers from around the world had to say.

A full, real-time transcript of the meeting has been posted on the GV05 Conference Blog [5], courtesy of SJ Klein [6] (who typed), Angelo Embuldeniya (who posted and edited) and others who helped.

Tharumgv05bycaribbeanfreephoto [7](photo by Georgia Popplewell [7]

MP3 audio files of the full meeting will be posted soon. (UPDATE: FULL AUDIO OF THE CONFERENCE IS NOW POSTED HERE [8].) Brendan Greeley of Radio Open Source [9] and Ben Walker of the Theory of Everything [10] also conducted some wonderful one-on-one interviews with many of the bloggers present. We hope to post those as podcasts over the coming week or two.

Meanwhile, the blog posts about the conference – by people in the room as well as by people who followed the discussion online – are popping up like mushrooms around the web. You can track them on Del.icio.us [11], on Blogpulse [12], the Technorati “globalvoices” tag [13], the Technorati “global voices” search [14], and on Flickr [15].

As many pointed out, one day was too short. It was really just the beginning of a conversation that needs to continue over coming year. We have three main online spaces in which to continue this conversation:


Ethangv05byenda [16](Photo by Enda [16])

The e-mail list-serv [17]: This will be used as a place to start conversations, make announcements and provoke discussions which can be continued on:

The post-conference brainstorm wiki [18]: I have created several links for subjects people clearly have an issue in pursuing: translation, “bloglogue”, outreach, etc. Feel free to add more. When you add major ideas or want to get discussion going on these pages, please send and email to the list and ask everybody to join you there.

IRC: The globalvoices IRC is open 24/7 at irc://irc.freenode.net/#globalvoices If you haven’t been there before, click here for instructions on how to get on it [19]. People can email the list and schedule “meeting times” to discuss specific issues, then post the transcript and follow-up summary notes on the wiki so we have a record of what was discussed and planned.


Gvwidebyenda [21](Photo by Enda [21])

Above all, the important point here is that Global Voices will become what the community makes of it. GV’s future is not within the control of me [22], or Ethan [23], or our Regional Editors, or the Berkman Center [24] Reuters, or any of our other sponsors or funders. We are really just trying to facilitate, support, enable, and draw attention to the conversations people want to have. The more initiative you as a community member take in shaping and contributing to GV, the more it will become what you want it to be.

Coming out of the 2005 Summit, it appears that commitment to our core mission [25] – enabling and amplifying voices that otherwise wouldn't be heard – remains strong. But I learned something important on Saturday: Global Voices really is a Conversation Community, not a media organization in any sense that a conventional journalist or editor would recognize. GV exists as much to serve the interests of the contributors and their blogging communities as it does for our “viewers” or “users.” People may look at the website, hear about its 300,000 viewers per month [26], and think of GV as another form of media in the conventional producer-to-audience relationship. But that is to miss out on a great deal. Here's how I break things down, at least initially:


As Ethan points out [27], when this group of amazing people start to interact with one another, powerful things happen. Like a soul-searching dialogue between a Palestinian-born [28] and Israeli blogger [29]. These are two very influential voices in their communities. The fact that they have established a personal relationship will have long-lasting, positive impact on a lot of people who do not blog and who do not read GV.

As Curt Hopkins points out [30], powerful things can also happen when bloggers from vastly different parts of the world interact, even when their communities are not in conflict. Curt writes:

Global Voices Online (GVO) should encourage more conversations between groups that are not commonly seen as conversing. The Chileans and the Chinese, say. There is an implicit notion that a Chinese blogger involved with GVO and a Chilean who is involved may speak to one another via GVO. But what about encouraging direct, back-channel conversations, events, conferences, online actions? GVO is primarily a facilitator. It should attempt to facilitate these conversations overtly, then step out of the way.

I agree. We should help to enable conversations beyond the exchanges begun at or through GV.


In some countries (but not in others where it's too politically dangerous) people want tools like Pledgebank [31] that can help them take action on issues they have been passionately blogging about. In other countries, the act of merely speaking is tremendously courageous. We must continue to support bloggers in such countries with the tools (like Ethan's anonymous blogging guide [32]) that can enable them to continue speaking out despite governments’ efforts to stop them.


Bloggers recognize they are early-adopting elites – and that the conversations happening on the blogs in most countries are not representative of the population as a whole. There was great interest expressed on Saturday in doing outreach to communities that currently have some internet access but are not currently blogging. People feel the need for better training materials and guidelines for outreach so that they can spread the blogging gospel more easily and efficiently.

There is also a recognition that many people simply are never going to blog, but may be talking online in other ways. Offline speech in lectures, on radio call-in shows, etc., should also be collected and connected somehow. Farid Pouya hopes to develop his bloglogue idea [33] toward this end. We need a lot more discussion of how discussions on blogs can better interact with conversations going on in otuer mediums.

Maybe in the third world where a lot more people access talk radio than the internet, Radio Open Source [9] can be used as a model for how you get offline people interacting in conversations with online people?


As somebody pointed out, the most difficult barriers to communication between people are not national borders but language. How can GV help break down the barriers? Does the answer lie with some distributed translation system like Blogamundo [34] or with various non-English versions of GV – which don't just translate GV material but which would aggregate content from a particular language's blogosphere, then make perhaps highlights available for translation and summary into English and other widely-spoken languages beyond the original?


A number of people, especially several bloggers observing the proceedings from afar, expressed cynicism and skepticism [35] about the fact that Reuters sponsored the conference and will sponsor parts of GV, and that we may be on the verge of turning ourselves into some kind of cheap stringer network. I think the discussion above shows this is not the case. Reuters will certainly gain new information and perspectives by being connected to the Global Voices conversation. It will also be able to offer its audience the ability to connect to that conversation, and I hope also to join the conversation. In exchange for this Reuters is giving us some modest financial support. I personally feel this is a fair exchange that will enable us to do more towards accomplishing the goals articulated above, and which is intended to benefit members of the community. I would not be in favor of the partnership if I didn't feel strongly that the people who will benefit the most from it will be bloggers themselves. (UPDATE/NOTE: I should also point out that we also get support from other institutions such as the MacArthur Foundation [36]. The partnership with Reuters does not prevent the interaction of our community members with other media organizations. GV members have been appearing with growing frequency on the BBC, for instance, and there is no reason why that shouldn't continue.)


Put it this way: for a conventional media organization, “content” is the end goal and “content creation” is the primary activity. For a Conversation Community like Global Voices, “content” and “content creation” are means to a larger end: conversation and dialogue. The first step towards conversation is having one's voice heard around the discussion table. By linking to people's blogs, our editors and contributors are in effect inviting people to the discussion table and moderating the conversation.

Nobody has ever done this before, so we're sure to make lots of mistakes. You don't learn any other way. In the coming year we will be working to figure out how best to bring more people to the conversation table, how to ensure that their voices are heard and not drowned out, how best to structure the conversations so that they can be meaningful, and how to maximize the impact of these conversations. It's an exciting project. Please help us figure it out!