Brazil: Whose, and what kind of party, was Campus Party 2008?

Campus Party[pt], a huge yearly meeting of the Internet-kin taking place in Spain[es] for more than 10 years now, finally had its first Brazilian edition in the week of February 10th, in São Paulo. More than three thousand bloggers, gamers, modders, free-software and free-culture activists, robot-loving, digital-camera-totting, soda-guzzling and/or healthy/junkie food devouring people and other diverse kinds of geeks, as well as some people and journalists curious to see them, flocked to the Biennial Pavilion at Ibirapuera Park, connected their laptops/desktops (if they brought one) to the impressive 5 gigabit connection offered by a big local telecom and got together to do whatever they liked to do.

Geeks - almost - in line waiting to come inside Campus Party

Campuseros waiting – almost – in line outside the pavilion for their time to come inside and look for their places in the camping and the worktables (photo by Pattoli)

The camping

Campusero in his tent, posing with his laptop. Those who did not bring their own computers to the event had a very hard time getting access to the impressive 5.5gigabit connection brought by Telefonica. (photo by campuspartybr)

the modders and their strange machines

But the modders and the gamers never had any problem bringing their incredible machines (photo by patricianardelli)

That was Campus Party Brasil 2008, or at least that was a way to describe it. But Sergio Amadeu[pt], one of the event's Brazilian coordinators, free-software hardcore activist and a social scientist, who happens to be a blogger too, had a different way to describe it[pt]:

“O que é o Campus Party? Podemos dizer é um encontro presencial das comunidades que habitam a Internet. É um espaço incomum onde comunidades, que dificilmente estariam juntas, reuniram-se nesta semana para trocar idéias, fazer novos amigos e conhecer os avanços das tecnologias. O mais interessante é que neste Campus Party Brasil, conseguimos reunir entretenimento com aprendizagem em uma programação com mais de trezentos conteúdos. Trata-se de um momento típico da cibercultura, pós-industrial. As pessoas estão se divertindo enquanto ensinam, aprendem e compartilham conhecimento.”

“What is the Campus Party? We can say it's a real-world meeting of the internet-bound communities. It's an unusual place where communities that would hardly meet face to face could get together to share ideas, make new friends and acknowledge new technological advancements. The most interesting is that in this Campus Party Brasil we managed to join entertainment and learning in a grid of activities with more than three hundred different contents. It's a typical cyberculture moment, post-industrial. People are having fun as they teach, learn and share knowledge.”

Besides, Ariel Foina, who happens to be a social scientist studying the Internet and a blogger, too, had even another “interface” with the event[pt]:

“[…]tudo parece uma salada de multiculturalismo, um simulacro de diversidade legitimosa. Na abertura tivemos um “robo” que fala português com sotaque, um músico que depois transvirou-se em ministro, uma mesa que tem sons e cores, e uma bateria de escola de samba como plumas-pra-espanhol-ver na cabeça. Deixando de ser antropologo e voltando a ser sociologo… Cheguei à conclusão que o evento todo é uma grande navegação-em-carne-e-osso na internet. Se alguém tinha alguma duvida de que a rede era feita por pessoas, agora não tem mais. E assim como na Internet, o fenômeno mais marcante do evento é o ruido no canal de comunicação. Qualquer canal… se parar pra conversar com alguem, se parar pra ouvir uma palestra, vai haver barulhos e ruídos e etc ao fundo, todo o tempo e o tempo todo.”

“[…] everything looks like a big multicultural mixture, a simulacrum of legitimistic diversity. In the opening ceremony we had a robot that speaks Portuguese with a funny accent, a musician that later transmogrified in a state minister, a table with sounds and colors and the drummers core of a ‘samba-school’ with feathers and adornments to catch Spanish hearts in their heads. Leaving behind the anthropologist in me and going back to the sociologist… I've come to the conclusion that the whole event is a huge real-life-websurfing. If someone doubted the web was made of people, this doubt can stand no more. As in the Internet, the most impressive phenomena in the event is the noise at the communication channel. Every channel… if you stop to talk with someone, if you stand to listen to a talk, there will be rumble and noise and such things in the background, all the time.”

But Ariel ends his post with a complaint (or maybe a call to action):

“me resta perguntar: depois de censurarem o YouTube no backbone, ilegalizarem o P2P, censurarem a venda do CS.. ninguem vai propor NENHUMA AÇÃO POLÍTICA?”

“all that is left to me is asking: after they blocked YouTube in the [event's] backbone, forbade the P2P, censored the sales of Counter-Strike.. will no one propose ANY KIND OF POLITICAL ACTION [here]?”

Michael Lent, too, blogs about the “noise” at Campus Party and in the internet, and makes some remarks about the excess talk brought by the absolute freedom to speak[pt]:

“Saí de lá com vontade de fazer um post contando as minhas impressões a respeito do debate e do Campus Party em geral. Hoje de manhã cheguei a escrever um texto longo, mas apaguei pois achei que teria pouco a acrescentar face ao tanto de conteúdo que já está sendo produzido por aí. Olhei o BlueBus, passei no Flickr, no Radinho. Em todos lugares, lá estavam, impressões e mais impressões em todos os formatos e sobre o evento. Pensei, ‘pra que mais uma?'”

“I left [the Campus Party] willing to write a post telling all my impressions about the debates and Campus Party as a whole. I even wrote a big text this morning, but deleted it as I've found out I would have little to say in face of all the content that was being produced everywhere [about it]. I took a look at BlueBus, glanced at Flickr, the Radinho. Everywhere, there were so many impressions and posts in all formats about the event. I've said to myself, ‘why doing more of it?'”

In fact, there are so many points of view about what Campus Party 2008 was, with 300 journalists and more than twice that number of bloggers around the event, that it was impossible to track even all the tendencies in the blogosphere about it, not to mention all the significant posts. So, all we can do is keep navigating the Brazilian silicon seas and do some conversation and image/video sightseeing on the aftermath of the event. Tiago Dória, another famous Brazilian blogger, begins his great (and rather optimistic) post[pt] about the event highlighting that Campus Party was above all a meeting of people that only knew each other virtually before that:

“A imprensa menos especializada está chamando a Campus Party de “o maior encontro de entretenimento eletrônico do país” ou “carnaval dos nerds”. Balela! Para quem esteve os 6 dias lá, acredito que tenha sido o maior encontro no Brasil da geração que está crescendo junto com a internet, acostumada com ferramentas colaborativas, a geração “faça você mesmo”, ou “geração 2.0″, se preferir. Aquele cara que ficou famoso com um blog, a cantora que foi descoberta graças ao seu perfil na MySpace, a menina que conquistou um programa na TV devido ao seu fotolog, o pessoal que cria diversas versões para um jogo por conta própria, o cara que hackeou o Orkut, todos estavam lá presentes, em carne e osso.”

“The un-specialized press is dubbing the Campus Party ‘the biggest electronic entertainment meeting in the country’ or ‘the nerd carnival’. Bullshit! For those who were there for the whole 6 days, i believe [the event] was the greatest Brazilian meeting of the generation that is growing up with the internet, used to collaborative tools, the ‘do it yourself’ generation, or ‘2.0 generation’, if you so prefer. That guy who became famous for his blog, the singer that was discovered through her MySpace profile, the girl who got her own TV show due to her fotolog, the people who create many versions of the same game on their own, the guy who hacked Orkut, they were all there, in flesh and bone.”

aboutt boys and robots

Creativity, inventiveness and exchange of ideas, experiences and, why not, idle geeky chat were in fact the bread and butter of Campus Party (photo by vivoandando)

On the other hand, and in a sourer note, Gravataí Merengue from Imprensa Marrom was chastising free-software hardcore activists (and, apparently, Sergio Amadeu) for their participation in a mainstream event sponsored by Telefonica, the Spanish telecom that owns the monopoly to the São Paulo state landlines and almost owns the state's Internet market, in his post “Campus Party: an awful party for the digital inclusion“[pt]:

“Sim, péssima. Horrível. Catastrófica, eu diria – e sem exagero. Porque simplesmente não poderia ser pior. Foi ótima para o “modding”, excelente para os “gamers”, seguramente um evento e tanto para “bloggers” e, por que não?, houve sim bons debates sobre Inclusão Digital e Software Livre. Mas então por que foi péssima? Simples (e vexatório para os arautos pseudo-antimonopolistas do “SL”): a festa foi patrocinada pela Telefonica, empresa que detém o monopólio (sim, MONOPÓLIO!) da telefonia fixa no Estado de São Paulo. E não se trata de “mais uma, dentre tantos patrocinadores”, mas sim A PRINCIPAL PATROCINADORA. Infelizmente, não consegui saber quanto cada empresa forneceu de dinheiro e outros benefícios. Uma pena. Seria interessante saber quanto um “messias anti-monopolista” cobra para deixar de lado suas convicções. Ainda não descobri. Mas, sinceramente, acredito que não deva ser muita coisa. Em primeiro lugar, porque esses messias são em geral arrogantes e acham que não há problema em receber dinheiro oriundo de uma empresa monopolista. Além disso, eles simplesmente não são caros porque não são caros, ué. Preço de ocasião!”

“Yes, awful. Terrible. Catastrophic, I'd say – with no exaggerations. Simply because it couldn't be worse. [Campus Party] was great for the modding, excellent for the gamers, surely a great event for the blogger and, why not?, there were great debates about Digital Inclusion and Free Software taking place there. Why was it awful then? Simple (and shameful to the anti-monopolist paragons of the free software): the party was sponsored by Telefonica, the company that holds the monopoly (yes, the MONOPOLY) of the São Paulo state landlines. And it's not “one more between many sponsors”, but THE MAIN SPONSOR [of the event]. Sadly, i couldn't ascertain how much the company provided in money and other benefits. Sad thing. It would be great to know how much it costs to make an ‘anti-monopoly messiah’ forget all his convictions. I still don't know [how much money it was]. But, sincerely, I believe it wasn't that much. First of all, because these messiahs are in general very arrogant and believe there is no problem in receiving money from a monopolist company. More than that, they simply aren't that expensive because… they aren't expensive, dammit. Discount prices!”

Until now, as far as I know, no “messiah” said anything about Gravatai's post. But maybe Gravatai's point wasn't about free software or messiahs, or even about Telefonica or monopoly, but about lack of communication and transparency. How much did the company pay for the event, and why? Can hardcore anti-monopoly activists be safely at such events, and even be paid for it, and still sleep lightly at night? How does the activism and the old economy fit together (or not) in these times? No one has answered Gravatai's questions up to now, and among his empty provocations these questions stand as a very important point in the whole new-media/new-economy conversation.

Going back into the conversation about Campus Party, and to close this already-too-long article, let's quote some points blogged by ideiadigital in his post about the event:

“Inicialmente eu me inscrevi na área de criatividade, mas o primeiro dia, e parte do segundo, foram suficientes para eu perceber que ali não haveria o networking que eu procurava e nem mesmo as novidades interessantes que me levaram de BH a SP. […] O pessoal da organização pisou na bola com a criatividade, quem quer saber de Secondlife? MaryMoon?? Queremos falar de cores, de tipografia, de intervenções artísticas, queremos algo que nos faça re-pensar nossa posição no mundo e o que fazemos profissionalmente. […] quando as palestras se mostraram fracas, e o espaço a elas péssimo, sem divisórias e microfones que gritavam cada vez mais alto, atrapalhando todo mundo, o pessoal se tocou que o ponto forte de eventos como esse é o networking, a possibilidade de conhecer, conversar e trocar cartão de visita [this is so old, a gente troca é url!] com outras pessoas, e porque não fechar negócios, decobrir sócios, parceiros de trabalho, etc…? […] Houveram muitos erros de organização, descontamos porque foi o primeiro Campus-party fora da Espanha, em 2009 tenho certeza de que será melhor. Acredito que um evento como esse não é feito para palestras, mas sim para networking. Todas as propostas de conferência foram batidas por desconferências, com raras excessões. Num mundo de pontas como a internet, uma só ponta falando para um monte de gente não cola, o que queremos, e o que funciona, são várias pontas trocando informação, trocando conhecimento, e isso só ocorre nas desconferências da vida!”

“Initially I was signed into the creativity area, but the first day, and part of the second one, were enough for me to realize that the networking and the novelty I was looking for, and that made me come all the way from my state to Sao Paulo, wouldn't be found there. […] The organization crew screwed it up on ‘creativity’ area. Who wants to know about SecondLife? and Marimoon?? We want to talk about colors, typography, artistic interventions, we want to do something that makes us re-think our place in the world and what we do as professionals. […] when the official talks proved to be weak, and the environment for them worse still, with no acoustic divides and microphones shouting louder and louder, confusing everyone, then we realized that the strong point in events like this is networking, the chance to know, talk and exchange business cards (this is so old, we exchange URL!) with other people, and, why not, make business, discover new business partners, etc…? […]There were many mistakes in the organization [of the event], but we can accept that because that was the first Campus Party outside Spain. I'm sure the 2009 edition will be better. I believe an event like this is not made of conferences, but of networking. All the conference proposals were beaten by the dis-conferences, with rare exceptions. In a world of peers like the Internet, one peer speaking alone to all the others wouldn't do. What we do want, and what works, are the various peers exchanging information, sharing knowledge, and that only happens at dis-conferences!”

political action against the Azeredo law

Public act against the ‘Azeredo bill‘ and the outlawing of the sales of the game Counter-Strike, at Campus Party (photo by campuspartybr)

There was a lot of talk on the “clash between the traditional media and the bloggers” at Campus Party too, but many bloggers (myself included) agree with Inagaki when he says:

“Quando soube de todas as queremelas e embates entre jornalistas versus blogueiros na Campus Party, que reverberaram em posts escritos por nomes como Henrique Martin, Michel Lent, Lalai, Ana Brambilla, Francisco Madureira, Gabriel Tonobohn, Edney Souza, Will Publi, Daniel Duende, Renata Honorato, Jonny Ken e Mr. Manson, meu primeiro pensamento foi: qual a razão de ser de tantos tiroteios trocados pra lá e pra cá por pessoas que compartilham a mesmíssima atividade de disseminar informações e trabalhar com comunicação?


Eu sinceramente já não tenho o menor saco para entrar em polêmicas que não têm razão de ser. Creio piamente que a tendência, em um futuro a curto prazo, está na convergência de mídias. Do mesmo modo que veículos tradicionais como o New York Times e a revista Newsweek contrataram blogueiros como Markos Moulitsas e Brian Stelter, tenho a convicção de que o mesmo ocorrerá por aqui, da mesma maneira que jornalistas consagrados como Ricardo Noblat e Luis Nassif seguiram a via inversa e revitalizaram suas carreiras criando blogs de ótima qualidade. Há espaço para todos, e eu só posso imputar ao gosto que as multidões nutrem por polêmicas inócuas todos esses embates maniqueístas digladiando duas atividades como o jornalismo e a blogagem que, muito longe de serem antagônicas, complementam-se uma à outra (vide os ótimos blogs do IDG Now e do RadarCultura na Campus Party).”

“When I acknowledged all the conflicts and clashes between journalists and bloggers at Campus Party, that reverberated on posts written by bloggers like Henrique Martin, Michel Lent, Lalai, Ana Brambilla, Francisco Madureira, Gabriel Tonobohn, Edney Souza, Will Publi, Daniel Duende, Renata Honorato, Jonny Ken e Mr. Manson, my first thought was: what's the reason of so much fire coming to and fro between people that share the very same activity of disseminating information and working with communication? […] Sincerely I don't have the patience anymore to take part in discussions that have no reason to exist. I deeply believe that the trend, in a very short-term future, is the convergence of the medias. In the same way that traditional media big players like NY Times and the Newsweek magazine hired bloggers like Markos Moulitsas and Brian Stelter, i am sure the same will happen here, in the same way that respected journalists like Ricardo Noblat and Luis Nassif followed the reverse way and added new life to their careers by creating high quality blogs. There is a place for everyone, and i can only credit on the taste of the crowds for meaningless polemics all these maniqueist clashes between two activities like journalism and blogging that, far from being antagonistic, complement on each other (like in the great blogs from IDG Now and RadarCultura on Campus Party).”

jurassic party

A blogger wearing a dinosaur costume playing with a journalist inside the ‘traditional media aquarium’. Can you feel the tension? Can you see the clash? I don't. (photo by Fernando Cavalcanti)

That was Campus Party Brasil 2008, and it was a lot more, and maybe sometimes a little less, than all that is being spoken and written about it. Some liked it, some despised it. Above all, Campus Party Brasil was very different from its European counterpart, and was an experience. An experience on how to do a Campus Party, and how not to do it, and about what can be done at such an event. Most of all, Campus Party Brasil was worth for the conversations that happened there, and in the aftermath, and what it says about us and the Brazilian blogosphere and internet. Beautiful, Vain, Ugly or Uncomfortable, it was a reflection of our digital and real faces. We should reflect on that.

People say that an image says more than a thousand words. Great pictures of Campus Party Brasil can be found at Flickr if you search for campuspartybr or campus party 2008.


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