This week's blogger of the week is Solana Larsen, who is celebrating her one-year anniversary as managing editor of Global Voices Online this month. Solana is a true citizen of the world: she was born in Denmark, raised in Puerto Rico and the US, attended university and graduate school in London (she holds an MA in International Journalism from City University), and currently resides in New York City. I caught up with Solana this week to ask her a few questions before she gets overloaded with work for the Global Voices Summit!
Your current blog, solanasaurus, dates back to 2006. When did you first get involved in blogging?
I first started blogging in 2004 or 2005 when I was an editor with openDemocracy.net. We launched a blog called oD Today, which continues today. My favorite blogging adventures for openDemocracy included blogging from the World Social Forum and from the United Nations. But my major epiphany came in June 2005 when we launched a blog called IranScan 1384 about the Iranian presidential election (the one where President Ahmadinejad was elected to everyone's surprise). Some tremendous Iranian bloggers reported daily in English, and there was tons of media interest. It was very gratifying to provide a different media perspective than, “Bush says Iran has nuclear weapons, should the United States invade?” The local political angles were far more thoughtful and interesting.
I started my own blog sort of late in the game. I think my motivation was mainly professional, but I've kept it goofy enough that it still feels personal. It's really nice to have a place to say what I think. I have a second blog in Danish together with my father Dan Larsen called Blogbyblog.dk. We write about internet, media, and technology.
You joined Global Voices in June, 2007. What drew you to Global Voices?
IranScan used to get linked on Global Voices, which was great. Imagine my thrill when Georgia Popplewell once linked to a post I wrote on Solanasaurus about Cuba. Later that day it showed up quoted on Slate!
Ever since Global Voices started I really wanted to be involved. I can honestly say it was (and is) one of my favorite websites. Personally, I think a lot of the really bad decisions that get made in politics have to do with people being incapable of imagining themselves in the position of people who are different from them. The more we listen, translate, and try to reach understanding, the less people can refuse to care.
When I still worked for openDemocracy, I once emailed Rebecca MacKinnon in 2005 to ask whether Global Voices wanted to help organize a blogging workshop at the World Social Forum in Venezuela. Both Rebecca and David Sasaki (who was Americas Editor at the time), were very helpful in putting me in touch with Venezuelan bloggers. In the end, I sort of ended up going solo. But it meant a lot to have Global Voices as a network to lean on.
What does it feel like working with the entire world every day?
It feels wonderful. I couldn't imagine a more enjoyable job, with more dedicated and exciting people in my email inbox.
You're known amongst GVers as being cool, calm, and collected. What gets you angry?
Ha, it's nice to be known as cool and calm. It's definitely rare for me to lose my temper, but on the other hand I think I can be pretty stubborn. Of course, I can find plenty of things to curse about in the newspaper every day. The things that anger me are often the ones I end up writing about. I find human injustice very infuriating, and I am driven by an irrationally positive urge to try to help change them.
On the contrary, what excites you as a journalist?
I like to write about politics, activism, and technology.
What is your day-to-day life like?
I'm usually at the computer before I even have coffee. I usually work from home in Brooklyn, but there are several cafés in the neighborhood with free wireless internet that I like to go as well. I send billions of emails every day, and usually have at least one or two meetings a week around the city. I travel a lot between New York and Europe, so it's great to have a job I can take with me. In the evenings, I try to get out of the house and see as many friends as possible.
Tell me about PuertoDansk, of which you are president and founder.
PuertoDansk (The Danish Puerto Rican Society) is an association for the “ethnically confused”. I'm Danish-Puerto Rican myself, and I wanted to create a group that celebrates bringing different cultures together in unusual ways. You don't have to be Danish or Puerto Rican to become a member. In fact all people who join online are free to call themselves Danish-Puerto Ricans, no matter where they're originally from.
I hear that you're famous in Denmark – is it true?
Um, no. But I am an elevator.
Tell me about Global Voices’ new developments.
I can't believe how much the community has grown in the past year. We now have more than 100 volunteer authors, 15 different language versions of Global Voices, and get mentioned in the mainstream media nearly once a week. Rising Voices is going to be announcing another round of micro-grant funding for new blogging projects soon. And we are expecting around 200 people to participate in our Summit in Budapest at the end of June. Mostly it's all good news. This community rocks. Global Voices isn't just a website, but a magnet for of some of the most energetic internet activists in the world.
In what direction do you see Global Voices heading over the next few years?
Well, that's for all of us to decide together. But my personal goal is to help us grow our audience bigger and reach out to mainstream media journalists more effectively. In the future, I think the different regional sections of Global Voices will operate more independently with their various translation partners. Organizationally, it's a big challenge grow bigger and at the same time remain decentralized, flexible, and welcoming, without compromising on quality.
In terms of where the community as a whole is headed, we see citizen media activists breaking communication barriers in their countries every day – spreading more news, using different technologies, taking more control of how people see their regions and politics. It's exhilarating to watch it happen, and yet you still get the sense that this whole thing is only just getting started. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Finally, what's up with all the dinosaurs?
They're irresistibly ferocious.