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Central Asia: Ideas and Innovations of BarCamp Central Asia

BarCamp Central Asia, the fourth educational non-commercial conference for professionals in social media took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on 15-17 April, 2011, bringing together journalists and bloggers, IT and media specialists, web-developers and everyone connected with the Internet and new media.

BarCamp is a new phenomena. The first BarCamp was held in Palo Alto, California back in 2005 and had 200 attendees. Since then, BarCamps have been held in more than 350 cities around the world, including Central Asia.

The first BarCamp Central Asia took place in 2008 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and brought together 250 specialists from Central Asia and other countries. The second and third (un)conferences took place in Almaty in 2009 and 2010. The number of attendees has been increasing every time.

BarCamp Central Asia logo

BarCamp Central Asia logo

This year, BarCamp Central Asia was organized in Almaty. Almost 1,500 people registered on the website, about 600 of them attended the event and others followed it on Facebook and Twitter (#barcampca11, #barcampca2011). Although the majority of the attendees were from Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan), IT and citizen media specialists from Russia, Eastern and Western Europe also participated in the event.

The open discussion, sessions and presentations covered such topics as digital education, new mobile applications, development of citizen media, cyber security, crowdsoursing projects, startups, Internet analytics, etc.

For example, during the BarCamp TechTalk on Digital Education a question on differences between citizen and traditional journalism, and the role of social media was raised. One of the speakers Frederick Emrich, assistant professor teaching journalism and mass communication in the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research, said he tries to incorporate new media tools into his classes on traditional journalism:

Incorporating new media technologies allows students to express themselves outside of the classrooms. It gives them innovative spirit.

Emrich answered to the question whether people need special skills to act as citizen journalists:

Indeed. But not university education in journalism sphere is needed, but kind of outlook to the world that can be acquired in the university. Moreover, a person must have technical skills and use tools of the online journalism.

Also he added:

Opportunity for people to enter the dialog publicly is the biggest strength of the new media. Hope the tendency will grow. I don’t know whether it’s journalism or not, but it has a big value and should be supported.

Multimedia and ideas for new journalism were discussed during the presentation of Newreporter.org [ru], internet project covering media business and Internet media. Online translation of the presentation is here [ru]

A conference on the Internet technologies and new media can hardly cover all relevant topics if issues of online security and circumvention tools are not discussed. So, Alexey Bebinov, an expert on cyber security of the foundation “Citizen Initiative on Internet Politics” (CIIP) made a presentation on tools and tactics for online security. Among others, the workshop attendees discussed pros of using such tools as Security In The Box, Hot Spot Shield (VPN client), Tor Browser Bundle, Psiphon.

Global Voices in the schedule of BarCamp Central Asia, image by Alexey Sidorenko

Global Voices were presented by Alexey Sidorenko, editor of RuNet Echo project, and Adil Nurmakov, GV Central Asia editor.

While listening the presentation on Global Voices @BioCyberGear wrote [ru]:

Global voices переводят блоги на разные языки! У них виртуальное сообщество из 300 переводчиков!#barcampca11

Global voices translate to variety of languages! Their community consists of 300 translators!#barcampca11

Global Voices seems to be attracting attention of many Central Asian readers and bloggers. For instance, @iTengry writes [ru]:

Global Voices Online — кажется интересный сервис, нужно на него обратить внимание. #barcampca11

Global Voices Online looks to be an interesting service, I am going to pay more attention.  #barcampca11

User @lemime wrote [ru]:

Хорошая презентация про Глобал Воис! Интересный сервис. Надо бы его получше изучить. Интересная площадка для блогеров#barcampca11

A good presentation about Global Voices! An interesting service. I should learn more about it. An interesting blogging platrofm #barcampca11
People taking photos during the presentation on Global Voices. Image by Ekaterina.

People taking photos during the presentation on Global Voices. Image by Ekaterina.

Here is feedback from some attendees of the BarCamp in general:

@mervlad:

Спасибо #barcampca11 за старых и новых знакомых. Организация на отлично, @mursya_ru @Agnesa и К молодчинки!

Thank you #barcampca11 for meeting new people and seeing old friends. Everything was good, @mursya_ru @Agnesa and Ko – well done!

@chaals:

Super-speedy Widget Workshop done, Make extensions in minutes done, now to relax and enjoy the rest of #barcampca11:) (and work…)

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