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Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category
I’m here in Tunisia for the next four days at the third Arab Bloggers meeting, which has brought together what I think are some of the most significant digital voices in the Arab world today. It’s quite interesting to be in Tunisia, the first Arab country to gain its freedom from a tyrannical power and set the whole region ablaze with mass political movements.
The first day of the meeting is an agenda filled with speakers and panelist from the Arabian digital sphere, discussing everything from the role of twitter in the Arab spring, to mobile security, digital design and much more. The rest of the week will be a barcamp style meeting, where the participants dictate the agenda.
You can follow the hashtag #AB11 for a massive stream of tweets over the next few days, and I’ll be using storify for the first time on my blog to chronicle the event – Internet connection permitting.
NOTE: this is my first time using storify so it’s a learning experience befitting this conference I suppose. That said, if you’re following the story, I would advise reading it from the bottom up.
So. It’s been a little over six weeks since I’ve published anything, and while my instinct is to simply dive back in to recent events happening in and around the Jordanian landscape, this is one of those rare moments where I feel a need to recap my hiatus – if only to help me catch up on what’s been going on. It’s kind of like the first day of work after a long vacation. The mental jet lag is so dizzying it needs a moment of review for the sake of one’s sanity. And I’ve actually experienced some re-entry problems when it comes to getting back in to the online game. I am no longer constantly tapping away at my keyboard or refreshing my Twitter app on my iPhone, which I suppose is a good thing in the sense that I know I am physically and mentally capable of quitting without having a seizure.
So. In the past six weeks the following has happened.
First. Yes. The rumors are true. I got married. And yes, to the one and only Mariam, who is, legally-speaking, my favorite Jordanian blogger. The process of getting married in Jordan is a topic that requires several blog posts of several hundred pages length, and can essentially be defined as a journey towards a rapidly receding hairline. The one thing I’ve really learned from this experience, other than the obvious fact of it being incredibly expensive, is that weddings in this country are completely for “other people” – and not for the bride nor groom. This is especially true if you have tribal origins. The process is completely consumed with the fact that this is an event that is designed pretty much to please others. Which is fine I suppose, but someone should put this down in a manual somewhere. Might help a few souls.
Second, some interesting digital accomplishments seem to have taken place while I was away, which I am grateful for. CNN recently listed the Black Iris as one of the top ten must-read blogs in the Middle East. And what better way to live up to that title than to disappear for a month, eh? Also, 7iber ranked third in the global BoB awards amongst the Best Arab Blog category, which was a sweet surprise and I am personally grateful (along with the rest of the team) to everyone who voted for “us”. And I use air quotes here simply because we’ve always felt 7iber belonged to a community rather than to a group of specific names – or at least this is part of our definition of citizen media.
One of my favorite digital accomplishments lately, comes in the form of a Muppet…
Since May kicked off, I’ve been focused on work at 7iberINC and preparing for a boatload of projects that will be keeping nearly every day of the summer season packed. Water visualizations, digital media camps, refugees, storytelling, cameras, and a dash of oral history – not a bad way to spend a summer, locked in creative mode. Meanwhile, at 7iber, things have been colorful. The Hashtag Debates seem to have been generating some useful conversations and I was glad to see HRH Prince Hassan stop by and join a recent debate at the WANA Forum.
Lastly, travels have filled up the empty pixels of recent weeks. Rome, Venice, Amman, Cairo, Amman, Casablanca, Amman. I’ve actually discovered more and more that I’m not crazy about traveling as I once was. The romance of flight has been extinguished. BUT it does offer a breath of fresh air from the Jordanian bubble. There are times one gets so frustrated in this country that they need to get out a bit just to get some perspective; some contrast. And I think anyone who is Jordanian and reading this probably knows that these days, the need to break through the suffocating and take a gulp of fresh air is very, very, needed.
Dear Readers, our one and only 7iber has been nominated in the “Best Arabic Blog” category over the BoBs. It’s up against some steep competition this year, especially from the Egyptian side. But in this category, 7iber is the only Jordanian born-and-bred platform that has spent several years serving as a community-driven initiative seeking to create and promote a platform that hosts a diversity of Jordanian and Arab voices. If the past few weeks and months of regional turmoil have proven anything, it’s that citizen voices are important now more than ever, especially in a country like Jordan. So cast a vote for 7iber and support some Jordanian-bred citizen media.
Need help voting for 7iber (ink)? Here’s a how-to diagram that’s useful. You need to be logged in to either your Facebook and/or Twitter account (you can vote from both), and you can vote daily until April 11.
To those interested in all the online debates and discussions around #ReformJO – 7iber’s third #HashtagDebates will take place at Makan in Jabal Lweibdeh on Wednesday 23rd at 7pm, and will center around the constitutional monarchy issue. It is interesting that after all these years this issue is getting some critical play in public discourse, when it has long been taboo to even mention it. It’ll be great to see a public airing of this issue and what it means for a future Jordan.
Seating is limited, so get there early or you can watch it online as it will be live-streamed as well.
For a map to Makan, click here.
As many already know, today is World Against Cyber Censorship Day. While I’ve usually used this day as an opportunity to highlight the importance of keeping a free Internet in a country like Jordan, this year I feel like that call has catapulted to the forefront but for entirely different reasons. Last year, we saw moves by the former government to introduce or at least support a form of cyber censorship in the country through a cyber crimes law, and it was important for people working in the fields of human rights, the Internet, media, journalism and information technology to mobilize and hinder such legislation. Luckily, that law was subjected to enough public scrutiny that its articles, some of which enabled censorship online, were amended. In other years it was about taking the opportunity this day presents to ensure our Internet stays free in a region where the tendency is to head in the opposite direction – but ensuring such freedom specifically in order to ensure the Internet remains a space of opportunity. In other words, one could not predict what the possibilities of a free Internet could mean for a country like Jordan in a region like the Middle East, but we knew that it needed to be free before any possibilities could be realized.
This year, things are different. We have seen just what happens at the hands of the Internet. We have witnessed the possibilities and seen them realized in countries like Tunisia and Egypt, where activists used the space to mobilize, spread messages, advocate, and come together offline. Even when their governments converged to restrict the Internet, the people found a way around it, and their messages broke through in to free spaces where they were carried forward from one person to another.
In Jordan, we have seen the power of conversations evolving online like never before. On Facebook we’ve seen youth groups forming, expanding and mobilizing for collective effort. On Twitter we’ve seen hashtags like #ReformJO and #WhatJOwants outlining the reform process by listing key requirements that this country needs to progress and move forward. If the state has run out of ideas, it needs only to spend a few minutes falling the virtual stream of suggestions and discussions online. At 7iber, with the HashtagDebates, we’ve been trying hard to take some of these online discussions turning them in to offline debates that share the same forward-thinking and brave spirit that exists online. The power of the conversation that I see online today is at an all-time peak in Jordan, and it is made possible only through the upkeep of a free Internet.
There are those who continue to argue that the Internet is useless in a country or region where penetration rates are low. To those people I say look around you. Look at what happens when information flows through an assortment of digital channels that are all interconnected. It isn’t about how many Jordanians are on Twitter, it is about what happens to a message or a conversation when it starts on Twitter, flows through Facebook, takes off on a local blog, is copied and pasted in an email and lands in your cellphone’s message inbox. The cyber world we exist in, and the technologies that surround us, are becoming increasingly decentralized. The barriers are too low to remain legitimate obstacles. Debates that were once exclusively online, are now evolving offline at the hands of the same players.
And meanwhile, Jordanians, specifically Jordanian youth who represent over 60% of this nation’s population, are incredibly resourceful. In the past year, through my work at 7iberINC and the various digital media related projects we’ve done, I have seen firsthand the extent to which young Jordanians are accessing the Internet without needing a computer in their living rooms that has a 4MB ADSL connection. I have seen them finding access through schools, through Internet cafes, through public access stations, through their relatives and through their friends. I have seen 13 year old kids in Sahab who are busy chatting away on a local forum by gathering around a single screen at a friend’s house. It is a population that is accustomed to scarce resources, and has found ways at being resourceful.
The story continues, the possibilities are ongoing, the access is unprecedented, and so is the discussion.
I am thankful the Internet remains free in Jordan, and I can only hope that it remains so. I can only hope it continues to fuel conversations, set precedents, create milestones, and confound the possibilities we haven’t even dreamed of yet.
I’d also like to take the opportunity to congratulate the Tunisian www.Nawaat.org, which, in honor of World Against Cyber Censorship Day, won this year’s Reporters Without Borders 2011 Netizen Prize. Tunisian bloggers have done a tremendous thing these past few weeks, to say nothing of Egyptian and Bahraini bloggers as well.