Friday, February 24, 2012

Announcing ENGAGE Conference in Skopje, Macedonia, Feb 25, 2012

The ENGAGE Conference on social media and activism will take place in Skopje, Macedonia on February 25, 2012, Saturday, at noon CET.

I am going to present Global Voices and Global Voices in Macedonian [mk] as representative of Metamorphosis Foundation. The conference is organized by Youth Educational Forum and their Internet radio, Radio MOF.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why there are no children's comics in Macedonia?

Lack of kids' comics publishing is a strong economic indicator related to absence of literate population with interest in development of their children.

Disney publications from Serbia, Croatia and Bulgaria (Jan-Feb 2012).

Friday, February 17, 2012

POINT Conference, Day 1, Part 1/2

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina - The POINT Conference on Political Accountability and New Technologies is taking place from 16 to 18 of February 2012. In this post I'll share some of my non-comprehensive impressions of the first day, while you can check the excellent site, which includes live video feeds, and Twitter (@PointConference, #PointSarajevo) for more info from this great knowledge-sharing event.

Photo of the opening by Ivana Howard featuring (left to right) (), (), ()
The event is hosted by the Bosnian NGO Why Not (Zašto ne) as part of a regional project which had similar events in Belgrade last December and will have another in Skopje in the Fall. The Sarajevo event takes place in the Art Cinema Krtierion, very suitable facility with all the technical features, located in the city center. I am pleased with the overall organization, esp. because I speak the local languages and don't need translations to talk to the people from the vibrant crowd that probably gathers at this alternative cultural space regardless of context. The whole conference invites various kinds of stakeholders to interact and network, enabling very interesting results.


The morning session was quite inspiring. It started with TOL's Jeremy Druker who presented open-source media literacy tools NewsTrust, enabling crowd-sourced evaluation of media content. This remains relevant worldwide, most of the speakers spoke about control of traditional and other media by totalitarian forces, and the activits in the Egypt Revolution panel in the evening noted that the dark side of use of online tools in their country is use of vicious rumors - by the government against activists, and by the Islamic radicals against Christians.

Irina Šumadieva & stats
Then, several citizen participation tools were presented: Moldovan, and Macedonian These two applications are intended for citizens to communicate their needs to local authorities. The  transparency site  (Authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina) which tracks enormous amounts on government data.

Input by politicians

The session Using New Technology – a Real Leverage for Political Parties? consisted of the panel that joined young politicians from three mayor parties in Bosnia (out of 7 invited) and experts on communication, sociology, and political campaigning. The experts insights were quite on the target, for instance prof. Majstorović noted that even though the Internet penetration increases, it does not influence the decisive population groups. In a rural country like Bosnia the other media play the main role with the voters - everybody watches the main evening news on TV (and the nascent Twitter community comments during). This was corroborated by one of the politicians who said that "personal contact"--meaning face-to-face meetings and local events/debates--win their votes. "You need to put on booths over the knee" (moraš obući čizme preko koljena) to walk the muddy roads of remote villages to win people over to your party.

- pol. campaign expert, Danijela Majstorović - sociologist,
Tatjana Indzić - politician,  Denis Vrhovćić - politician, Mirza Ustamujić - politician,
Damir Kapidzić - communicologist, and activist Darko Brkan at the panel

As one could expect, the politicians appropriated much of the time, even though they did not provide many innovative insights. They all said that they care about their websites and value Facebook as means for connecting to their constituencies, because huge percentage of citizens use it. Going online won't win the elections, but you cannot afford to ignore this aspect.

Politicians seemed to interpret transparency in terms of PR: one of them pointed a shining example of his party colleague who responded to all comments on his blog (which was disputed from the audience). They did not speak much about political accountability too ("responsibility" in Bosnian). One of them cited the case of his party that allegedly used Facebook to organize an action for showelling snow as example of responsibility for the welfare of the citizens. In the age-old tradition of the ruling classes, they spoke about the hardship of being a politician, because the citizens think they are all crooks. One of them even spun the topic towards self-promotion by retelling an anecdote in which a woman passerby remarked that he was very handsome, but her friend scolded her because of his profession ("they are all the same").

However, he had a valid point: honest people in politics get bunched up with the dishonest to the benefit of the dishonest. This is even more valid for people who would like to enter politics in the future to change the world for the better, the current ruling practices would make them immediate target of this kind of labeling and mistrust.

The discussion contrasted activist way of thinking, based on individuality and values, and the way of thinking used by political activists/functionaries. For the later, individual expression, including via social media, is "guided" by the decisions of the party hierarchy. And the political party can easily "jump out" a politico who "jumps too high" (neodskačete puno, jer da odskočite niste više u stranci - as noted by Fayah) in public via new media. As a result, the parties use new media for top down "informing," which as the communication expert Kapidzić remarked does not equal communication with the citizens.

@MarkoZvkvc: "We shouldn't be angry
at politicians..."
The panel was a good learning experience, because it provided the activists a bit of direct contact with the political class. Some audience members were not so happy with the feedback by some panelists, but I agree with Marko Živković who said activists should not be angry at politicians for not using the full potential of new technologies. It's up to the people to force them to use them, on their own, they'll just do what they always do - use their positions to extract society's resources with as little expense for them. So the activists better learn who they deal with, and not rely on the should. We all know what should be done, esp. politicians who are not less intelligent than the geeks or human rights activists - proof: they get away with the current state of affairs. In this sense, the activists might think more about the need to mobilize the "regular" people they strive to represent.   

Next: Day 1, Part 2 - experiences of measuring truth, political campaign technologies, and Egypt; and a concert

Friday, February 10, 2012

Minister of Foreign Affairs to Determine Who May Report from Macedonia?

According to Telma TV news item (Шефот на дипломатијата ќе одлучува кој може да биде дописник, 9.2.2012) by Julijana Peshevska, The Minister of Foreign Affairs will have personal discretionary right to determine which foreign correspondents will receive accreditation to report from Macedonia.

...According to the ongoing changes of the Law on import, distribution and spreading of foreign print, films and information activity, the competences related to issuing of permits for work of representative offices of foreign media will pass from the General Secretariat of the Government to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Minister of Foreign Affairs will have the last word, and will need to respond to requests for accreditation no later than 15 days from the date of application.
The opossition objected to this ruling on the freedom of speech grounds. The response (my bold):
"We cannot allow just anyone to come from abroad, as if they would report, and to conduct diversions in this state. This legal solution is of state interest and we cannot act nonchalantly," Telma TV quoted Ms Blagorodna Dulic, MP from ruling VMRO-DPMNE political party and head of Legislative Committee of the Parliament of Republic of Macedonia.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Macedonia: Icy Grip on the Center of Skopje

While the carriageways of the main boulevards in the center of Skopje are clear, the pavements and the side streets in the municipality of Centar remain icy. Some are covered by layers of ice or re-frozen slush, by old frozen snow, or an unevenly hardened mash of snow and "salt."
Fokus daily claimed that the authorities avoid declaring nationwide state of emergency in order to "prove" that they were prepared for the snow.
Mitropolit Teodosij Gologoganov boulevard, evening of Feb 8.
An alley near the Universal Hall. This and all other photos bellow made on Feb 9.

9 Maj str. layers and bumps of various material

29 Noemvri str. the biggest in the area, seems most cleared.

20 Oktomvri str. hard snowy ice

Pavement on Rajko Zhinzifov str.

Multilayered Nikola Trimpare str.

The pavement in front of Bunjakovec shopping centre.
The pavement on the other side of Partizanski odredi boulevard seems clear.

Macedonia: Talking About Religious Sterotypes

During last the few weeks, political parties used a series of violent incidents in South-West Macedonia for political mobilization, increasing religious & ethnic tensions.

Media expert Roberto Belichanec blogged about stereotyping [mk] as a process of avoiding the labor of thinking in concrete terms through bunching people with group traits, reinforced by the media. According to him, religious stereotypes in the Balkans are not necessarily negative, but are “used to underline national stereotypes and confirm national rivalry… Faith functions at the level of group membership, not as a religion with its inner values. Appearances and declarations are considered important, not the spiritual aspect.”