[Translation] Global Voices' Project Lingua: A complementary and alternative perspective to traditional media

(Tio) Juan

The following is my translation of Paula Gonzalo’s interview with Juan Arellano about the Lingua Project on Global Voices. Links have been changed to their English-language equivalents when possible.

Juan Arellano is one of the bloggers who, beginning in 2007, has been working as an editor for the Global Voices Lingua project, one of the sites on the Internet that has helped popularize citizen journalism in Spanish and other languages through its network of local bloggers.

In an interview with Periodismo Ciudadano, Arellano offers us more details about the project.

PC – How would you define Global Voices and what do you think is the key to its success?

JA – Well, by serving as a place on the Internet where you can find news and discussions from around the world based on the perspectives of common people – bloggers and internet users in general. Not only that, but also conversations that start on the various web platforms. This is an alternative and complementary perspective to that which is provided by traditional media. We tend to feature issues that don’t usually appear in the mainstream media, or if they do it is with little emphasis or with a long delay, such as with reported cases of attacks against human rights or freedom of expression in African and Asian countries, for example. Also – and this is from an internal point of view – it is a great community of people who are very enterprising, proactive and supportive. Working with them is really very inspiring.

PC – How can citizens participate in Global Voices?. What is your relationship with local bloggers and what process do you follow from the time you discover citizen news?

JA – Well there are different levels [of participation], beginning with the simple fact that just reading the site can be considered a type of participation. You can comment and give your own opinion as well. But the main way of contributing is to publish a post on your own blog about any topic that interests you and send a link to one of our authors so that they keep it in mind. We are always looking for new topics to write about! Especially those that are being widely discussed by bloggers, of course. The volunteer authors that write for Global Voices have deep knowledge of the local blogosphere of the countries they write about, and they comb through those blogs continually, but it’s always possible that they miss something. So it would really be very useful if more bloggers help us provide a complete picture of online views about current issues, especially issues that aren’t being covered well [by the mainstream media].

PC – What is the Lingua Project?

JA – Lingua is a very special project of Global Voices. Unlike the other two projects – Advocacy and Rising Voices – that had more formal beginnings, Lingua came about informally from the grassroots. It was Portnoy, a Taiwanese reader of GV who in 2005 began translating articles from GV to Chinese (read interview here). Later Portnoy became an integral part of Global Voices and in 2006 and 2007 we saw additional versions of Global Voices in other languages such as Bangla, French and, of course, Spanish. The independent beginnings of Lingua are maintained to this day. Anyone interested in forming a version of Global Voices in their own language can contact us about how to make it happen.

But basically Lingua is a project to disseminate what has been published on Global Voices in English to other languages, which is related to one of our main objectives: amplifying conversations that take place in places that are more or less closed off because of linguistic barriers or because little is known about these communities by the general public. In a way, Lingua also closes the circle of the online pilgrimage of information. Take, for example, the discussion about some issue in the Moroccan blogosphere (which may be in Arabic, English or French). An author on Global Voices translates excerpts from those posts into English and publishes them in English on Global Voices. Lingua volunteers then translate them into Chinese, Malagasy, Italian, and also French and Arabic, just to name a few. In this way the very bloggers whose posts were the basis for the article in English can now read that article in their own language and see how their excerpts were used. And people from other blogosphere who would not normally have knowledge of what is happening in Morocco can now show their solidarity or difference of opinion, or just simply stay informed.

PC – You have a lot of volunteers who live under repressive regimes. What is the importance of these partners? How does Global Voices fight against censorship in the world?

I mentioned Advocacy, which is the project of Global Voices to protect freedom of expression and free access to information. Sami, who is director of Advocacy, has organized a network of bloggers that deal with these issues and the attacks against bloggers and journalists in the various countries where there is strong repression, as well as other places where perhaps censorship is not as obvious or well-publicized. By disseminating this information we hope to create more awareness about censorship, and also to support those in need. The goal is not just reaction, but also prevention; which is why Advocacy, in collaboration with other organizations, produces guides such as The Guide to Anonymous Blogging, or Blogging for a Cause, which will hopefully help to provide tips and greater security to bloggers who, because of what they write about, may be subject to censorship.

PC – What are the changes that you incorporated to your Twitter network?

JA – Until just a few months ago it was only an account linked to TweeterFeed that automatically published the headlines of our most recent posts. Now we re-tweet what is being said by people from across Latin America and we also generate our own tweets. The dynamic varies based on what is being said and how much time we have to check the Spanish-language “twittersphere”. We believe that it is bringing more readers to GV in Spanish, which pleases us. (@gvenespanol).

PC – How many people visit the site and how many news items to you publish each day?

Now, we have approximately an average of 40,000 hits per month, which is not that much really. I think we still have room to grow. The number of visits [to the Spanish version of Global Voices] is about 8% of the total monthly visits to Global Voices as a whole. And the number of articles we publish is between three to five [long posts] per day, accompanied by the same number of short news posts. The number of people commenting on our posts has increased lately, especially in posts that are about Latin American countries, which are read mostly by readers from Spain. Regarding the number of volunteer translators, it varies a lot. They all support the project according to their means and often alternate between periods of intense activity and other periods where they are virtually dead, which is why I never say no to an offer of collaboration!

A very good opportunity to participate in a wonderful network of citizen journalists for all of you with a blog who want to work with high-quality information.

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