Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2010 - Santiago, Chile. May 6-7

This year’s 2010 Global Voices Summit will take place on May 6 and 7 in Santiago, Chile. If you would like to attend you can register here. Solana, Georgia, Ivan and I have been so busy working on the fundraising, agenda, and logistics that we haven’t done a very good job promoting the conference itself or the topics that we’ll be discussing. We realize that the best discussions tend to arise organically (a lesson which was reinforced this weekend at Transparency Camp, which had no agenda at all but was one of the best events I’ve been to in a while), and so we’ve left a considerable portion of the two-day agenda open for anyone to organize workshops and open discussions. But we also hope to facilitate a few specific discussions.

Over the past five years of Global Voices we have heard over and over again that “citizen media is just a fad,” that “blogging will surely come to an end.” We tried not to enter the debate. We kept our heads down and worked hard. But to be honest, we weren’t sure if we’d be around for another year or not. At our last Global Voices Summit in Budapest, Hungary we hired Ivan Sigal as our executive director. We have grown considerably since then, launching several new projects including RuNet Echo, Threatened Voices, the Translation Exchange research project, the Breaking Borders Award, and the Technology for Transparency Network. We have developed new revenue sources and our content partnerships with organizations like La Stampa, the BBC, Reuters, and the New York Times have helped secure our influence on the coverage of mainstream media.

There is no longer a question of whether or not Global Voices will be around in two or three years. Rather the question is, How does Global Voices add value in a constantly evolving media ecosystem? Nor is there longer any doubt whether an increasing number of citizens will continue to contribute their observations, opinions, and reflections to the real-time web. But how do we measure the impact of those contributions? How can we replicate the strategies of successful projects, learn from the failures of others, safeguard the openness of the web, and continue to build bridges over the various crevasses that separate us online?

Here we are, nearing the middle of 2010, and we are less concerned now with how citizen media will develop than how it will sustain and what lasting impact it will have on our global society. We are preparing the following discussions with the help of some outstanding speakers:

  • Why is Chile’s citizen media landscape so damn vibrant? What can other countries learn from Chile’s experience?
  • How are citizen media projects maturing as they build up years of experience, and as content distribution transitions from mere blogs to a variety of tools and platforms.
  • The Breaking Borders Award – what are the most innovative and courageous projects that use the internet to promote freedom of expression?
  • Participation and power – what role does technology play in promoting greater government openness and accountability?
  • Lessons from the Global Voices translation exchange – what are successful and sustainable hybrid models that combine the work of human volunteers with machine translation to ensure cross-linguistic and cross-cultural dialog?
  • Libraries, education, and public access – as the internet becomes a public space for commerce, entertainment, government transactions, and political organizing, what role do libraries play in facilitating civic participation in the digital age?
  • Measuring and evaluating the impact of citizen media – As citizen media mature, they begin to set goals for themselves. What impacts do they seek to achieve, and how do they define learning and success? What are useful measures for analyzing the impact of digital media initiatives? How do funders, project leaders, academics and participants each define the success of a citizen media project?

I am going to try a bit of an experiment. We have five weeks leading up to the Global Voices Summit and I’m hoping that each of those five weeks we can organize a blog-based discussion about one of the above topics. If you would like to start the discussion yourself then just select one of the topics, write your thoughts, and tag five other people who you’d like to see continue the discussion. I’ll try this myself with a separate post about measuring and evaluating the impact of citizen media.

Before signing off I should mention that I’m making this whole GV Summit business sound awfully serious when it’s really anything but. The real point is to have fun. Our volunteer authors and translators certainly deserve it after years of such hard work to make Global Voices what it is today. But between the drinking, dancing, and exploring Santiago, we’re sure to also have some very interesting discussions.