NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

LIVE from Minneapolis: Building a stronger netroots community abroad

Here in the Unit­ed States, we don’t always hear about efforts abroad to uti­lize social media and devel­op new ways of orga­niz­ing online, because we don’t give our neigh­bors in the world com­mu­ni­ty much atten­tion.

But we ought to, because pro­gres­sives in oth­er coun­tries are try­ing to make use of the Inter­net to bring about change, too.

Some efforts begin spon­ta­neous­ly and devel­op into more mature com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nels out of frus­tra­tion with cuts in essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices, as in Por­tu­gal, and some are planned out for the long term, such as Sun­ny Hun­dal’s Lib­er­al Con­spir­a­cy and its ally UK Uncut,  which aims to decon­struct the Con­ser­v­a­tive gov­ern­men­t’s nar­ra­tive about the econ­o­my.

Mr. Hun­dal, who played a crit­i­cal part in orga­niz­ing  the first Net­roots UK this year, empha­sized dur­ing the pan­el the need for orga­ni­za­tions and projects that do train­ing (such as Well­stone Action, based here in Min­neso­ta), which give activists the tools that they need to let their voic­es be heard.

John Aravo­sis, one of the mod­er­a­tors of the pan­el, high­light­ed a sto­ry men­tioned by pan­elist Johann Ulvenlov, illus­trat­ing the impor­tance of rep­e­ti­tion in mak­ing nar­ra­tives effec­tive. The sto­ry goes that a rel­a­tive­ly low-pro­file blog­ger in Swe­den decid­ed to write about her moth­er being kicked off of Swedish health­care because of actions tak­en by the con­ser­v­a­tive gov­ern­ment.

The expe­ri­ence she chron­i­cled was ampli­fied by the net­roots com­mu­ni­ty, and soon caught the atten­tion of the nation­al media, which cov­ered both the sto­ry and the cre­ative meth­ods used to dis­trib­ute it, such as a viral video which imag­ined a con­ver­sa­tion between this blog­ger and the con­ser­v­a­tive prime min­is­ter.

Paula DeSil­va, a pan­elist from Por­tu­gal, spoke about the use of the Inter­net as just anoth­er way to uti­lize word-of-mouth, with the focus on reach­ing the peo­ple. Her per­spec­tive pro­vid­ed valu­able insight on the rela­tion­al aspect of grass­roots orga­niz­ing, and the dif­fi­cul­ty (at least in Por­tu­gal) of trans­lat­ing grass­roots inter­est on the inter­net into lob­by­ing efforts aimed at the offi­cials who make the deci­sions.

The con­ver­sa­tion then drift­ed towards exam­in­ing how to orga­nize a con­fer­ence, which seemed to be very impor­tant top­ic to the inter­na­tion­al blog­gers who are here on a State Depart­ment pro­gram (many from coun­tries with­out an orga­nized net­roots com­mu­ni­ty), and then came back to the need for inter­na­tion­al sup­port for blog­gers abroad, empha­sized by a com­ment by a blog­ger from Kyr­gyzs­tan, who explained the dif­fi­cul­ty of lan­guage bar­ri­ers and how, in coun­tries who gen­er­al­ly use region­al lan­guages, you either write in your native lan­guage and get no inter­na­tion­al sup­port, or write in Eng­lish and go com­plete­ly over the head of cit­i­zens actu­al­ly liv­ing in the coun­try con­cerned.

This ques­tion was­n’t entire­ly resolved, with most of the pan­elists gen­er­al­ly say­ing to mere­ly dou­ble-post, one post in Eng­lish and one post in the local lan­guage. Of course, only mul­ti­lin­gual authors can do this.

The pan­el end­ed with intrigu­ing con­ver­sa­tion around the repres­sion of civ­il and polit­i­cal rights in Bahrain.

It seems that there are many more inter­na­tion­al blog­gers at the con­ven­tion this year. There is an inter­na­tion­al blog­ger meet-and-greet lat­er on dur­ing the con­ven­tion, and we’ll try to com­pile a blogroll from the par­tic­i­pants so you can see for your­self what pro­gres­sives abroad are writ­ing and doing.

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