Archive for May, 2012

Tweet Week Syria: June 1-7

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Have you heard about Rotation Curation? It is the process of rotating the spokesperson on a social media account. It was originated in December 2011, when a project called Curators of Sweden was launched, handing the official Twitter account @Sweden to a new Swedish person every week. Each person managing the account contributed to manifesting Swedish diversity through their own voice and personality.

I loved this idea when I first heard about it and wished it would spread to different countries and contexts. Now this initiative has reached Syrians and is my turn to manage the collective account @TweetweekSyria. Starting on June 1st, Syrian curators will take turns in managing it, I will be responsible for that during the first week, June 1-7.

After more than a year since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, my personal Twitter account has become mainly devoted to news coming from Syria, where there hasn´t been a single day without a story of tragic death and a story of inspiring courage.

I lived in Damascus in the 80s. I have only returned for vacations since then, but I haven´t forgotten how I went to school dressed in the military uniform children used to wear until very recently. I haven´t forgotten the chants we repeated to honor the leader whom we were taught to view as immortal. I haven´t forgotten the silence and the whispering of adults when children where around. And I will not forget the first time I wrote about Syria, after years writing about everything else and carefully avoiding my father´s country. My country, too. I still have a hard time understanding where Syrians found the courage to break a wall of fear and silence that it took decades to build. My admiration for these people does not fit in a million tweets.

This week the @tweetweeksyria account will be tweeting in Arabic, English and Spanish, probably retweeting in some other (Romanic) languages. Please helps us spread the word about Syrian news so that we can keep attracting more people to the Syrian struggle, which is about freedom, justice and dignity, universal values that we should all defend together. I hope we will soon get to tweet these three words: “Syria is free”.

Meanwhile, here´s the first tweet I will be publishing from the tweetweeksyria account in a few hours:

We will never forget you, Bassel. #Syria #FreeSyria

(From the TweetWeekSyria blog)

Why Tweet Week Syria? #RotationCuration is a very democratic experience at its heart. There might be many reasons why such a program is important to Syrians and Syria in general, but the most important is that since Syrians are at the verge of drastic political and social change, we believe that offering a platform to which many people pay attention (Syrian and global citizens) and many Syrians can use to cast their voices and speak their ideas will hopefully be of tremendous value, through social media channels that are becoming mainstream.

If you’re Syrian and have anything that you’d like to say, or know of anyone who’s ideas you want to be heard, click on Nominate a Curator and submit a nominee.


Prix Ars Electronica – Digital Communities. The winners are…

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The winners of the Prix Ars Electronica 2012 have been announced  :  ) You can see the full list of Golden Nicas, Awards of Distinction and Honorary Mentions here. On the Digital Communities category, which focuses on the social and artistic impact of the Internet technology, the winners are:

Golden Nica to…

  • Syrian people know their way, a digital community of young Syrian digital artists, designers and activists that aim to both gather and provide inspiration for the Syrian struggle for freedom.

Awards of Distinction:

  • Dark Glasses.Portrait, a Chinese campaign focusing on the arrest of blind civil rights activist Cheng Guancheng that aims to raise awareness about  freedom of expression in the country.

When the organizers of the Ars Electronica festival contacted me to ask if I would like to be a jury member for the Prix Ars Electronica, I couldn´t imagine it would turn out to be such an enriching experience. I had already participated on a panel called “Public Square Squared: how social fabric is weaving a new era” at the AEC festival a few months earlier, but it was my first time as a jury member. I joined organizers Ingrid Fisher, Romana Leopoldsecer and fellow jury members Thomas Schildhauer, Wolfgang Blau, Yan Liu and Peter Kuthan, in the beautiful city of Linz for discussions on the projects that had applied in the Digital Communities category. We spent four days going through more than one hundred projects, most of them inspiring, some of them outstanding. Deciding the winners was hard, since all of the projects were in one way or another valuable contributions to their communities.

Photos of people who joined the "Dark glasses" campaign in solidarity with blind lawyer Cheng Guancheng, arrested by the Chinese government

During the four days of readings and discussions we took into consideration the impact of the award in the sustainability and scalability of the projects. We also regarded mobile accessibility of the tools and platforms within the growing trend of mobile users worldwide. We looked for innovation, both artistic and technological, and we analyzed each of the projects in relation to their social, political and economic context, since creativity and innovation face more challenges in highly repressive or underdeveloped contexts. Special consideration was given to open source projects and to bottom-up projects emerging from grassroots initiatives and responding to existing local needs.

Image of the touch screen based camera control interface Elphelvision, by Apertus Open Source Cinema

It was not easy, but by noon April 22 we had decided the winners. All of the awards recognized the value of freedom in the projects, one of them through an open source hardware/software initiative that is also a platform for film-makers, creative industry professionals, artists and enthusiasts supporting each other and advocating freedom: Apertus Open Source Cinema. The other awards were given to projects that represent the power of community and the citizen struggle for freedom of expression: The “Dark Glasses Portrait” from China and “The Syrian people know their way” from Syria.

The winners of the Golden Nica do not want the jury members to share their names or identities. “The Syrian people know their way” community has contributors who live in Syria and also Syrians living abroad. One of their digital artists was recently arrested in Damascus for his activism and there are no news on his whereabouts. In words of one his friends:

“He never got the chance to know that we won. He never got a chance to know that his designs are looked at from all over the world while he sits down there in the dark”

This award recognizes the work, courage and creativity of Syrian activists in their struggle for freedom, and is also a symbolic recognition of citizen creativity  in repressive contexts such as the Middle East and North Africa.

Congratulations to the winners and to the 12 projects that received honorary mentions:


This post is dedicated to the Syrian people. To all those killed, arrested, tortured and harrassed for demanding freedom, justice and dignity. And very especially to Razan Ghazzawi and the staff of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. Join the Free the Freedom of Expression campaign on facebook to demand their release and that of all political prisoners.