This is an idea I’ve proposed already. Some of you might remember a bit of this: I proposed to devote a part of the site to the posts that we have tagged, so far, as «Culture». As a goal, I had the mental image of a site a bit like Advocacy, which is separate but not independent, gathering the posts we have written (and will write) on these subjects. I thought it might not be a bad idea to re-propose this, given the opportunity that this innovation grant has opened for discussion.
The first time we discussed this (It was during the Budapest Summit) we ended up agreeing that we should encourage more posts describing conversations about «culture». Nevertheless, I think we could do a bit more than that. There are lots and lots of conversations, debates and also conflicts with cultural differences and misunderstandings as a base, and that we’re missing because they fall into the big sac of the issues that are important, but not really that much.
The main reason is the conception we tend to have (especially from the newsroom point of view) of culture, and I think the tag we have would be the first proof of this. We put these articles under «arts and culture» which are not related close enough to make a single tag out of it. We think that culture has to do with classics, arts and literature. And to some extend, they do make part of that. But it’s also about how people live, think and behave in different given situations. A great point was made during the Summit in Santiago (If I remember well, it was Tsavvko’s point) : it is important to observe what do we think culture really is.
Under the conception of culture as something that has to do with high standards in arts and spectacles it’s no wonder that they also fall into the categories that are just «nice» and «enjoyable», but not at all urgent or useful. Naturally, these kind of posts get eclipsed by political problems and technology. Posts about culture rarely make it to featured posts or to special coverages. Yet they can be great in the understanding of the problems we like to attract attention to. The best example I can think of is the big debate on the views around the muslim veil. It gets political, but on its base, it’s cultural. Works on issues like this need to point at an understanding that happens in the long term, but that its indeed deeper.
Other possibilities could open with a new space. We could make contact with small groups that promote cultural activities in their communities. We can encourage them to blog and expand their experiences if they don’t do it already. We can give little space to their activities, we can put a light on the images of different diasporas and immigrant groups which are now suffering a lot from stigmatization in different countries. We can follow their descriptions on tradition and the questions that have risen in the last years.
I also think a space like this could attract the collaboration of other institutions for further opportunities in funding.
We could gather all the posts tagged as arts, literature and education, and encourage the publishing of posts explaining customs, points of view, tastes and so on. And this is just one part of what culture is. I have found storytelling blogs, reading challenges, different tutorials and other materials . These kind of posts don’t get outdated as quick as the «news» and «politics» ones. I still receive comments participating on Rezwan’s posts on weddings in Bangladesh, for example. Thus, new possibilities of writing also appear: we can still write using «dead» blogs that have made contributions that are still valuable and make use of the huge memory of the internet, that doesn’t forgive or forget as long as nobody pulls the plug. Collaborations between regions are also a big possibility in cross-regional posts which can flourish when we talk about influences and cultural movements.
Citizen media itself was born precisely to give new images and angles on peoples that have long be described as just one thing through mainstream media. It’s about people telling their own stories, and describing their lives. This can give keys to understand a lot of what is going on in a lot of other areas.
Now, of course Global Voices gives a place to this already, I myself have devoted my description of the Venezuelan blogosphere through GVO as a place in which a lot of things happen beyond the political obsession with Chavez. Nevertheless, I strongly believe a new space will bring more collaboration, more ideas and more visibility to the basics of a lot of current conflicts.
I’m afraid I don’t have a clear idea on how much this could cost or how many people would it need. I wanted, in any case, to propose it in order to see if some other thoughts can come to the table and help me think of the concrete aspects, if the community is up for it.