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January 05 2012

Highlights from the 28th Chaos Communications Congress

by john flanagan on flickr

'Child's Play' shared by John Flanagan on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, hackers looked at each other and said : “w00t! Only two days to go until 28c3″.

The Chaos Communications Congress is the annual meetup of Germany's Chaos Computer Club, one of the oldest hacker collectives in the world. It takes place in Berlin every year at the height of the holiday season between Christmas and New Year's Eve, a time when only the dedicated European computer obsessive would leave their family and friends to spend four days in a conference centre with like-minded hackers and geeks.

The programme mixes technical talks from the security and free software worlds with talks about online rights and hacktivism, and is well known for breaking new issues that go on to be important in the wider world. Alongside the talks are space for Europe's computer clubs and hackspaces to demonstrate their current projects, as well as break out spaces for workshopping new tools and projects, and labs offering introductions to things like Arduino-based electronics, 3D printing and even lock-picking.

This year was the 28th Chaos Communications Congress (28c3 for short) and my third time going. Here are my highlights.

Roger Dingledine and Jacob Applebaum on TOR

For me, this talk illustrates the central role the hacker community is now playing in world events. The conference opened with a set piece from Evgeny Morozov on the perils of networked, digital surveillance, but it was this talk on Day 2 about the experiences of the TOR community with national network control infrastructures that felt like it united people at 28c3 against surveillance as a concept and a technology, in free societies as well as oppressed ones. The tub-thumping and the casual allusions to the technical vulnerabilities of state censorship technologies were tempered by the pair's obvious expertise and considered ethical attitude. Gold.

Defending mobile phones

Two years ago, at 26c3, Karsten Nohl announced that the GSM encryption protocol had been cracked. This year, he detailed how network operators should be securing their networks while they upgrade the encryption, and asked the community to help him keep track of how the operators perform. He also previewed a new project, CatcherCatcher, which will track the activity of IMSI catchers on behalf of phone users. IMSI catchers are thought to be increasingly used by law enforcement agencies to track people via their mobile phones.

The coming war on general computation

An expertly delivered talk in which Cory Doctorow reminded congress that “information appliances” (like iPads, Kindles and all the rest) are simply fully functional computers with spyware in them out-of-the-box: “All attempts at controlling PCs converge on rootkits and all attempts at controlling the network converge on surveillance”.

Sovereign keys

The EFF's Peter Eckersley proposes a way to fix the broken Certificate Authority system.

Towards a Single Secure European Cyberspace?

A beautifully constructed lecture by Suso Baleato cross-referencing the rhetoric used by European legislators to erode internet freedoms with the character of the new, networked activism which I ruin at the end by asking a stupid question no-one understands.

The hallway track

Random cool stuff I found out about from talking to people in and around the conference: the Open Source Next Generation Multicopter; the Hackerbus and Code Hero.

December 16 2011

PalConnect: Palestine's First-Ever Social Media Conference

From Tunisia to Syria, the year 2011 has brought to light the potential of social media as a tool for positive change, as well as the ways in which governments and other actors are able to harness such tools for oppression.  Though Palestinians have a rich online history spanning more than a decade, recent increases in Internet access–particularly in the West Bank–expose an entirely new set of individuals to the Internet’s potential.

With that in mind, the idea of a conference emerged.  Organized by AMIN (the Arabic Media and Internet Network), “PalConnect,” the first-ever Palestinian social media conference, was created with the goal of “bringing Palestinian social media activists from across Palestine together in order to increase the efforts and unite the forces for promoting the culture of social media in Palestine and increase awareness on the crucial role social media can have in Palestine.”

The entrance to the conference, at the Ramallah Cultural Palace

AMIN Executive Director Khaled Abu Aker also emphasized the conference’s role in “[encouraging] Palestinians, particularly marginalized groups with marginalized voices, to express themselves and speak their minds and to use social media tools to convey their messages to raise their voices.”

I was fortunate enough to attend the conference (December 4-6, 2011).  Sponsored by the US Consulate*, the Representative Office of the Republic of Germany in Ramallah, Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, SoukTel and UNESCO, among others, PalConnect was held at the Ramallah Cultural Palace, and live-streamed on the conference website, including to a group of participants gathered in Gaza.

The conference featured a fascinating, if somewhat narrow, cast of speakers, a mix of foreigners and Palestinians with an expansive focus on social media.  Though the theme was broad, it became immediately apparent that a primary interest of both speakers and participants was the use of social media to tell Palestinian stories.

The first day of the conference was likely also the best attended, with nearly three hundred individuals filling the auditorium by the end of the day.  The talks (many of which I missed, as I arrived late) were focused in the first part of the day on education, and in the latter on governance, but the real highlight of the day were the short films shown by Leaders Organization, a Ramallah-based organization.  The day was not without disappointment as well: In the afternoon, participants were informed that the group in Gaza, gathered together to watch the conference live-stream, had been disbanded by police.

Day 2 had a focus on journalism, with morning talks from the LA Times’ Robert Lopez and Al Jazeera’s Boutaina Azzabi.  Lopez discussed the use of social media to report on protests, highlighting his own experience in covering the Occupy LA protests using tools such as FourSquare and Twitter.  Azzabi spoke primarily about Al Jazeera’s methods of covering protests, including the use of citizen content and methods of vetting it, and concluded her talk by asking:  “We need the Palestinians to tell their own stories but we are there to help – what do you need from Al Jazeera?”  In the afternoon, speakers Katrin Verclas (of MobileActive) and Uqba Odeh gave talks on the use of mobile technology–relevant in that Palestine’s mobile penetration rate is estimated to be 97.5%–with focus on social change and bridging communities, respectively.

The third and final day of PalConnect saw more of a focus on activism.  My own talk on the innovative history of digital activism in the Arab world (slides available here) opened the day, followed by an extremely complementary talk by Palestinian researcher Majd Beltaji, who provided a slew of statistics and anecdotes from across the Arab world to illustrate the use of social media in this year’s revolutionary uprisings.

The afternoon was the highlight of the day, with a panel of speakers who had been brought in from Gaza (I’m afraid I don’t have their names, as the agenda was shifted at the last moment).  The panelists discussed the various challenges faced by bloggers in Gaza, with one female speaker noting that many women bloggers in Gaza avoid the use of their real names and photos, considering it too risky.  The panel of bloggers did agree that blogging has allowed greater connection between online communities in Gaza and the West Bank divided by geography and occupation.  Later in the day, I joined a panel with Dawood Hammoudeh of the Stop the Wall campaign and German blogger/journalist Christoph Sydow to discuss online safety; we received a slew of questions, many of which focused on Facebook’s safety and privacy record, and advised participants to take basic online safety measures (note: I also came equipped with loads of materials in Arabic, thanks to my organization, EFF, as well as Access and

One criticism agreed upon by many participants was in respect to the absence of Palestinian activists present at the weekly protests in Nabi Saleh, Bi’lin, and elsewhere in the West Bank, many of whom could have provided excellent insight into protesters’ use of digital tools for organization and documentation.  As Joseph Dana tweeted from the conference on day two: “Can you have a social media conference in Palestine and not highlight the youth activists which are using the platform?”

There were also complaints and—from what I heard secondhand—refusals to attend on the basis of US government funding.  That said, as someone who is largely critical of US government funding for programs like this, I personally felt that the Consulate’s presence was fairly minimal; though they had several employees and State Department guests at the conference, none spoke beyond the introductions and in my opinion, their influence was not felt in the programming.

All in all, PalConnect should be considered an excellent start to what will hopefully grow into a more inclusive and diverse conference series.  But if I could make just three small recommendations to the organizers of the next edition, here’s what I would say:

  • Make the conference more interactive.  Allow “barcamp” style sessions for participants to break away in interest groups and learn from each other.
  • Include youth activists in the speaker lineup.  Palestinian activists have a rich history of using online tools; there are plenty that could share their knowledge.
  • Provide basic training.  Many participants admitted to not using Twitter–the most oft-discussed tool at the conference–while others lacked basic awareness of online safety measures.  Responsible training could go a long way.




*Full disclosure: I was invited and financially sponsored by the US Consulate of Jerusalem, but my talk was independently prepared and not at all influenced by my sponsor.

October 31 2011

Mexico Hosts Global Conference on Privacy and Free Speech

October 31, 2011 is an important day for global civil society defending privacy and free speech. The Public Voice coalition will be hosting a global conference in Mexico City, and you are invited to take part in the conversation and interact with the panelists.

You can follow the live conversation here, and join the conversation by using #tpv11 hashtag.


Watch the Webcast in English and Spanish.

During the day the panelists will assess cultures and privacy perspectives from around the world. They will raise public awareness of surveillance technology and its consequences to consumers, for freedom of expression and human rights, and they will explore Latin American policy, law, and technology perspectives.

We will be posting an article soon sharing the most important discussions and conclusions from the meeting.

October 29 2011

Brazil: 1º Encontro Mundial de Blogueiros (First World Bloggers' Conference)

This week a blogger conference–dubbed the 1º Encontro Mundial de Blogueiros (or First World Bloggers' Conference)–is taking place in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil.  Sponsored by Brazilian companies Petrobras and Sanepar, as well as the Itaipu hydroelectric dam, the conference attendees are from all over the world, with significant representation from around Latin America.  There are also several Global Voices authors and alumni in attendance, including Pakistani blogger Farhan Janjua, Brazilian blogger Diego Casaes, Saudi blogger Ahmed Al Omran, and myself

Due to a canceled flight, I unfortunately missed most of Day One, but was able to attend (and speak on) the day's final panel, with Egyptian blogger Ahmed Bahgat, Brazilian journalist Pepe Escobar, Farhan Janjua, Ahmed Al Omran, and others.  Each blogger took a different approach, touching on issues from their country (or country of focus), with particularly interesting presentations from Bahgat and Janjua.

Bahgat, who tweets as @bahgatia, discussed–among other things–the issue of military trials in Egypt, emphasizing the ways in which the military crackdown on free expression has affected bloggers, mentioning in particular Maikel Nabil's forced move to a mental institution.

Janjua gave a more positive picture of the Pakistani Internet, showing an excellent video (by @Rabiagarib and @CIOPK of CIO WebStudio) on Pakistani social media statistics:

On Day One, bloggers also noted that, despite a high volume of tweets, the conference hashtag (#blogmundofoz) had not made it to Brazil's trending topics. Many accused Twitter of censorship (note: Twitter has explained that trending topics are not based purely on volume, see this post for a detailed explanation) and, in protest, have begun adding the hashtag #ocupatt (Occupy the Trending Topics) to their tweets:

A tweet from @BlogMundo

There was also a discussion on Libya, with questions from the audience. Pepe Escobar and another speaker discussed the Brazilian anti-intervention movement (there will be a protest in Rio de Janeiro against NATO on November 3).

Day Two: Blogging in Latin America

The second day of the conference started with a robust discussion on blogging and social networking in Latin America, a region that tends to be underrepresented in global conferences of this type, which often focus heavily on blogging in authoritarian or non-democratic countries.

Iroel Sánchez, a Cuban blogger who writes the blog La Pupila Insomne, discussed why he started blogging: “Tired of reading the same lies about my country in the media, I decided to open my own blog … The repercussion of certain coverage of my country reflected the vision of the United States but ignored some of the most important causes.  The media relies on stereotypes about the island but never discuss the causes that produce these situations.”

Quoting Iroel Sanchez

Talking about the value of blogging, panelist Ecuadorian journalist Osvaldo Léon of Agência Latinoamericana de Informação, said: “Building mechanisms and alternatives with anti-hegemonic character.  Today there is a reactivation of the discourse on technological speech in Northern Africa, according to which we want to say that changes in history have happened because of technology and not social change: such as ‘Facebook revolution,' ‘Twitter revolution' et cetera.”

Martin Becerra, an Argentinian blogger and professor, discussed some of the perils of the Argentinian blogosphere:

“I think that the blogs here represent an emergent space and try to give an alternative to the single-direction of information, but have not totally explored this … but I want to talk about some of the risks of these networks: I believe that the social networks make up a unique representation of those that exist in society. Another risk is that blogs and social networks are often grouped by those who think the same…people come together in society with the same or similar opinions about social things. This dogma leaves out anything that doesn't converge into basic agreements that these groups have.”

Nonetheless, he said, “the depths of the blogosphere are greater than those of traditional media.”

Jesse Freeston, a Canadian journalist who has lived and worked in Honduras, started by talking about the Occupy movement that started in New York, saying “There are thousands and thousands of people in North America who are opening their eyes and seeing discomfort for the first time.”

“Occupy is an important word,” says Freeston. “Cyber-activism, on the other hand, is a word that doesn't make sense. It's like cyber-eating; you can't do it virtually. Same with ‘occupy.'”

“‘Homos Interneticas' is a term recently coined by some anthropologists to describe people who no longer no how to do anything outside of the Internet. The world is waiting for us to do something,” Freeston argues, “These machines work like cocaine. I don't know if you've ever met someone who is high on drugs, but they think they're the most important in the room. The sad reality is that we don't tweet or Facebook for just one day, nobody will miss us,” he says, to a hearty round of applause. Freeston says he limits his use of the “drug” (the Internet) to an hour per day.

Discussing Honduras, he notes that the occupy movement really starts in the “south,” from prior movements. He then showed a video he produced for The Real News Network on the 2009 Honduran coup d'état. Honduras has led the world in attacks on journalists since the coup, with fifteen journalists murdered in eighteen months.

Day Two: The Brazilian Blogging Experience

Brazilian activist cartoonist Carlos Latuff, whose work has been regularly featured on Global Voices, particularly throughout the ‘Arab Spring,' starts the Brazilian panel thanking his country for “bringing Latin America here,” stating that Brazil tends to turn its back on the rest of Latin America.

“In the Arab Spring,” says Latuff, “I've used Twitter heavily to communicate with people in Egypt.”

Latuff then addresses the topic of ‘Twitter revolutions', stating: “Twitter, just like Facebook, is an instrument or a tool, just like the Internet is just a tool, just like a Molotov cocktail or a mobile phone is a tool - and people use the Internet to accomplish their goals.”

He explains his own history as an activist cartoonist, stating that his 1999 trip to Palestine solidified his work in the solidarity movement. He then addresses why he started drawing cartoons about other Arab countries earlier this year:

“People in Palestine contacted me before the protests in Egypt and requested I draw cartoons for them. I was afraid that the Egyptian authorities were going to kill them all. But on the 25th, protests began, and the cartoons I had drawn were often printed and shared during protests. It gave me the confidence that I was producing artwork that has relevance for people. This is what leaves me the happiest as an artist.”

“People say I'm an activist and not a cartoonist, as if those things couldn't come together,” says Latuff. “I don't care about being promoted as an artist - even if people removed my name, I'd still be happy. I'm not interested in money; anyone can reproduce my cartoons.”

“I have 50,000 Twitter followers, and many of them are from Egypt. No one knows me in Brazil; it's amazing how many Egyptian press interviews I've done,” says the cartoonist. (Note: I transcribed much of Latuff's talk here).

Following Latuff's talk, there was a robust discussion of the role of the blogosphere in Brazil, with panelists showing frustration at the mainstream media, accusing it of plagiarizing the blogosphere on numerous occasions. To that end, Conceição Oliveira calls for “the democracy of comunication in Brazil,” a call met with heavy applause.

“We have Facebook, blogs, Twitter…we just need to maximize their potential and do something amazing like they did in the Arab Spring,” says Leandro Fortes, a journalist with CartaCapital and blogger with the national commission BlogProg.

Closing Thoughts

In the closing panel, speakers discussed media regulation, a hot topic at the moment in Brazil. The panel featured Paulo Bernardo, the Brazilian Communications Minister; Jesse Chacón, the former Venezuelan Communications Minister; Damian Loreti, a member of the commission that drafted Argentina's media law; and Blanca Josales, Peru's Communications Minister.

Brazil's draft media law has sparked a polarized debate, with some–including major companies and activists–saying that the bill threatens free expression, and others (including some publications) defending the bill.

The conference, while interesting, could have benefited from greater interactions between participants. To that end, organizers should consider making the second meeting more participatory, offering breakout sessions or unconferences. Furthermore, the gender diversity on the panels was disappointing; many contained no women, while the total count of female speakers (myself included) was about three. Nevertheless, the organizers succeeded in bringing together a really interesting group of individuals from all over Latin America and the world, and should be congratulated.

Next year's conference, for which Itaipu has already promised funding, is already being discussed, and I have agreed to take part in the international planning committee to ensure greater global participation.

May 03 2010

Bilanz- und Strategiekonferenz des Bündnisses "Dresden-Nazifrei" vom 28.- 30. Mai in Jena

Soeben erreichte mich der folgende Newsletter von
Ich dachte mir, es könne nichts schaden, wenn ich das Anschreiben mit den zwei Flyers im Pdf-Format (herunterzuladen hier via meinem Evernote-Account) auf schalte.

Aus muc von oanth - CEST 19.40 20100503


Liebe UnterstützerInnen,

wir möchten euch auf die Bilanz- und Strategiekonferenz des Bündnisses "Dresden-Nazifrei" vom 28.- 30. Mai in Jena hinweisen. Das Programm steht nun fest, welches ihr den beigefügten Materialien entnehmen könnt.

Bei dieser Konferenz soll es Qualifizierungs- und Diskussionsmöglichkeiten rund um die Organisation und Durchführung von Antinaziblockaden geben.

Ihr könnt euch per E-Mail zu der Konferenz anmelden:
Bitte gebt bei eurer Anmeldung an, mit wie vielen Personen ihr zur Konferenz anreist, ob unter euch Veganer oder Vegetarier sind und ob Kinderbetreuung benötigt wird. Ein Unkostenbeitrag für die Teilnahme an der Konferenz wird nicht erhoben. Dennoch freut sich das Bündnis Dresden-Nazifrei über Spenden der Teilnehmenden.

Im Anhang findet ihr eine Druckvorlage des Flyers. Bei Bedarf können außerdem Flyer unter bestellt werden.

Viele Grüße vom Koordinierungskreis "Dresden - Nazifrei"

April 09 2010


"Kinderarmut in Deutschland" via Newsletter: evangelische Akademie in Tutzing bei München - Tagung 19.-20.April 2010

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

jedes sechste Kind in Deutschland lebt in relativer Armut.
Anlass genug für die Evangelische Akademie Tutzing, gemeinsam mit dem Deutschen Kinderhilfswerk eine Tagung zu diesem brisanten Thema anzubieten:

Kinderarmut in Deutschland
19. - 20. April 2010
Tagungsstätte Schloss Tutzing

Unsere Experten, darunter der bekannte Armutsforscher Prof. Richard Hauser, diskutieren über Ursachen, vor allem aber Strategien zur Bekämpfung der Armut. Die Journalistin Maria von Welser, stellvertretende Vorsitzende von UNICEF Deutschland, liest aus ihren Sozialreportagen "Leben im Teufelskreis".

Bei der Tagung sind noch Plätze frei; das vollständige Programm finden Sie unter:

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Dr. Ulrike Haerendel

Reposted bysantaprecaria santaprecaria

March 30 2010

Auf dem Weg zur DienstbotInnengesellschaft?

Auf dem Weg zur DienstbotInnengesellschaft? Prekäre Zeiten – prekäre Verhältnisse ist der Titel einer Tagung im Bildunghaus St. Virgil in Salzburg am 28. und 29. April 2010.

Weltweit lässt sich eine zunehmende Auslagerung von haushaltsnahen Dienstleistungen an MigrantInnen, StudentInnen und schlecht ausgebildete Personen erkennen. Einen Großteil dieser Gruppen stellen Frauen dar. Durch diese Auslagerung setzt sich die geschlechtsspezifische Arbeitsteilung im Haushalt fort, und es entstehen neue Ungleichheiten unter Frauen, die entlang von Einkommen, Ausbildung, Ethnizität und Nationalität verlaufen.

Über dieses Thema sprechen u.a. Mascha Mödorin, Mag.ª Bettina Haidinger, Mag. Christian Felber und Ao. Mag.a Luise Gubitzer.

Zum Detailprogramm (PDF)

Eingetragen unter:VeranstaltungsHinweis Tagged: DienstbotInnen
Reposted fromsantaprecaria santaprecaria

March 23 2010


Bemerkungen zu 
polit-camp 2010

von Thomas Knüwer



... Fünf junge Piraten waren gekommen, sie trugen abwechselnd eine Parteifahne über den Schultern, gefühlt waren sie die jüngsten Gesichter vor Ort. Via Twitterwall durften sie sich als “peinlich” bezeichnen lassen. Oder als “süß”. Warum? Weil sie jung sind und das aus Sicht der geistig unterbelichteten Autoren dieser Tweets das falsche Parteibuch haben.


Sprachlos hinterließ es mich, wie auf dem Planeten Berlin nicht mehr vorstellbar ist, dass jemand überfordert ist, attackiert ihn einen Macht, die scheinbar überlegen ist. Beim Thema Abmahnanwälte waren sich fast alle einig, dass ungerechtfertigte Abmahnungen doch kein großes Problem sein, “Sie können sich doch wehren”. Dass so mancher Bürger gar nicht weiß, was er in so einem Fall tun soll, dass er Angst hat hinterher noch höhere Kosten (die seines Anwaltes) tragen zu müssen, als die, die ihm angedroht werden – das scheint für Müller-Sönksen so unvorstellbar wie für den Grünen Volker Beck.

Der gerierte sich als Google Streetview-Gegner. Leider konnte nicht mehr vor dem Mikro geklärt werden, was ich mir schon gedacht hatte. Dass es Marketing-Dienstleister gibt, die jedes Haus in Deutschland fotografiert und mit soziodemographischen Daten versehen haben, das es in Köln ein deutsches Unternehmen gibt, das ganz ähnlich agiert wie Google – Beck wusste es nicht.

... Es ist vollkommen verständlich, wenn sich ein Volksvertreter erst durch Googel Streetview mit dem Thema Ablichten des öffentlichen Raumes beschäftigt. Dass er aber losplappert, bevor er vernünftig recherchiert – das ist für mich nicht akzeptabel. Von Parlamentsangehörigen erwarte ich fundierte Meinungen, fundiertere als von jedem anderen Menschen in der Republik.


.... Der Online-Wahlkampf sei ein Nischenthema, habe viel zu wenig bewegt, hieß es. Stimmt. Nur: Wer hat denn tatsächlich die Instrumente genutzt, um sich zu öffnen? .... Munter werden auch Prozesse als “offen” und “transparent” tituliert, nur weil gelegentlich mal ein PDF-File mit einem unverständlichen Gesetzesentwurf veröffentlicht wird.

Das trifft gewaltig auf den Jugendmedienschutzstaatsvertrag, zu dem ich eine Diskussion moderierte. .... Man darf aber wohl sagen: Es handelt sich um das nächste Stück sinnlose Symbolpolitik in die zu viel Hirnressourcen und Geld fließen. Was der rheinland-pfälzische Staatssekretär Martin Stadelmaier sich dafür anhören musste war heftig – und gerechtfertigt.

Die Jugend soll geschützt werden vor Inhalten, die Jugendliche besser nicht sehen sollten – ein sinnvolles Ziel.

Doch das geht eben nicht mit der nun geplanten Software, die Eltern herunterladen müssen und die alle Seiten sperrt, außer jenen, die sich zu einer freiwilligen Kontrolle melden. Alle anderen sind nur zu sehen, wenn Eltern sie freischalten. Das mag bei Siebenjährigen noch gehen. Bei Teenagern aber ist dies utopisch. ....


Es sind Ideen, die nur von einem Haufen Weltfremder und Frühvergreister, ich möchte fast sagen -verkalkter, entworfen werden können. ...


Wieder einmal kam viel zu kurz, dass jenes Internetzdingsbums nicht nur eine Freizeitbeschäftigung ist, sondern ein Wirtschafts- und Standorfaktor. Es ist die wichtigste Technik unserer Zeit – und Deutschland hat zu ihr herzlich, besser: erschreckend, wenig beizutragen.


.... Familienministerin Kristina Schröder ..... Die war auch auf jenem ersten Podium. Und sagte ein paar gute Dinge, so wie sie dies auch im Interview mit Spiegel Online tat. .... und schien ebenfalls genervt vom Betragen einiger anderer Diskutanten.

Sie scheint den Willen zu haben, zumindest so zu tun, als beschäftige sie sich intensiver und ernsthafter mit dem Thema als ihre Vorgängerin Ursula “Zensursula” von der Leyen. ....



vgl. @henteaser Permalink

vollständiger Blogeintrag Unter Polit-Campern | Thomas Knüwer 20100322 auf

November 14 2009

Bloggers Remember TEDIndia: The Good, the Bad and the Quirky


When the legendary TED conference came down to India, Indian bloggers were understandably excited.

In the run up to TEDIndia, a few Indian bloggers got together to interview TEDIndia fellows and Geetha Krishnan put together a compilation of the TEDIndia fellow interviews.

During the conference, the TED blog fed the excitement by posting session-wise roundups (session 1, session 2, session 3, session 4, session 5, session 6, session 7, session 8, session 9) and reactions to the most popular talks (Hans Rosling, Devdutt Pattanaik, Tony Hsieh, Scott Cook, Pranav Mistry, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Shukla Bose, Anil Gupta, Kavita Ramdas, Sunitha Krishnan, Sidi Goma, Ramachandra Budihal, Ananda Shankar Jayant, Kiran Sethi, Eve Ensler, His Holiness the Karmapa, Shashi Tharoor) and even did a roundup of reactions to the conference.

TED India participants walking towards the venue. Image by Kiruba Shankar

TED India participants at the venue. Image by Kiruba Shankar

Several bloggers wrote posts about how TED touched them in unexpected ways.

Rajiv Dingra was one of them –

In my last 3 years and more of blogging experience Ive attended over 50 events (atleast) and each of them have left me richer in knowledge or in insight. But none of them have ever moved me to tears or made me go in deep thought or made me proud to be Indian all in the matter of days. TEDIndia infact was more a reflection of what are the grave issues in India and the brilliance and the fallacy of India rather than being specific to Technology, Entertainment and Design.

Peter Elst summarized TEDIndia in ten quotes.

While the overall reaction to TEDIndia was overwhelmingly positive, several attendees were left a little underwhelmed.

TEDIndia fellow Amit Varma complained that TEDIndia catered to Western stereotypes of India –

There was much exotica, and much mysticism served up that says nothing at all about the country we are today. The average foreign attendee would have gone away with his stereotypes about India reinforced, not shattered. That’s an opportunity missed.

Awesome backdrop for a dance party. Image by Kiruba Shankar

Awesome backdrop for a dance party. Image by Kiruba Shankar

Amit also shared an interesting sociological observation –

The pharmacy at the Infosys campus in Mysore does not sell condoms. I want you to think about that for a moment. This is a campus where thousands of young men and women stay and work together. The official Infosys position on this matter, thus, seems to be that either a) Infosys employees do not have sex or b) Infosys employees have sex, but it should not be safe sex. Isn’t this interesting?

Aditi Machado was surprised by TEDIndia's strong focus on India –

In retrospect the India-focus at TED was too strong. When TED is held in the UK or the US, does the conference become all about those countries and those countries’ contributions to the world? I don’t think so. The running theme at TEDIndia, beginning with the first talk by Hans Rosling, seemed to be: ‘India will become the next superpower. Oh, and China too. But we’re in India and India is a democracy and we hate Commies, so we like India better.’ I’m sure many Indians were flattered, and I’m as patriotic as the next person, but it was disturbing to see that almost every speaker, especially the non-Indians, felt obligated to give us a big pat on the back.

Manjeet Kripalani at Financial Express also complained about TEDIndia's uni-directional programming –

The title was promising: “TEDIndia: the Future Beckons”. On the Mysore campus, India’s future had already arrived. It did not reflect in the programming of TEDIndia. The idea of TED is unique. Brilliant new minds who expound their futuristic ideas in 18 minutes to a sophisticated celebrity audience, interspersed with entertainment, music and some socially responsible talk. This TED conference was more “Bono Saves the World” than either Technology or Entertainment or Design. No soft or hard power, but powerlessness.

TED India talks. Image by Kiruba Shankar

TED India talks. Image by Kiruba Shankar

TED attendee Our Woman in Havana rounded off her series of posts about TEDIndia (day one, day two, day three, day four) by deciding that the real genius of TED lies in its ability to gather together people who are hugely talented and successful in a diverse range of fields –

Some of my best TED moments were little breaks when a randomly struck conversation brought nuggets of new thought –talking literature with A who worked in microfinance with the Acumen Fund and discovering our common heritage; discussing whether Urdu should be written in Hindi script in order to preserve the language in India with T; clashing head-on with J over Cuban politics at lunch; understanding from A why someone would want to put a boutique hotel in Ahmedabad; learning from B how designers can source organic materials; always always bumping into T and talking football, Punjabi and why lawyers are perceived as emptying rather than filling; dancing with a stranger; drinking coffee with an artist; discussing with C how to put Shashi Tharoor on the spot with a question about Indian state accountability over genocide. The genius in TED lay in those moments where nobody knew what would come next, and could then be blown away by what did come next. At times, those were the speakers, and often, those moments came in the all too brief meetings we had with people who already seem to have become friends.

For me, TEDIndia was about a rediscovery of the power of storytelling

These stories reminded me that the most powerful stories we can tell about ourselves are, in fact, stories about other people. These stories reminded me that by telling stories about ideas that are bigger than us, we become bigger than ourselves. These stories reminded me that we are shaped by the stories we tell others, but even more so by the stories we tell ourselves.

TED India group photo - the crazy version. Image by Kiruba Shankar

TED India group photo - the crazy version. Image by Kiruba Shankar

The TEDIndia talks will soon be up on the TED website, so do look out for them.

Images taken from Indian blogger Kiruba Shankar's Flickr photostream and used under a creative commons license.

April 28 2009

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