I am back in Berlin for the re:publica XI conference, for another round of exciting exchange of ideas and, networking with other Webster mates. This year, it seems that there is a strong focus on political and societal shifts induced by Digital Media. After a keynote on Design Thinking (Design is too important to leave it to Designers!) which called for a strong focus on a human(istic), sensible interaction design, the sessions I saw were very much about what happened in the Arab World over the last months and how citizen-made media has changed the game of news broadcasting.
Gabriella Coleman of the NYU retraced Anonymus' origins on the 4Chan network and stressed that over the years there has been a shift from a massive trolling movement ("The offensive Internet") to a serious challenger of what the activists behind Anonymous perceive as evil institutions. Another interesting panel entitled "Modern revolutions are digital revolutions" discussed the shifts in the Arab World and tried to draw parallels to civil society movements towards political change in Sub-Sahara Africa. Ludger Schadomsky of Deutsche Welle argued that Social Media's role in the Arab revolution(s) must not be overemphasized, as Al Jazeera has probably played a more pivotal role. Hence, traditional media (as well as telecommunications providers) will still be a target of dictatorial governments when it comes to exercising control over communications channels. – Also the panelists argued that there is still a pivotal lack of civil society in Sub-Sahara African countries that prevents widespread, sustainable political change towards more democracy. Solana Larsen of Global Voices then spoke about media consumption and how mass media fails to cover developments in world politics that are happening in non-Western countries time and again. Global Voices tries to keep track of things happening in the regions of the World which are not regularly highlighted by global news coverage. For example, Global Voices bloggers from the respective regions have writing about the developments in Tunisia or the Ivory Coast, long before mainstream media have picked up on the events unfolding. Next up, according to Solana is Gabon. Tomorrow, more of the same. Image by re:publica 2011, CC