Tunisia`s 7hell!

Many things have changed in Tunisia since one year ago. For me, the most relevant -and the most charming- is that the fall of Ben Ali`s dictatorship has opened a Pandora vase which, in this case, was full of good things that have been repressed and hidden. The vibrant creativity of the Tunisian youth is one of them. The few times I visited Tunisia during Ben Ali`s regime I had the impression it was a suffocating country. They were trying to sell us foreigners the idea of the carte postale (postcard), of the safe beautiful country not touched by any problem, and no political or security issue. They use to pass us boring (according to me) Tunisian films that were the exact projection of what the former colonial powers (especially France) wanted to see coming out from this country. And I could see no youth`s  activities, except from the one I witnessed online, done by the brave Tunisian activists, like Nhar 3ala Ammar, the flash mobs, the protests, daring videos like the ones posted by Astrubaal.

But the post-14 Janvi Tunisia is an explosion of creativity. And the vibrant Tunisian youth is driving the change, organizing youth generated media activities, grassroot events, communities meet-ups. I`ve recently visited the amazing office space opened by the Nawaat folks near Tunis` Casba -a beautiful, historic place which in 2011 witnessed huge mass protests that have brought down two governments after the fall of Ben Ali-.   It`s a traditional Arabic house, which reminds me of the Damascene houses I`ve lived in, where Nawaat has set up its offices and the awesome hackspace, the first one in Tunis, whose activities are coordinated by open source advocates Kangoulya and Ali Hentati. They are carrying out a number of projects dedicated to openness, freedom of expression, free and open software together with the many open communities that are present in Tunisia (Ubuntu, Mozilla, etc).

This upcoming Friday 27th Jan at 7pm they`ll be hosting a community talk regrouping these communities, Creative Commons Tunisia, Wikimedia (who`s trying to set roots in Tunisia), and Nawaat of course. The same day, at 2pm, Wikimedia will present Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and try to get more Tunisians helping creating original online content in Arabic.

And on the 28th at 6 pm, Arty Show Galery in La Marsa, Tunis, will be hosting the first Creative Commons Salon in Tunisia, celebrating openness and creativity. A CC-licensed film about Tunisian cyber police by Kerim Bouzoita will be shown, and many “open” artists will be featured as CC-friendly rap group Armada Bizerta and the comics collective Yaka. The Tunisian bloggers` association will join and give a talk, as well as Nawaat and Kangoulya who will present the OpenData and OpenGov projects.

Tunisian activists have in fact started campaigning for 7hell (ouvre-open), a movement which regroups bloggers, techies, artists, politicians and who ever is interested in pushing openness and transparency. The OpenGov and OpenData campaign promoted by 7hell activists is the sign that Tunisia is moving in a very interesting direction, towards building a direct link between citizenship and institutions. It is the sign that Tunisian revolution was not an “anti”movement only; it is indeed an ongoing revolution and a pro-active movement trying to achieve a real change in civil society and institutions, not only a regime change.

 

A copyright notice/nota sul copyright

Since many of you have sent me requests for translating or republishing some of my posts, I wanted first of all to thank everybody for the interest in what I am writing. Secondly, it`s great to get all of your emails but just in case I`m a bit slow in responding to everybody, please do notice that this blog is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Share alike license, which means that you can share, translate, remix, republish it at the only condition of quoting the original source and then sharing the derivative product you get from it under the same license (CC BY SA, so do not copyright it!). This is valid even if you dont contact me directly..but of course it`s a great pleasure for me to know where and when you are re-publishing. So please keep me in the loop, just go ahead if I`m slow in answering. Crazy times indeed now in the Arab world..

Siccome molti dei lettori di questo blog mi hanno mandato negli ultimi giorni email per chiedermi se fosse possibile ripubblicare o tradurre alcuni dei miei post, volevo innanzitutto ringraziare per l`attenzione concessa a quello che sto scrivendo. E` molto bello leggere queste email ma, in caso io sia un po lenta nelle risposte, per piacere tenete conto che il blog e` pubblicato sotto licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione Condividi-allo-stesso-modo, che vuol dire che potete condividere, tradurre, rimixare, ripubblicare tutto alla sola condizione di citare la fonte originale e poi distribuire il prodotto che ne deriva sotto la stessa licenza originaria (cioe CC BY SA, percio` non metteteci un copyright classico!). Questo funziona anche se non mi contattate direttamente..ma naturalmente per me e` un grande piacere sapere dove e quando state ri-pubblicando. Percio` per piacere continuate a tenermi informata, solo andate avanti anche se io sono lenta nelle risposte. Indubbiamente e` un periodo folle nel mondo arabo

Al Jazeera adds Egyptian & Tunisian footage to the Creative Commons repository

Al Jazeera has just started updating the Creative Commons Al Jazeera repository which the channel created in early 2009 during the Gaza crisis. The Al Jazeera New Media team is working to update the repository with daily packages of footage coming from Egypt and Tunisia uprisings.

Having chosen the most “lenient” Creative Commons license, CC BY, Al Jazeera is  allowing anybody to take, copy, share, translate, remix, and even re-broadcast the footage for free under the only condition of attributing the original source.

This is a key move towards the circulation of information particularly during crisis, like the one currently happening in Egypt. Wired has commented the move here.

Today the Egyptian Ministry of Information prevented both Al Jazeera Arabic and English from operating within the country but the live coverage of the Egypt uprising continued thanks to mobile phones live coverage.

Since the beginning of the demonstrations, Al Jazeera Arabic and English have been covering Egypt extensively both through traditional broadcast and with an impressive online coverage on all the major social networks.

Egypt`s day of anger is Al Jazeera day, too

I have been watching Egypt`s “day of anger” today on many TV channels, English and Arabic: BBC Arabic, BBC World, Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera Arabic and English, CNN. I must admit that this time Al Jazeera English did really a great job, particularly their correspondent from Cairo Ayman Mohyeldin. Al Jazeera English live feed on the Internet has been providing constant live coverage today, even during the worst moments of Friday the 28th of January, when the police was  attacking Al Jazeera`s Cairo office and trying to stop the live broadcast. Al Jazeera Arabic and English also started tonight to release some of their Egyptian footage under a Creative Commons license, something which has been very warmly welcomed by Internet users that are in constant need of footage in these crisis situations.

On the contrary, Al Arabyia was quite “low profile” today and they even reported the totally random news that Internet had been shut down by Syrian authorities in Syria. The news is totally false, as I have been live tweeting from Syria during all Friday, as many other Syrian tweeps. Internet was very fast today  in Syria, as far as I can tell. It has never been so fast in the country since I am here, as much as it has never been raining like tonight and Damascus has never looked so quiet and gloomy as it was tonight.

picture by Paul Keller

Guest blog post on Yalla Start up: “we need to produce not only to consume”

Last month my friend Habib Haddad co-founder of Yamli asked me to write a blog post on his Yalla Start up which I did with a lot of pleasure – I love the work Habib and his friends are doing and I think their way of thinking will impact a lot on Arab new generation of entrepreneurs-. For some reasons, I totally forgot to re-publish the post which I will do right now.

I think what I wrote few months ago is still very much valid, and the more I go in depth in researching issues in the Middle East, the more I find that fostering original creation is the only way for making the Arab world switching to a pro-active culture(s) that speak(s) for itself instead of being spoken by Others.

In the age of digital media, where the actual cost of content production (whether audio, video, texts, etc) has dramatically (and luckily) fallen, we cannot just complain that somebody else is “monopolizing” our image and telling our Story and stories, we have to switch to a proactive attitude.

I believe this is the right time for ideas like “Orientalism” to stop. We control the knowledge tools much better than in the past, so we have to use them in a the proper way. And when I say “we” I  mean also the Arab world, and I mean also in a way myself as a part of the Arab world, as somebody living here, speaking the language and sharing the culture(s). Few days ago a friend of mine who wanted to introduce me somebody  for my phd research told him on the phone “I want to introduce you a friend of mine, an Orientalist who`s studying Syrian drama”. His expression did struck me, since for me “orientalist” is a negative word, whereas he said that for him “had it not been for the Orientalists, much of our recent Arab history would never have been written“.

This situation can be changed and I strongly believe that digital media is the chance for Arabs to change it.

“We need to produce, not only to consume!”

Few weeks ago, I was running like a crazy from an interview to another in order to finish the first part of my field work for my PHD research about Syrian musalsalat.

An (Arab) friend of mine just looked at me as if I was totally weird and told me: “why are you doing all these crazy efforts?! You read Arabic, just translate those (pointing at few articles and couple of books dealing with drama) into English and khalas, it’s done!”.

While trying to explain him that a PHD research –generally speaking- is something quite serious in terms of getting a critical mass of sources, comparing them, quoting, elaborating, etc I just realised there was an “abyss” between us.

Few days later, I went to interview a smart guy who’s trying to collect different historical sources concerning drama and doing an “encyclopedia” type of project. When asking questions, I saw him being quite reluctant in answering.. he suddenly said: “sorry but you should pay for this”. “Pay?!” . I have to admit it was the first time in more than 10 years of research that I was hearing such an answer. “There is a value in what I do. And, if you are going to take it without giving anything back, at least you should pay”. My efforts in explaining that there is something called “quotation” in academia, something that acknowledges the original creator of a thought, were vain.

He simply concluded that, while the Western world has got “quotation”, the Arab world has only  “copy and paste”.

That “abyss” of few days before finally had a name: “copy and paste” culture, thaqafat al nskh wal lsq.  It seems that Arabs are so used to copy and paste others’ works that original creation is quickly dying in this part of the world. Creativity just disappears when there is no value attributed to cultural creation, no intention to acknowledge, no wishes to build upon somebody else’s work in order to create your own work.

The copy and paste culture is not a revenge against Western imperialism – the West which exploited and deprived the Arab world -, as somebody is nostalgically putting it.

The copy and paste culture is actually something the Arab world itself is paying a price for, by preventing original Arab thoughts to be exposed and debated, original Arab ideas to be investigated, original Arab research works to be published, etc. Cause if nobody attributes a value to a scientific article, a to a piece of information, to interviews and investigations that go into a PHD thesis, how do we expect to have an original Arab thought to be formed?

We always hear debates about the “XXI century Arab thought” etc, but where does its essence lay if not in original creation? And where this original creation can be expressed and exposed the most, if not on the Internet?

It’s precisely there, with all the digital easy access tools that new technology has provided us with, that a new Arab thought has to displayed, debated, re-elaborated, re-innovated.

When we celebrate the boom of the Internet in the Arab world, the increasing usage of social networks, etc, lots of this stuff is actually still about consumption and not creation.

  • We need to write, not only to read.
  • We need to film, not only to watch.
  • We need to produce, not only to consume.
  • We need to innovate, not only to preserve.

But, in order to create, we need to give a value to our creation. Then we need to respect this value. We need to trust. I personally see the challenge of Creative Commons organisation in the Arab world to be in this very challenge of creation, of giving a value, of facilitating trust.

Creative Commons was born in a Western world were copyright protection had become a chain, an obstacle to innovation. In the Arab world, copyright is almost unknown or disrespected, and original creation is disrespected, too, to the extent that it is totally neglected. In this context Creative Commons should be understood as a way of giving value to this neglected creation, of building trust and respect around it.

Would be this possible, the Arab world’s past and its history (like the history of its TV drama, just as an example) will finally have a value for Arabs too … the future won’t be made up of only Westerners investigating and writing this story, while Arabs just reading it.

Creative Commons`Beirut Salon still rocks the city!

Less than two weeks ago, Creative Commons Salon kicked off for the first time in Beirut, and it is still rocking the city with an energizing effect.

Artist Maya Zankoul, who published many of her comics works under CC BY, designed some very cool car stickers for car parking and published them under CC BY NC SA inviting people to use and remix.

The story made a buzz and was covered by national newspaper Al Ahkbar .

The same newspaper announced, during the Beirut Salon -held at Obross last 16 April- to start releasing its web content under a Creative Commons license.

Mansour Aziz, the web and IT manager of Al Akhbar newspaper, who presented at the Salon, said they were hoping to switch to CC for their printed version in the next future.

The Salon also saw Al Jazeera releasing footage specifically on Lebanon for their Creative Commons Al Jazeera repository.

CC Beirut Salon featured Lebanese creativity at its best.

Filmmakers Cyril Aris and Mounia Akl presented their “Beirut I love you I love you not”

singer Tony Yammine and his rock band Meen rocked all over the place with their music

fBassel Safadi gave a very useful CC for filmmakers talk

Jessica Dheere from Social Media Exchange highlighted the use of CC in the Ngos environment

photographer Lara Zankoul delighted the audience with her super stylish CC pics

artist Rania Saghir showed how copyright could be not that boring through her illustrated book

and comics magazine Samandal remixed almost live other Lebanese artists` works under CC to create an interactive mash up

Not to mention the wonderful works presented by Maya Zankoul and Naeema Zarif who were also part of the Beirut Salon`s organizing commitee together with Smex`s  Moham Najem and Yamli`s Habib Haddad.

They made a great job in putting together the first showcase ever of CC Lebanese creativity and  organized a live interactive contest with the audience to create the first CC purely Lebanese slogan. @dashkoun won the competition with his slogan“3tiya men albak”

(I won the second place with my “copyright 3la keifak” immediately remixed by the Lebanese for being too much Syrian!).

Hopefully the winner slogan will be printed on the next to be designed CC Lebanon Tshirt, something as cool as the first one that Maya and Naeema designed and co-remixed for this first Salon (and which I proudly wear!).

And also the official poster for the event was designed by the two Lebanese artists using the same technique of remixing each other`s work

A big thanks to everybody who joined, to @sdarine who was the nice host of the evening, to Beshr Kayali who filmed it (and also presented his podcast under CC), to Joulane from Obross who hosted the Salon, to the slogan competition jury, to the wonderful volunteers` team headed by Maya, Naeema, Mohamed and Habib who organised and to the vibrant Lebanese people who attended and showed their great talent and energy.