I'm in Minsk at the moment preparing for a short video training course with local journalists. It's my third visit to Belarus and unfortunately all too short this time. While I'm here I'll be interested to hear what people have to say about local elections set for the end of the month and see how its being reported in the media. Although its only local elections, it will nevertheless be an indicator before next year's presidential elections about the state of democratic development in Belarus. The government of President Lukashenko drew sharp criticism from international observers and opposition political parties over the 2008 parliamentary elections.
One source I'm finding useful for Belarusian election monitoring information and analysis is the weekly newsletter posted on European Exchange. Though I think this Berlin based organisation might need a little nudge in the social media department. Are they on Twitter or elsewhere?
Speaking of which, a few weeks out before heading off for a trip, I usually try and monitor keyword #hashtags on Twitter (together with Tweetdeck's translate function) and also plug into RSS feeds from websites such as Global Voices to see what local bloggers are up to.
It's bit like tuning the dial on a short-wave radio. Sometimes it can be a bit random, other times you'll find something interesting - perhaps an important issue being debated. Even better, you might find an interesting contact for a story or someone to interview. At the very least, you can pick up a hint of what's happening online - an extra layer of information which is always useful before arrival.
And so it was one morning last week that I spotted this tweet:
Hmm, what's that?
The link clicked through to an article describing how the Belarusian internet youth group VOKA helps to organise events such as barcamps and workshops for citizen journalism and local new media folk. In neighbouring Lithuania last month, VOKA organised a screening of the film 10 tactics - an info-activistm project of the Tactical Technology Collective. Watching the film's trailer below, I was keen to see more.
On their website, the 50 minute 10 tactics film is divided into chapters and complemented with case studies, guides/tool kits and tips from citizen journalists, NGO's and activists. There's plenty of practical advice to anyone interested developing a campaign and using technology for networking and distributing information materials.
I'm still working through the film and its resources, but so far, what I found particularly interesting about 10 tactics was gaining an insight to innovative visual storytelling and social media networking from an activist's perspective. For instance, using humour in storytelling; how to protect the anonymity of witnesses; the importance in some countries of not leaving a digital trail; and, the advantages and challenges Facebook presents for online information campaigns.
At it's core, the concept of Information Activism - turning information into action - is something certainly worth exploring more.
The Tactical Technology Collective website has a list of where the film might be screening near you and there are also some links to a couple of BBC items worthwhile checking out about the film and its web resources.
Who knows, perhaps we'll see some innovative campaigns in Belarus inspired by 10 tactics and turning to information activism in the near future?