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About the editors

  • Ruth Spencer (EJC)
    Ruth Spencer is a journalist, Editor, producer and hails from Montreal, Canada. She has worked for the European Journalism Centre since September 2008 and has edited all three rounds of TH!NK ABOUT IT. She has production experience in print media, theatre and broadcast television. She tweets via @thinkteam and is currently based in Toronto.
  • Guy Degen
    Guy Degen is an Australian freelance journalist and is based in Germany. He travels widely contributing stories to international broadcasters and is regularly commissioned by UN agencies as a multimedia producer. Guy writes for the Frontline Club blog and tweets via @fieldreports. Guy also trains journalists in multimedia skills and mobile journalism.


Activated by information

Published 07th April 2010 - 7 comments - 4285 views -

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.



10 tactics for turning information into action (Trailer) from Tactical Technology Collective on Vimeo.

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?


  • Luan Galani on 05th April 2010:

    What a brilliant film! I didn’t know this initiative. Thanks for the hints. Very useful.

  • Hanna Clarys on 07th April 2010:

    It looks like it can raise awareness, get people involved, inspire youngsters, ... very interesting idea to use the existing and widespread technologies this way. However, it will not reach everyone. Those who aren’t able to use these technologies will fall out.

  • Lara Smallman on 07th April 2010:

    I wonder if combining old-fashioned activism with new technology is the way forward?

  • Ivaylo Vasilev on 08th April 2010:

    I’ll be waiting for your fieldreporting content & analyses smile

  • Hieke van der Vaart on 09th April 2010:

    Tactical Tech on twitter:

  • Guy Degen on 11th April 2010:

    Luan, Hannah, Lara and Ivaylo - thanks for your comments!

    Sure, I think a little bit of healthy scepticism kicks in whenever we hear of techie things setting out to change the world. Though I’m always curious to hear about different ways people gain access to net and old media combining with new media - even in remote areas. Say, for example, having answers to questions delivered by mobile phone calls or SMS (Google/Grameen projects in Uganda) or broadcast by local radio stations.

    It’s interesting to see how people can connect and share media in a sort of digital word of mouth way. In Iraqi Kurdistan recently I looked over the shoulder of a Kurdish cigarette seller and a Bangladeshi street cleaner swapping short video comedy sketches and music videos on their mobile phones by bluetooth on fairly basic Nokias. Seemed like the social thing to do over a cup of sweet chay - despite the fact that there was a language barrier. I’m also constantly surprised by people’s ingenuity with mobile phones. I’d never thought about using the ring tone selection function on a basic phone as an mp3 player until I saw it in action in the mobile phone market in Dar es Salaam. So, I do think the mobile phone is one tool/technology that is already helping information to reach more people.

    Hieke, thanks very much for the twitter link!

  • Tobias Weihmann on 23rd June 2010:

    Not sure whether European Exchange is tweeting, but all their news regarding Belarus should be published on the website of the German-Belarusian Society,, which features an automated twitter feed #dbgonline - in German or English, depending on the source.

    Happy to learn that you got inspiration from the Vilnius screening of 10 tactics. I was helping VOKA with that, so if you have any further questions or suggestions regarding Belarus and New Media I might be able to help you out, or forward you to those who can.

    Regarding scepticism, I am one of the last persons who’d hype the role tech can play in countries like Belarus. I simply find that there are several good ideas in the movie, and exchange of ideas bridging borders and cultures doesn’t seem like a bad idea. If only one or two of the many viewers will read on or apply some of it to their own cultural context, it was already worth it.

    Together with Belarusian partners we are also organising training courses and exchanges for Belarusian journalists and NGOs, so it might be a good idea to stay in touch.

    All the best. Toby

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