WAN/ WEF 2008: A Very Swedish Party

Since I had to leave this year's WAN Congress/ World Editors' forum on Tuesday to cover other events, I do not know how the show progressed from here, but this was by far the most surreal party I have been to for a very long time:


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It kicked off with fiddlers in national costumes performing drinking songs, while the waiters served herring, aquavit and salmon...


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an act which was followed by an ABBA look-alike band playing around with fake guns and singing cover versions of old ABBA and Grease songs..


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As the music filled the restaurant tent, and the world's editors and publishers started dancing to old ABBA tunes and the light from a big advertisement screen for Volvo, I thought it safer to steal away with a few Brits and Norsemen to have beer in a less psychedelic setting... ( by which point my camera batteries were starting to go out, hence the darkness of the last two pictures)....


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What made me feel very uneasy through most of this spectacle was knowing all too well that had this been Norway, it would probably have been fiddlers and an A-Ha look-alike band, and only the time of the year would have saved the guests from being served Lutefisk (cod in lye) or something even more exotic....

'In the age of blogs and connectivity, there can be no more cold wars'.

The sentiment belongs to the Lebanese artist Zena el-Kahlil. During a seminar on how free the internet really is earlier this month, she spoke for the first about what happened during the July Warin Beirut in the summer of 2006

That summer she penned Beirut Update, a blog that became a means of survival for her during the war and a way to bear witness of what was happening. In her opinion, the blog ultimately helped bring down barriers between those on the Lebanese and the Israeli side:


'When the bombs started falling, I didn't trust that international media would represent what was happening accurately'.

'It seemed as if my international readers came to trust my first hand account more than international media.'

'Blogging became a means of survival on many levels, it became a catharsis' 'It was a source of information. I needed to be an eyewitness. I had no political agenda, I was just writing as me – a 30-year-old normal woman'.

'Blogs were popping up everywhere that summer: the blogs were helping people on so many levels. There were two wars going on that summer, the summer of 2006: one in real life and one in cyberspace. Blogs were popping up on the Isreali side as well, there were lots of pro-Israel bloggers.'

'That summer changed history: it brought down barriers. It was helpful to see each other as human beings. Regular people got more involved: the events mobilised people to get online, send links, start typing, get more involved.'

These are my random notes from Zena's talk during this seminar, and a friend's interview with her afterwards (in Norwegian) early this month. I've deliberatly put these up here without too much editing because I think these quotes say a lot about the changing media landscape worth contemplating. For my own part, her words reminded me of two things:


1) how blogs seem to bring people closer even in the respect that they make it easier to have civilised or even meaningful conversations with people you wouldn't normally engage in conversation with. Or, to quote Adriana, via Doc Searls:

"isms" are for people who don't have blogs

Quid pro quo is how control freaks have relationships.

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2) of a poem (especially the last lines) by my favourite poet, Aase-Marie Nesse. Now, I must admit that I translated this to share with friends when I was 18 or so, so had I the time I could perhaps improve on the translation, but it works well enough/ is accurate (no rhyme in the original poem):

No, no board meetings, no committees
send all documents with the first flight
to heaven, awaken a new
Homeric laughter on Olympus

then we gather on the earth, two by two
and three by four, five by five,
we give each other commissions of trust
and invent our merry manifests
with ink and pen of pigeon's feather

we rise against everything

that suffers from contempt of life and contempt of death
that lines up our future with a ruler
that makes us less than a riddle
and a song

come, then we will meet on the bridge
in the middle of the fair or far north in the forest
a web of free-willing, out-doctrinated
east of the sun and west of the moon

and we betray the cold war
with a kiss

On Scandinavian differences and similarities

A lot could be said on this issue, and I might get back with a few more insights in the morning, but, in the meantime, here's Jill Walker Rettberg commenting on INorden, the new Nordic citizen journalism portal:

Given the similarities of the Scandinavian languages (think the difference between a Scottish brogue, a Texan drawl and Cockney and you’ll have the idea: we can all understand each other with a little effort) it’s really quite strange that the Norwegian, Swedish and Danish “webs” are so disconnected. I suppose it’s habit, born of the past centuries of war, occupation and competition - we’ve only been friends for a hundred or so years, really...