The biggest activist event in the Balkans will soon host its first conference on Internet activism in Lebanon.
By Lily Lynch for the Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 03/09/12
The Share Conference in Belgrade attracts 2,500 participants. [Lily Lynch/SETimes]
As the motto for the first ever Share Conference in the Middle East says: "What happens in Belgrade doesn't stay in Belgrade."
The annual Share Conference, which is run by a team of young artists and digital activists from Serbia, has already put on two popular events in Belgrade. Now, the same organisers are planning a three-day event in Beirut starting October 4th.
The Share Conference in Belgrade is already the largest civil society and activist event in the Balkans, with 2,500 daily participants from dozens of countries around the world. More than 500 of these participants come from other countries in the region. The conference gathers dozens of prominent scholars, practitioners, and creators in the field of digital culture and Internet activism.
While Belgrade and Beirut are separated by more than 1,700 kilometres, some in Serbia believe that the country has much knowledge to offer the Middle East and indeed the rest of the world when it comes to organised resistance and activism.
Srdja Popovic, leader of the student movement Otpor! that helped topple Slobodan Milosevic's regime, and executive director of Canvas-People's Power, told SETimes, "Nonviolent revolution has become one of the strongest Serbian brands outside of the country."
Share Conference organisers also believe that activists from the Balkans have knowledge to share with the world, but have their own unique philosophy, and one that centres on the strategic and ethical usage of the Internet.
"It's not about creating instant revolutions or promoting tools for changes,” Vladan Joler, director of the Share Conference, told SETimes. “It's about understanding values and trying to create new concepts that will allow us to make mechanisms that will protect us from any future attempts of misusing power. It's about understanding values of openness and decentralisation. It's about the ecology of the Internet."
Conference organisers have said that the Share Conference in Beirut will be particularly timely given the violent unrest in neighbouring Syria.
Bojana Sekeljic, deputy director of new media at the Center for New Communications Dokukino and a speaker at this year's Share Conference, told SETimes that she agrees that conferences such as Share demonstrate the power of the Internet as a tool for social change. “Social media and the Internet are continuously contributing to the establishment of societies where the free flow of information and expression are the foundation,” she said.