Why this event?
No one can deny the scale of internet and mobile phone penetration in the Arab
World. People in the region are becoming increasingly aware of the potentials offered
by technology for social and political change. Artists, social workers and young
intellectuals are resorting to information and communication venues in order to
disseminate their work, gain wider reception and create more interaction. Despite the
emergence of such highly connected communities of citizen journalists, cyber artists
and digital activists, the techies who provide support and infrastructure to these
communities, are still working in isolation, not really benefiting from this regional
While their social role is not always recognized by their communities and sometimes
even by the techies themselves, they play a pivotal role, they are builders of
communities, facilitators of communication between communities, they offer support,
hand holding and transfer of skills and knowledge and they are transforming into
gatekeepers to an increasing diversity of voices and information.
Hence the need for an event to bring those isolated techies together and build a
regional community, to share experiences and knowledge, learn from each other and
collaborate on solving common problems. The proposed workshop will be a space to
discuss past experiences treating them as case studies whether of success or failure, to
explore potential opportunities for collaboration and ideas that should be replicated, to
identify common problems and missing tools, and to map out overlaps in existing
projects and future plans.
Workshop participants will come from diverse backgrounds spanning different parts
of the Arab World. They will include techies engaged with digital activism and citizen
media communities, techies running community hubs (media aggregators and social
web apps), techies who provide support, training and documentation for activists,
artists and social entrepreneurs, and tech savvy activists, artists and media
practitioners. Since the challenges faced in the region are probably not that unique,
the workshop will also invite few guests from other related communities, like FOSS
developers especially those who had worked on developing social networking tools,
and techies from Iran and Pakistan who face the same challenges involved in dealing
with Arabic scripts not to mention the similar social and political challenges.
The Townhouse Gallery of contemporary art will host the function and provides it
with space and logistic support. The Townhouse Gallery is a leading space that caters
to independent performing and visual arts and has ventured into providing platforms
for using art for social change.