Tuesday, 12 February 2008

INTERROGATING THE BLOGOSPHERE (II)

In the previous post, I raised, among others, the following questions:

Firstly, what is exactly the “mainstream media”? Does it include the same type of outlets in New York, Lisbon, Luanda, Boston, Porto, Brazilia, Maputo, London, Praia, Vila Nova de Gaia, Rio, Lubango or Dili? Secondly, to what extent can a blogger based in Portugal, USA, UK or Cabo Verde accurately reflect the voices of communities and individual citizens in N’Dalatando, Quelimane or Principe, whose concerns might not be heard online? Can such a blogger in any case reflect them better than another one based closer to those communities, unless he visits them regularly or has close family, friendship, or professional ties with them? Thirdly, who gets to determine, and under whose criteria, which are “the most interesting conversations and perspectives emerging from citizens’ media around the world”, as per the GVO “Primary Goals”?

Trying to find some answers, I took a close look at the GVO coverage of “Portuguese-speaking African countries” in the last six months*:

The most striking observation from this graph is that OC appears not only, as we have seen before, as the “undisputed champion” of GVO reporting about the “Angolan blogosphere”, but also as the “champion” (only “disputed” by Carlos Serra, one of the bloggers I covered for GVO) of their “Lusophone” Sub-Saharan Africa reporting. A second interesting observation is that less than one third of the bloggers covered are actually based in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Another, not less interesting, observation is that we get, just to give an example, issues and events about Angola or Sao Tome & Principe covered by East-Timorese or Portuguese blogs – which perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that some of these blogs are, to put it mildly, “highly influenced” (at least judging from the prominence of his picture on them) by none other than OC, who also appears as the presumable overseer of a “blog production line” (Fabrica de Blogues) spreading from Portugal to Timor. It’s also interesting to observe how OC manages to appear in the coverage of an event in Mozambique, which was being thoroughly covered by Mozambican bloggers in situ.

At first sight, one might be tempted to conclude that these trends reflect a lack of diversity of African-based blogs written in Portuguese. However, as it can be gathered from
this list (where, incidentally, my blog doesn’t figure and, by their own admission, is “manipulated” by… exactly, OC), or from this one (where my blog is also not listed) that is not the case.

It is abundantly clear that the GVO “Portuguese-speaking Africa” editorial line is inspired by the concept of “lusofonia”. However, this raises a number of issues, starting with this: just imagine that you are a South African blogger systematically seeing events happening at your doorstep, and that you also blogged about, reported at GVO by British, Nigerian or American bloggers simply because they too are English-speaking and read about it in the conventional mainstream media, or in your own blog? Or that you are a Maurician or Malgache Creole-speaking citizen who finds your local issues covered at GVO by Gabonese, Algerian or Haitian bloggers, in French, just because their countries are also former French colonies? And this kind of examples could go on and on.

But perhaps the most problematic implication of that approach is that the concept of “lusofonia” itself is a highly contentious one and is far from reuniting consensus in all countries involved – not least because, on the one end, the majority of the African populations in those countries are primarily speakers of their own national languages and, on the other, the concept is highly reminiscent of the Portuguese colonial state’s imperial ideology, according to which there was a single “cultural unit” from Minho (extreme North of Portugal) to Timor - as reflected by the spread of the "OC blogging empire"...

The controversy generated by that approach can be gathered, for instance, from this article by a Mozambican professor of African Literatures at a Portuguese University, or from an article by a Brazilian writer and senior government official, whose link can be found on this post, or from another article by the Mozambican author Joao Craveirinha, whose link can be found on this post. However, these ponderous critical perspectives are unceremoniously dismissed as “gritaria” by the Portuguese language editorial team at GVO, which happens to be exclusively integrated by Brazilian citizens.

Now, on the question of who gets to determine, and under whose criteria, which are “the most interesting conversations and perspectives emerging from citizens’ media around the world”, as per the GVO “Primary Goals”?, let’s just look at some examples taken at random:

- How is it decided that
this criticism of the publication for the first time in the Portuguese market of a magazine directed at African women is “more interesting” than, say, the criticisms arising from this, or this?

- How is it decided that
this treatment of the “Miss Landmine Angola Pageant” is “more interesting” than, say, this one?

- How is it decided that
this presentation of an Angolan music/dance genre is “more interesting” than, say, this one (where the main message is that “Angola is good for everybody except for Angolans”), or any of these (where the rising voices and social consciousness of a new generation of Angolan musicians appear loud and clear)?

- How is it decided that
this tribute to Ian Smith is “more interesting”, than, say, something like this?

- How is it decided that this anonymous email message is credible and "more interesting" than any other possible account of the reality on the ground, such as these, or any of these?

- How is it decided that this account of the EU-Africa Summit is "more interesting than, say, this one?

- How is it decided that an event like this “is not interesting”?

Finally, how can GVO’s “loud silence” about
this event be explained? The same GVO whose mission includes things like, “shining light on places and people other media often ignore (…) to make sense of it all, and to highlight things that bloggers are saying which mainstream media may not be reporting (…) to help people speak out in places where powerful forces would prevent them from doing so (…) and to enable more people whose voices and views are not heard to speak out online.”
The same GVO where articles like this, for example, can be read?

*N.B.: To be accurate, in all 6 instances where my blog appears on GVO links during the period under analysis, it was not on the initiative of the Portuguese-language editorial team. So, they shouldn't be included in this graph because, for all intents and purposes, this blog was excluded from their reporting in the last six months.
In the previous post, I raised, among others, the following questions:

Firstly, what is exactly the “mainstream media”? Does it include the same type of outlets in New York, Lisbon, Luanda, Boston, Porto, Brazilia, Maputo, London, Praia, Vila Nova de Gaia, Rio, Lubango or Dili? Secondly, to what extent can a blogger based in Portugal, USA, UK or Cabo Verde accurately reflect the voices of communities and individual citizens in N’Dalatando, Quelimane or Principe, whose concerns might not be heard online? Can such a blogger in any case reflect them better than another one based closer to those communities, unless he visits them regularly or has close family, friendship, or professional ties with them? Thirdly, who gets to determine, and under whose criteria, which are “the most interesting conversations and perspectives emerging from citizens’ media around the world”, as per the GVO “Primary Goals”?

Trying to find some answers, I took a close look at the GVO coverage of “Portuguese-speaking African countries” in the last six months*:

The most striking observation from this graph is that OC appears not only, as we have seen before, as the “undisputed champion” of GVO reporting about the “Angolan blogosphere”, but also as the “champion” (only “disputed” by Carlos Serra, one of the bloggers I covered for GVO) of their “Lusophone” Sub-Saharan Africa reporting. A second interesting observation is that less than one third of the bloggers covered are actually based in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Another, not less interesting, observation is that we get, just to give an example, issues and events about Angola or Sao Tome & Principe covered by East-Timorese or Portuguese blogs – which perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that some of these blogs are, to put it mildly, “highly influenced” (at least judging from the prominence of his picture on them) by none other than OC, who also appears as the presumable overseer of a “blog production line” (Fabrica de Blogues) spreading from Portugal to Timor. It’s also interesting to observe how OC manages to appear in the coverage of an event in Mozambique, which was being thoroughly covered by Mozambican bloggers in situ.

At first sight, one might be tempted to conclude that these trends reflect a lack of diversity of African-based blogs written in Portuguese. However, as it can be gathered from
this list (where, incidentally, my blog doesn’t figure and, by their own admission, is “manipulated” by… exactly, OC), or from this one (where my blog is also not listed) that is not the case.

It is abundantly clear that the GVO “Portuguese-speaking Africa” editorial line is inspired by the concept of “lusofonia”. However, this raises a number of issues, starting with this: just imagine that you are a South African blogger systematically seeing events happening at your doorstep, and that you also blogged about, reported at GVO by British, Nigerian or American bloggers simply because they too are English-speaking and read about it in the conventional mainstream media, or in your own blog? Or that you are a Maurician or Malgache Creole-speaking citizen who finds your local issues covered at GVO by Gabonese, Algerian or Haitian bloggers, in French, just because their countries are also former French colonies? And this kind of examples could go on and on.

But perhaps the most problematic implication of that approach is that the concept of “lusofonia” itself is a highly contentious one and is far from reuniting consensus in all countries involved – not least because, on the one end, the majority of the African populations in those countries are primarily speakers of their own national languages and, on the other, the concept is highly reminiscent of the Portuguese colonial state’s imperial ideology, according to which there was a single “cultural unit” from Minho (extreme North of Portugal) to Timor - as reflected by the spread of the "OC blogging empire"...

The controversy generated by that approach can be gathered, for instance, from this article by a Mozambican professor of African Literatures at a Portuguese University, or from an article by a Brazilian writer and senior government official, whose link can be found on this post, or from another article by the Mozambican author Joao Craveirinha, whose link can be found on this post. However, these ponderous critical perspectives are unceremoniously dismissed as “gritaria” by the Portuguese language editorial team at GVO, which happens to be exclusively integrated by Brazilian citizens.

Now, on the question of who gets to determine, and under whose criteria, which are “the most interesting conversations and perspectives emerging from citizens’ media around the world”, as per the GVO “Primary Goals”?, let’s just look at some examples taken at random:

- How is it decided that
this criticism of the publication for the first time in the Portuguese market of a magazine directed at African women is “more interesting” than, say, the criticisms arising from this, or this?

- How is it decided that
this treatment of the “Miss Landmine Angola Pageant” is “more interesting” than, say, this one?

- How is it decided that
this presentation of an Angolan music/dance genre is “more interesting” than, say, this one (where the main message is that “Angola is good for everybody except for Angolans”), or any of these (where the rising voices and social consciousness of a new generation of Angolan musicians appear loud and clear)?

- How is it decided that
this tribute to Ian Smith is “more interesting”, than, say, something like this?

- How is it decided that this anonymous email message is credible and "more interesting" than any other possible account of the reality on the ground, such as these, or any of these?

- How is it decided that this account of the EU-Africa Summit is "more interesting than, say, this one?

- How is it decided that an event like this “is not interesting”?

Finally, how can GVO’s “loud silence” about
this event be explained? The same GVO whose mission includes things like, “shining light on places and people other media often ignore (…) to make sense of it all, and to highlight things that bloggers are saying which mainstream media may not be reporting (…) to help people speak out in places where powerful forces would prevent them from doing so (…) and to enable more people whose voices and views are not heard to speak out online.”
The same GVO where articles like this, for example, can be read?

*N.B.: To be accurate, in all 6 instances where my blog appears on GVO links during the period under analysis, it was not on the initiative of the Portuguese-language editorial team. So, they shouldn't be included in this graph because, for all intents and purposes, this blog was excluded from their reporting in the last six months.

11 comments:

Nick said...

NOW WE'RE TALKING!
Will they listen?

Take care.

VDV said...

You go girl!

Diasporense said...

Eu sei que a ofendida não o vai fazer porque é uma verdadeira SENHORA que não se permite descer ao nível dos cobardes, energúmenos, crápulas e asquerosos verdes de INVEJA que não olham a meios para a atacar gratuitamente pelas costas.

Pelo menos ela tem sido FRONTAL!

Mas, com a sua licença, faço aqui o DESAFIO a esse tal OC - Veja se consegue ser HOMEM e faça o favor de PROVAR sem margem para dúvidas QUANDO e COMO é que a Koluki/Ana Santana fugiu de Angola!

Anonymous said...

This is a disgrace! As far as I'm concerned that Paula Goes is a sorry excuse for a woman and if GVO want to be taken seriously should immediately sack the entire Brazilian team!!!!!

AR said...

Cambada de ingratos, racistas ignorates. Pelo menos podiam ser mais discretos, caramba.

sokari said...

Excellent observations and you are so right to raise these questions. Looking at the bloggers who are speaking in the some of the examples given is disturbing when one asks who speaks for who. I think a lot of African bloggers living in the Diaspora do rely on friends and relatives at home to provide some news and perspectives about what is going on. I keep personally in regular contact with a number of organisations I have worked with in Nigeria and South Africa and speak to them directly if there is a particular story I wish to cover to get their perspective on what is happening etc. I think this is quite valid as long as those people / organisations are happy for me to write and in most cases they contact me for that reason anyway. This is very different to a non-African reporting events and then their voices overtaking those of Africans whether they be at home or abroad.

As for whose voice is chosen - maybe it depends on what voice you speak with and who you are - at least that is my own experience.

Having said that I was the first SSA and I know choices have to be made and I do have utmost respect for the present GV's SSA editor - but I think in this case there are issues with the Portuguese language editor.

fred said...

Hi koluki

Just a thought: don't you think that you may not get that much attention from the portuguese editorial team because you write mostly in english? I mean, if they aim to cover blogs in portuguese, it makes more sense that you get picked up by the other teams that cover blogs in English, no?

Koluki said...

Nick, VDV, Diasporense and AR: As always, thank you very much! Como sempre, muito obrigada!

Anonymous: Thank you very much for expressing your outrage, but I would rather not personalise the issues.

Sokari: please refer to my reply to you on the previous post.

Fred: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. However:

1. I had hoped that this 'interrogation of the blogosphere' was not to be taken as some sort of "attention seeking" on my part... The graphs clearly show that it's NOT just my blog that is not getting the attention of the Portuguese-language editorial team!

2. As you can see in this post, where I made a balance of the first six months of this blog, I have an average 68% of posts written in Portuguese and 32% in English. I haven't updated these stats since, but I'm sure that the trend continues to be around those figures. In any case, with one or two exceptions, all my posts about Angola and, occasionally, Mozambique (which supposedly fall within the remit of that team) have been in Portuguese.

3. An issue that should not be overlooked here, although marginal to this particular discussion, is that there is a considerable number of Angolans in the Diaspora (e.g. in South Africa and other English-speaking neighbouring countries; or in the UK, USA, Canada, etc.) who are mostly English users and more likely to read the blogosphere and, probably, GVO, than most Angolans inside the country...

Koluki said...

COMMENTS FROM GVO

February 22nd, 2008 at 21:04 pm Paula Góes:

Koluki has some interesting comments but I think she missed a fundamental point here: The coverage by the Portuguese editorial team is not geographically targeted - we aim to report on blogs written in Portuguese, regardless of where the bloggers sit. For that kind of region coverage, we have our region editors, such as Ndesanjo Macha who covers Sub-Saharan Africa.

Therefore, it is not fair to say that the Portuguese coverage is representative of how Global Voices covers the “Angolan blogosphere”, or indeed any other country based blogospheres (with the exception from Brazil, which has its coverage solely handled by the Portuguese team). In addition to this, only since December the coverage of Portuguese speaking countries have been extended, and it takes an inevitable while to build a good feed, get to know the bloggers, etc, not to mention time reading through as much posts as possible.

We link to sources that we believe are reliable and hard working bloggers, such as Orlando Castro (who nevertheless had 10 links only out of more than 250 articles I’ve written) and Carlos Serra (who is always ahead of the mainstream media), but we are always keen to meet new bloggers. I’d like also to remember that everyone is welcome to send links to the blogs *in Portuguese* they think we should be watching, so please help us to get better!

Similarly, if you would like to contribute helping us to shed light on your Portuguese speaking blogosphere, do get in touch. We would love to have more authors contributing to our coverage - there are so many wonderful blogs out there that we need more than only 2 committed people to be fair in this challenging role.

Here is how you can help:

http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/for-bloggers/

My reply

As I replied to a comment on this issue in my blog, I would rather not personalise the issues I've raised. It is not, therefore, without some reluctance that I take on passing just some brief observations (because my main points and contentions are clearly and thoroughly expressed in the two parts of my “interrogation”) on what Paula Goes writes here:

- I regret that you keep missing and avoiding the main points and questions I raised. Just a reminder, if needed: “Firstly, what is exactly the “mainstream media”? Does it include the same type of outlets in New York, Lisbon, Luanda, Boston, Porto, Brazilia, Maputo, London, Praia, Vila Nova de Gaia, Rio, Lubango or Dili? Secondly, to what extent can a blogger based in Portugal, USA, UK or Cabo Verde accurately reflect the voices of communities and individual citizens in N’Dalatando, Quelimane or Principe, whose concerns might not be heard online? Can such a blogger in any case reflect them better than another one based closer to those communities, unless he visits them regularly or has close family or friendship ties with them? Thirdly, who gets to determine, and under whose criteria, which are “the most interesting conversations and perspectives emerging from citizens’ media around the world”, as per the GVO “Primary Goals”?”

- If your coverage is not geographically-based, then: first, that is news to me, because that’s not what I was told when invited to work on this area, or what I can gather from the location of blogs featured on the GVO Sub-Saharan African (SSA) coverage; second, it’s a matter of simple logic that if you are covering blogs in Portuguese which are not specifically specialising on SSA issues, views and perspectives, not to mention SSA-based, they shouldn’t appear on your articles/links under SSA, but solely on your Portuguese language pages;

- It is a clear contradiction in terms to say, on the hand, that “it takes an inevitable while to build a good feed, get to know the bloggers, etc, not to mention time reading through as much posts as possible” and, on the other, that “we link to sources that we believe are reliable and hard working bloggers”. Furthermore, this last statement is clearly disrespectful not only to me, but to all hardworking and committed bloggers out there, writing in whatever language, in whatever region of the globe!

- I don’t know, and don’t particularly care about, what is the exact percentage of posts from OC’s blog you’ve covered out of your total number of posts on GVO (which in any case, from your profile, seem to exceed the 500). What I do care about, and that’s what my graphs display is the percentage of OC’s posts out of the total number of Portuguese- speaking African countries blogs featured on GVO in the last 6 months.

- Finally, let me suggest this to you: for someone who shows to know virtually nothing about SSA (and, at my own considered risk, I would venture the same about your Brazilian team colleagues) you sound unbearably arrogant!

Koluki said...

Just to note that on the excerpt from my original article, I had added the word professional to the phrase bellow, but did forget to make the update on the part of the article I used in the comment above:

"Can such a blogger in any case reflect them better than another one based closer to those communities, unless he visits them regularly or has close family, friendship or professionalties with them?"

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