What is the relationship between new media and civic engagement? Does the internet enable us to be all cosmopolitans? What kind of new technologies do we need to develop that foster political action? Ethan Zuckerman is researching for answers. This May he will be speaking at re:publica for the first time — finally!
Since 2011 the US-American media scholar, blogger and activist is the director of the MIT Center for Civic Media . His team researches how media and civic engagement are linked together and develops tools that support and foster civic media and political action.
One prime example of how civic media can actually work would be his international blogger network Global Voices. In 2005 Zuckerman and Rebecca MacKinnon founded Global Voices Online, a project he is very proud of. It is a global community of citizen media authors that aims to bridge the cultures, wants to preserve the freedom of speech and provides a platform for international bloggers. One particular focus is the support of participatory media culture in developing countries. By today Global Voices provides its audience with news and information from 167 countries in 30 different languages.
Ethan Zuckerman has witnessed the evolution of the web since its beginnings. During the 1990s he was one of the first members of Tripod.com, programming probably the very first pop-up ad he is now sorry for. In fact he recently argued that the original sin of the Internet is its ad-based infrastructure. He pleads to abandon online business models that let users access content for free but in turn use their data for commercial purposes. Instead, he argues, we should start to support services we love and therefor pay for our privacy.
We don't want to reveal too much about what Zuckerman will be discussing in May. We can tell you that it will most likely be a mixture of his current take on the Internet, his visions for the future web and his longtime commitment for Africa — he himself partly studied at the University of Legon, Ghana. We are curios to hear what Ethan Zuckerman has to say.