Talking about the World Social Forum: beyond mainstream media and movements’ hegemonic leaderships

A strongly felt and long drawn anxiety is shared by many World Social Forum organisers and supporters. Its relevance vis-a-vis global politics and even vis-a-vis global progressives seems to be unstoppably fading away after a very promising start and exhilarating first few years. Why? And what, if anything, can be done about it? These are crucial questions and questions that need careful consideration especially while approaching what promises to be one of the most inspiring WSF global events, Dakar 2011, an event that could deserve way more attention that it can, as things stand now, possibly get. An event that wishes to convene women and men, organisations and communities to contribute to the articulation of what the organisers have suggested to call “The New Universality”.

To address the questions above it might be useful to wonder in which way this fading relevance is assessed. Who says that the WSF impact is fading and how is such assessment conducted? These questions are worth books, but here I will reflect only on an oft-repeated refrain in the International Council and among commentators and participants of the WSF events: mainstream media do not care about us any more, we are not news any more.

Incidentally (or perhaps not), at the latest WSF International Council meeting in Dakar, in November 2010, a European participant responded energetically to the allegations that European movements, just like the WSF, were in deep crisis stressing that they were indeed alive and fighting but they chose to do so outside the WSF framework which they judged marred by “old” hegemonic politics conducted by members of the authoritarian left. This to say that perhaps media disaffection might be only a minor issue that the WSF participants and organisers should concern themselves with.

Let me come back to the concerns about mainstream media blackout and the anxiety of irrelevance it is creating. The WSF is not able any more to engage the global public sphere: this diagnosis of its impact and relevance seems damning and several International Council members and local event organisers converge on this assessment.

As early as 2003 the WSF Secretariat was reflecting, in a seminal document, on these issues: “WSF impact and expansion depend, to a large extent, on how our way of reflecting on the world impacts the large media”. Similar assessments were reiterated and discussed at the latest International Council meetings in 2009 and 2010 to which I participated as representative of the Finnish based Network Institute for Global Democratization.

Such an assessment of the conditions of relevance and impact can ignite a vicious cycle of demoralisation and exodus from the WSF. But, perhaps more importantly, some of the considerations related to the role of mainstream coverage and the engagement (or contribution to the creation) of global public spheres are perhaps not coherent with some aspects of the vision of the WSF which imagines its space as a “framework for the exchange of experiences” that “places special value on the exchange among [participants]” as stated in its Charter of Principles. Crucial is here the communication, the exchange among participants to which it is given special value over forms of hierarchical communication mediated by powerful actors (like, perhaps, mainstream media).

How should the WSF be communicated to fulfil its vision of horizontal communication?

Is it pertinent to ask in this context what is it that elicit mainstream media attention? Compelling analysis on the nature of mainstream media voyeurism and activism have been conducted by more informed commentator than this one. Those analysis convincingly expose instrumental manipulation of news for particular persona, political and commercial interests, contribution to hegemonic cultural politics that the WSF’s activists are actively struggling against or vigorously opposing, distortions, censorship, transformation of information in commodities, and the list could continue.

Is the WSF’s impact, then, going to be measured on the basis of its engagement with mainstream media, or perhaps of its ability to generate alternative public spheres in which the determination of what constitutes media is alternative to that shared by mainstream and commercial media?

What is true though, is that in all circles that WSF organisers and participants seem to engage in or traverse, they report less enthusiasm towards the WSF than it used to be the case. So often we hear questions like “is it still going on?”.

How is the WSF going to outreach to potential participants and partners? How is the WSF going to make its voices resonate before, during and after Dakar 2011? What, most importantly (and perhaps provocatively), has happened to movements’ and organisations’ internal communication? I was thinking, and that’s why I am writing this note, how many million members do the organisations of the IC, let alone those who participate in the events, have? Isn’t that perhaps one of the biggest public sphere existing?

Think about the aggregate number of just the International Council membership: one of them claims in excess of 170 million members, another 150 million, and these are just two. Add their friends, those to whom they would tell about the WSF if they knew about such an initiative is (still) going on. And add those who would be involved in their conversations perhaps at the pub, coffee house or at the workplace. They would, by far, be a greater audience than that of any mainstream media. They would match and outnumber those who might read about the WSF in mainstream media. Indeed, perhaps, after a while mainstream media might pick up the “talk of the city”, isn’t that what they also do?

But I was surprised, more than once, in my decade long engagement with the WSF, to hear by members of organisations whose representatives are either in the International Council or participate to WSF events, that they have no clue about what the WSF was. Like that member of that trade union who told me that they had no idea that their leadership travels often to the meetings of a WSF International Council and even organises delegations to global events of that Forum. Or those peasants who stared at me blank-faced when I asked them what did they think of their organisation’s engagement with the WSF. “The W what?”

But what if that European activist was, even partly, right in saying that movements (at least in Europe) don’t join the WSF because uninterested in its hegemonic politics? And what if it is true that member organisations do not share with their members news about the WSF? Could this have anything to do with the (alleged) fading relevance of the WSF?

Is the WSF become something different from what he wished originally to become? Is it possible that even the most enlightened mainstream media, the one that the WSF might be interested in getting coverage by and might indeed be interested in covering it (some would mention perhaps the Guardian, the New York Times, Al-Jazeera, BBC World and the local avatars of such, at times, progressive media), have perceived this change and do not find that the WSF is fulfilling it promises of innovation and it is, therefore, not worth their coverage any more (if ever, to whatever limited extend, was)?

Is it possible that movements’ leadership (and NGO’s and Trade Unions and Churches’ organisations etc.) use the forum as a space of elite political engagement with potential strategic partners at a far removed level from the grassroots? But then, if that were true, perhaps engaging the mainstream media could be a way to bypass those leaderships to fulfil the vision of horizontal communication mentioned above. But, certainly, the WSF, such an innovative convergence of world progressive activists, the biggest and most sophisticated ever as it has often been described and likes to think of itself, could do better than this.

Some of its activists and the members of the Communication Commission have been experimenting with some of the most current digital tools to allow participants interactions, to ensure access across the planet to events the participation to which proves financially impossible to the vast majority of its “virtual” constituency. Extended methodologies try to reach where physical participation stops, alternative and community media networks reach where digital infrastructure is less developed. Social networks and word of mouth contribute to generate interest and curiosity. But this may prove only minor, if ambitious, attempts to bridge the perceived growing gap between WSF and its potential participants. Or maybe, alternative media (community radio for instance) and social networks (like the beloved, and hated at the same time, Facebook) can relegate to obsolescence both “reserved” movement leaderships and commercial and mainstream media? Or, perhaps, there is still space and time to travel all avenues of communication: networked digital communication, alternative media, mainstream media and internal communication between movement leadership and their membership?

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13 Responses to Talking about the World Social Forum: beyond mainstream media and movements’ hegemonic leaderships

  1. pwaterman says:

    Excellent, Giu! Needing development are two elements: 1) what would a new universality look like? 2) is not cyberspace privileged above ‘forumplace’in the creation of an effective global solidarity and justice movement.

    With respect to Point 1:

    A new universality would, presumably, be a matter of an ethic, a method and a process rather than something like the Communist Manifesto.

    With respect to Point 2:

    Wikileaks – or at least the growing critical/committed discussion provoked by it – does lean heavily toward cyberspace as the privileged arena for an emancipatory global social movement. The WSF still has one foot firmly in the 20th century: NGOs, Organisations, Institutions, Funding Dependence, Ecologically destructive transcontinental flights and equally anti-ecological forum sites. It has also been having the greatest difficulty, I think, in placing its other foot in the agora offering the greatest freedom – cyberspace.

    A third point, coming from my own particular area of interest and expertise – the international labour movement. At the WSF we seem to be witnessing the growing participation of the International Trade Union Confederation – which so far only seems to see the WSF as an instrument for its pre-determined purposes. The ‘alternative’ labour presence is represented by a tiny marginal network, Labour and Globalisation, which (in traditional left union style) tries to act as a pressure group or per group with respect to the traditional union institutions – about which it will not or cannot express one word of criticism. Horizontality, openness, creativity, subversion, challenge and the search for a reinvented global labour movement take place, meanwhile, in cyberspace.

  2. pwaterman says:

    Oh, and at least one of these potentially emancipatory cyberspaces is (unlike your own blog) unmoderated! It is called UnionBook, http://www.unionbook.org/.

  3. Ana says:

    Buena provocación, Giu!
    Obvio que los medios de comunicación ya no se interesan en el FSM, si es que realmente alguna vez se hayan interesado en él. En aquel entonces de los años 2000, el folclore de la concentración de docenas de miles de personas algo llamaba la atención de la televisión y de los periódicos. Pero este interés pasajero muy poco ha contribuido a consolidar, o no, el proceso del FSM.
    Estoy de acuerdo: Seguir participando del FSM –porque es lo que hay, como dice Eric Toussaint en una entrevista a Alai– es ante todo una responsabilidad de nosotros, los miembros del CI.
    ¿Por qué HIC sigue apoyando este proceso en declive? El FSM es el espacio que nos convoca para seguir construyendo el derecho al hábitat “entre pares”. El FSM 2011 es la oportunidad de un diálogo entre las organizaciones africanas y de otras partes del mundo. Es también un paso más de convergencia en la realización de derechos colectivos, como el derecho a la ciudad a la par de los derechos campesinos, de los pueblos indígenas, de los migrantes. Es otro paso más en la formulación de plataformas de encuentro entre los movimientos sociales que, a su vez, puede ser la alternativa para el futuro del FSM, ya que el mundo institucional pareciera tan cansado de trabajar en el proceso del FSM.
    Ir a Dakar es complicado. Es un viaje lleno de contradicciones, sólo mencionando los pasajes aéreos prohibitivos y los cortes de electricidad en toda la ciudad, para no mencionar acá los líos políticos e institucionales.
    Otra complejidad se da en los esfuerzos de llevar unas 30 personas hasta Dakar, que nos distraen de la obligación de hacer del FSM 2011 un acontecer mundial entre la base social de HIC. A cómo dé lugar el desafío del FSM extendido está planteado y lo estamos asumiendo.
    Hasta muy pronto en Dakar y en el soporte global que logramos convocar entre el 6 y el 10 de febrero!
    Abrazos.

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  5. giuseppecaruso says:

    mikael book says:
    January 18, 2011 at 10:50 am

    (via nigd-list@sympa.kaapeli.fi, the mailing list of the NIGD): … But is it good or bad to strive after hegemony? You mention the mainstream medias’ “hegemonic cultural politics that the WSF’s activists are actively struggling against”; but also “the WSF framework which they judged marred by “old” hegemonic politics conducted by members of the authoritarian left”.

    This leads to the question of whether there could be a “new” hegemonic politics which the WSF activists should be actively struggling for. And, perhaps, to asking whether a politics that would not be hegemonic, or would not strive to become hegemonic, would be worth fighting for at all?

    My own belief is what I believe was already the conviction of Ambrogio Lorenzetti when he depicted the effects of good and bad government on the walls of the town hall of Siena. Yes, we must fight for good government,and such a government also has to be hegemonic. If not, it would not be a government. However, since the time of Lorenzetti much water has passed under the bridges of the Arno (in Florence, I mean). So the question now is, for instance, whether an “ethical pirate” would be possible, as I tried to formulate it in my notes on Google and the library last summer (see http://www.libr.org/isc — in the most recent issue, the editorial). It is a bit like H.G.Wells’ “open conspiracy” — and thus what they used to call a contradictio in adiecto. Well, surely no hegemony can be perfect, however universal or universalist it would be in its aspirations.
    Regards,
    – Mikael

  6. giuseppecaruso says:

    On 18 January 2011 11:23, Jason Nardi wrote:

    Thank you Giuseppe.

    Your analysis is thought provoking and stimulating and I wish we could have this kind and level of discussion in the WSF (IC and not only). I think we are stuck in an old counter-hegemonic model that is out of sync with time and with the reality of social movements today. Not that all the discussions taking place during the forums are not relevant. It’s just the Forum itself which needs to evolve with an organisational effort that really is too tied to traditional civil society forms of meetings and is becoming less relevant for the struggles of today. Think of what is happening in Tunisia, Iran, China and other countries, where people organise in very difficult context but are able to communicate to the world… if only the world (social forum) would be able to offer a way / space / tools / facilitation to listen and interact. On converging issues, which are many, building a sense of common effort and strategy.

    Communication (not in the sense of information, but certainly not excluding it) is key for all this. It takes time, but also will..

    Anyway, I hope we can have some “converging” moments to discuss these matters in Dakar.

  7. giuseppecaruso says:

    Peter, Ana, Mikael, Jason the questions you raise would deserve more space than this brief answer (which after writing it I discover is almost as long as the original post, shame on (blabbering) me!). I respond to all of you individually below but it seems to me that your posts raise at least two (and a half) recurrent questions:
    1. The role of interactive (Internet based) media in (contributing to) build global solidarities
    2. And the adaptive disjuncture (this is my very own clumsy way of putting it at this stage) between, on the one hand, some WSF practices and institutional settings and, on the other, the contexts it engages and wishes to (contribute to) transform (and – shouldn’t that be part of the deal? – be transformed by). Here are relevant issues of organisation and government raised in your comments.
    3. (or 2b) there is also the wider issue of openness and access which in turn brings back cyberspatial possibilities of negotiation…

    Peter,
    I think articulating the new universality as a universal ethics through a shared methodology sounds a lot like what the WSF aims at offering: a space for the negotiation of difference and a methodology, a radical emancipatory practice, to engage in the transformation of conflicts. Some elements of this global methodology (the outlines of which are still perhaps just sketched) resonate with, among others, Freire’s pedagogy of liberation. So to put it simply (and perhaps to shallowly), the new universality could represent an articulation of practices of recursive emancipation (individual and collective). (I am aware that this opens up a million other questions on the nature of emancipation, emancipation from whom by whom, etc.).
    On the second point you raise, I am still debating with myself. Whereas I agree that the cyberspace is an extraordinary tool to discuss and build relations I am perhaps still convinced of the fundamental, existential, primacy of embodiment. At the same time, though, I recognise the value of the instances you mention (though, again, I need to disentangle my complex feelings about how wikileaks can contribute to foster an emancipatory global social movement) and acknowledge your point on the relative anachronistic cultural politics of some in the WSF (certain forms of hegemonic leadership I highlight may as well be illustrations of what you say).
    On your third point, the case you make on the labour negotiations might be as well illustration of the instrumental use of the WSF by large (and small) movements that I try to highlight in the post. So I totally agree with you that this is a big limitation both for the WSF and for the (World) Labour (Forum). It would be interesting to see how cyberspace dynamics are reformulating the relationships between mainstream and alternative labour organisations or in fact how they are contributing to inspire a global labour solidarity. You have been following this for (can I say it?) decades, it would be great to hear more from you on what and how is happening.
    (Incidentally Peter, it is not nice I agree with you, but until I find a way to deal with spam I will have to stick to the moderated version, although as you can imagine, I neither block nor moderate any legitimate contribution – various enlargements products are, in this context, off topic).

    Ana
    What you call “folklore” of thousands of activists (as perceived by mainstream media) and what you indicate as “passing interest” (of those media) highlight the problem in a much stringent way that I could in my post. These are precisely the two dimensions on which I wonder if engagement with mainstream media is all that useful. Otherwise put, to be made into a folkloric attraction for a second before being discarded as, who knows, “the usual hippies” (i’m sure you’ve heard this too a million times) is not necessarily a great contribution to activists’ self esteem.
    On your other point, articulating and building (in a horizontal manner)“the right to habitat” in the WSF, or next to it, is both a great initiative in itself but it also, I think, illustrates the potentialities of the WSF as a space of convergence. What Peter says about the labour movement though provokes me to ask you if those dynamics that he discusses are at play in the “right to the city” movement and if the cyberspace is (or could be) offering any alternative to build a global solidarity on collective rights (to the city, of peasants and indigenous people, of migrants).
    Such platforms as alternatives to the FSM or, rather, as its future development: now this is an idea, a proposal, that deserves a lot more attention and articulation than we can give it here. What do you have in mind?
    The contradictions of access to the Dakar forum are indeed enormous and the tension between the few tickets that organisations can afford and the desire to extend to the basis of their networks the chances to participate are huge. Maybe in this Dakar extended (the attempt to link Dakar with other locations and organise shared activities) could be a possible answer and one that gives further teeth to Peter’s conception of the cyberspace “as the privileged arena for an emancipatory global social movement”… But then again my uncertainties on this formulation, as expressed above, apply.

    Mikael
    many in the WSF find hegemony suspicious and references to convergence of difference without hegemony are plentiful. As the argument goes, strategic agglutination under a stronger or more knowledgeable leader (one possible meaning of hegemony) or overt corruption of weaker partners up to brainwashing of unaware audiences (other possible meanings of hegemony), are attitudes to social transformation that the WSF does not feel comfortable with and indeed wished to converge against (if I understand the core foundation of the “open space”). Of course you raise another related issues, that of government and, if I add, of governance or even governmentality. The debates that this invokes are way beyond the reach of this post but I shall see you soon in Dakar and we could talk all this over a drink or three

    Jason.
    “I think we are stuck in an old counter-hegemonic model that is out of sync with time and with the reality of social movements today”. This perfectly resonates with what Peter is also saying, What I find complex to negotiate is the relationship that such statements could generate in terms of resentment and defensiveness. Some might in fact be convinced that philosophical positions expressed on the world in the XIX century literally apply to the current world because some essential feature of existence do not change with time. And while I am being cheeky here the same may apply to the biblical saying “nothing new under the sun” and so many similar ones. You are spot on that to negotiate ideologies, cosmologies, lifeworlds, cultures of politics etc. we need to talk to each other. I totally agree that there is a contentious relationship between many in the WSF and what the WSF is thought to stand for, all these are very important matters of concerns that could be addressed and transformed if the need is felt.
    You also suggest that the Forum is exercising “an organisational effort that really is too tied to traditional civil society forms of meetings and is becoming less relevant for the struggles of today”. Ok, as before, whereas I’m not sure about the temporality bits of “traditional” and “today” you crucially expose a discomfort or, how could i put it, a problem of adaptation between the WSF as its context. You and many observe that the process of adaptation (the institutional design) is not matching the context of which the WSF is part and this generates the feelings of many that it is maladjusted and therefore (here the metaphor is perhaps a little too provocative) not fit to survive.
    Your final remark is again both very accurate and it inspires further consideration on the topic we are discussing. Let me just paste it here again: “Think of what is happening in Tunisia, Iran, China and other countries, where people organise in very difficult context but are able to communicate to the world… if only the world (social forum) would be able to offer a way / space / tools / facilitation to listen and interact. On converging issues, which are many, building a sense of common effort and strategy.” Here once more you are dialoguing with Peter and with many who stress that communication (even information of course) are a crucial tool both for building solidarities and for collaboratively imagine visionary futures.

  8. Chris Williams says:

    Twelve months seems an eternity in the modern world of fragmented markets, new communications technologies, and attempts to tell ‘new truths’, so it’s unsurprising that the World Social Forum (FSM) faces an identity crisis as it approaches its teen-years. From my perspective, discussion on The New Universality must wait until February for those actually attending WSF2011. But the discussion that the WSF remains beyond mainstream media, and could be relevant to/for social movements’hegemonic leaderships, strikes a resonant chord.

    Until 2010, I was passive a consumer of news media product and an intermittent commentator. In 2010, I responded to the needs of others for exposure of unreported events and unreported truths, as shown below. I became a media producer for others who wanted an eyewitness account where they had no other options, and who hesitantly trusted that the quality of my reportage of observations and conclusions could be trustable. I became a reporter for WSF.TV and Ciranda.net and, thus, an insider. The unresolved question is whether I have compromised my objectivity with an insider view. Is the truth I tell stranger than the fiction I write?

    A third role for the Communication Commission builds on news exposure and reportage quality. The mainstream media is increasingly popular, and increasingly untruthful and irrelevant. The social media is being unveiled as nothing more than an outlet for socialising. There remains a media void where the corporate world is running amok with a visionary minority saying ‘This is wrong’ and ‘This is where WSF media must work’ – to halt the unfettered corporate fictions allowed in the distribution of mass media.

    If others are interested, I can discuss my role in exposure, quality and distribution of news in various civil society events during 2010, including:

    – carnage on Bangkok streets (May), when the State waged war on its own people, whether they were dressed in Red shirts or were supporters or bystanders

    – multiple responsibilities during WEF-Palestine Extended activities (July) to expose the news of WSF participations in Australia and Palestine. Others assisted with quality and distribution of my reportage

    – immediate followon participate in the global BDS campaign (October) for Ciranda, but not WSF.TV

    – since USSF2010 (June), resisting, and seeking alternatives to, corporate marketting in streamed media. Skype remains the ‘only’ option, with Ustream’s quality in spiralling decline

    – increased reliance on Twitter as a source of news reportage and commentary, peaking with COP 16 in Cancun (November)

    I conclude that mainstream media is increasingly owned by corporate interests, which rules it ‘out of bounds’ for quality and exposure of news, but not for distribution. I am undecided on the Communications Commission’s relevance in its hegemonic leaderships role, except to say that it is the only player out there. Facebook is not an option – it peddles social media with advertising.

    Enjoy the lively debates in Dakar; I will be Extended (again).

  9. giuseppecaruso says:

    chris thanks this is an important contribution to a fascinating debate. I look forward to seeing your coverage and enjoy WSF-TV.

  10. snugglebus says:

    Hi Giu, great post and discussion. I’m pretty clearly something of an upstart when it comes to these issues as unlike many of your other commentators I have little or no direct experience of the WSF.

    Nonetheless some questions occurred to me as I read, and I wonder whether the could be helpful anyway.

    First (and I think Chris touches on this in his comment), what is the relationship between ‘media’ and ‘journalists’? I guess what I mean is actually a number of things… but essentially is ‘engaging with media’ less threateningly potentially understood when thought of as cultivating relationships with particular individuals within the media…? This beast the ‘mainstream media’seems lot more opaque and inaccessible than some individuals within it.

    Another question that occurs to me is probably a slightly stupid one… but exactly what are you trying to communicate and to whom? Is the desire to be covered seriously by the mainstream media a desire for recognition, or is it, as other commentators have mentioned a question of the communication of specifics? Of course recognition is nice, but is the mainstream media the be-all and end-all of communications technologies? Perhaps wsftv.net is a more promising platform it was part of an aggressive strategy to ‘reach out’ beyond those potential users who would come to it (i.e. WSF organisers, participants)?

    But last of all, I cant help but wonder if the fact that people would ask these kinds of questions of the WSF (i.e. why is it failing to impact world media) might say something about to what extent people have a real commitment to the ‘horizontal’ communication element of the WSF. I mean to say, that perhaps they never really committed to the real value of these new ‘spaces’ and the potential impact of the kinds of lines of communicaiton and transformations they (ideally) can engender, that really they still thought it different terms? Or perhaps they grew frustrated that the WSF wasn’t producing these kinds of effects?…Or perhaps the world has changed? Perhaps the many in the left wants their ‘grand ambitions’ back post-crisis… in terms of a tangible impact on some conceptualisation of ‘the system’… ?

    Giu, its clear that you remain as committed as ever to the WSF, but what I am left wondering a little from your post is, well, what do you think? Where are you in this debate?

  11. giuseppecaruso says:

    Tim,

    this is great, thanks! I feel i should rather type back your words than trying to reply. It would be great to see what others feel about your thoughts (maybe you should write a blog post on EWZ perhaps? http://errwhateverz.com/)Ok, let me say few words anyway: I think you make three points plus a final one that is worth 5 points? One at a time.

    1. your approach to “media” is way more sophisticated than many and at the same time it is also the route followed by some, also in the communication commission of the International Council of the WSF, in order to engage individuals in the mainstream considered (potentially at least) sympathetic with the WSF initiative. Most importantly you bring down some fences and you allow more complex relationships between spheres. This is good and i share your approach. Mainstream media is not such a monstrous bounded and perfectly coherent and contained blob… indeed!

    2. it remains the fact though that a lot of impact assessment in the WSF is done on the basis of mainstream media coverage. Why is this? I am not sure and that’s why I wrote my post in the first place. You suggest that maybe it has to do with content, with the nature of what (at least some in) the want to communicate. So you ask: What are the WSF facilitators and participant trying to communicate? This is, clearly enough, not a question that i can answer easily but i find a most important one! As a matter of concern I find this deserving a lot of aware and frank discussion (at least among all those who consider this a matter of concern). More generally everyone involved in the WSF, both organisations and individuals, facilitators or participants, might want to communicate jillion different things (ergo this is why at times i find mainstream media necessarily limited: incidentally there has been so much complaining about the ‘misunderstandings’ generated by partial of very shallow mainstream media coverage…)

    3. Then you raise another pretty potentially damning point: Some may have “never really committed to the real value of these new ‘spaces’” but this question is complex. it involves instrumental reasoning of several kinds, two of which could be these A. i do not care about the WSF but it is convenient for me to jump on and off the bandwagon according to my interests and B. i like the WSF as i get to gather so many people that i can subject to my propaganda attempts and try to become their leader in a global revolt or whatever (perhaps the people in the left you refer to?). Sure there is also some of this. HOWEVER:

    This can only take us so far. What might also be useful to consider is that transformation (even of activists’ mindsets) may take time (a lot of time at times) and it may involve several unconscious dimensions. And while this happens there is a disjuncture between what we say and what we actually do (and this tension might indeed express the struggle for transformation). So, for instance, the need for recognition might be rooted in… of which activists are not aware and pursue unconsciously or, also, think about well studied mechanisms like the so-called Stockholm syndrome and other even more studied phenomena of embodiment of domination that activists are not immune from just because they know they exist and they fight against them and the dynamics of domination that cause them. And this could go on for a while…

    The final issue you raise relates to commitment (something very important and good in my opinion) and to my… what? deeper thoughts perhaps? But on what exactly? On communicating the WSF I assume… Well I think that exploring possibilities of being the media could be interesting (as in using our own networks to communicate the forum and creatively use all new technologies we can deal with). More in general I find interesting to discuss these issues on communication in a broader way than the one limited to the WSF access to mainstream media.

    Hope this does justice to your points.

  12. giuseppecaruso says:

    On 19 January 2011 15:36, dan baron wrote

    Hi Rita, Giuseppe, Jason, WSF International Council Communication Commission and International Council friends:

    I am following this important dialogue which picks up many of the threads of our discussions over the years. My participation in cultural education for transformation projects and activism over the last few years has brought me into contact and collaboration social movements in every continent and many countries. Those that know of the WSF or have participated in its forums all question its relevance, purpose, dominant forms and vitality. All of them are engaged in redefining the ‘social’ in terms of the ‘cultural’, and all are experimenting with creative and dynamic participatory and communication methods.

    These were the key points of agreement which emerged during the 4-day culture/communication seminar held in Canoas during the 10th anniversary of the WSF. I am sure its significant that the large majority of participants in that seminar were part of new generation of activists who were filming, transmitting, debating, translating, networking and creating, through poetry, song, video and dialogic debate, all at the same time. And as importantly, they were inspired by the radical diversity of perspectives and gave space for each and every voice, as a cultural right and praxis for creating a new politics of participatory transformation. The new micro-technologies of communication and cultural production have made them alert to all authoritarian forms and methods, resistant to manipulative discourses which deny or defer human/cultural rights in the name of unity or urgency, and very clear about the need for a consistent practiced ethics of everyday transformation.

    The (mainly Latin American) cultural communication activists also do not understand the structure of the WSF, the relation between the IC and the host organization, nor the role of the IC. In a word, they identified a key communication gap which raised uncomfortable questions about transparency and cast shadows of doubt about how/why to participate in renewing the WSF as a process.

    This interface between culture, communication and method has been a continuous concern in the WSF for many of us from the outset, but it has taken us years to bring it into the agenda and method of the IC. Our recent experiences inside the Pan-Amazonian Social Forum confirm the arts as rehumanising, motivating and transformative languages of dialogic communication and the creation of a responsive political culture. I too hope this concern about ‘internal’ and ‘external’ communication is not just seriously debated in Dakar, but translates into new methods of creative participation as transformation, in the forum’s seminars and assemblies.

    As a contribution, I have extracted two introductory paragraphs from the 2010 report from the ‘Forum of Culture & Education for Transformation’ which emerged from the WSF 2009 first thematic assembly of the same name. In response to your question Rita, we have proposed a second Assembly of Culture & Education for Transformation and I believe it is essential that we converge. We have also organised a workshop the day before (arts for transformation), so that those who are sceptical or afraid of this proposal, can understand it. And I certainly hope the Communication Commission will meet before the IC meeting.

    Attachment:
    During the last decade, ‘Culture’ has been increasingly recognized as the motivating force that generates and mediates personal and collective transformation and generates new politics and practices. Culture is no longer seen as the ‘effects of economically-determined class struggle’, but as the fertile soil in the meetings between human identity and language, memory and self-esteem, historical vision and imagination, geography and genetics, and utopia and methodology, in its diverse manifestations. It is the fear and laughter caused by paradigm shifts, the painful desire and daring praxis of making the new, together. The vital thread that links ethics, aesthetics and economy of solidarity.

    During the last decade too, the WSF has been attempting to transform politics of resistance into new political cultures of transformation, to create another possible world. However, despite the commitment to an experimental process to invent an open participatory space of convergence, in practice, the Forum still suffers from an aesthetic of ideological declaration rather than dialogic collaboration. This challenges us all – parents, educators, artists, activists and politicians who know that now is the time – to rethink politics in terms of culture and pedagogy. And it challenges us to free the transformative and pedagogical power of the human languages of music, image, gesture, voice and dance from the marginalizing prejudice of ‘Art’, to cultivate new methods, collaborations, economies, ethics, and dialogical spaces: a new aesthetic of sustainable transformation.

    Introduction to the 2010 report from the World Forum of Culture & education for Transformation
    Belém, Brasil: January 2010

  13. giuseppecaruso says:

    On 19 January 2011 01:37, rita freire wrote:

    Giuseppe, Jason, Com Comand IC friends
    (Giuseppe – We’re translating your article to share your ideias next little meeting of Ciranda in São Paulo
    Also your proposal, Jason.)

    I agree that the path we tread is a bit too naive and romantic to the dimension of the WSF. At the same time I don’t think this will be resolved chasing every new tool or the mainstream media, but rather seeking to articulate ourselves with creative movements and militant fronts, fighting for the democratization of communication in the world (And expressing it through the communication of the WSF).

    How we do it?

    The space of the WSF should be appropriate for this debate. Not (just) as a working group but as part of the process.
    I’d like to share the information that we’re going to be part of 2 activities in the WSF in order to share ideas about these questions.
    One of them is a seminar called by Ritimo and coorganized with some alternative media (Feb, 8)
    Another will be made with Boaventura (and Intervozes, from Brazil, and FemNet, Africa) and …. , about the shared communication in times of wikileaks (Feb, 9)

    Maybe, as Com Com Group, we should identify all the discussions on communication in the WSF and join them. Also disseminate them. How about produce produce a small folder about them?

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