EngageMedia Blog

EM Southeast Asia Tours Down Under: Screen, Chat, Plane, Train, Bus and Friends

by Enrico Aditjondro August 20, 2012
The medium is nothing without the message. That was the tagline of EngageMedia Southeast Asia's Australia Tour which was voiced around in Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle and Canberra last March. It was a combination of screening, discussions, chats, interviews, video shooting, networking and simply meeting old friends and making new friends.

Southeast Asia Editor Enrico Aditjondro (me) and Indonesian Content and Outreach Coordinator Yerry Borang traveled down to Melbourne in late February to join the whole EngageMedia team and board members to do a mishmash strategising of the media and organization. The meetings were held in a nice little town called Warburton. Little internet and plenty of wildlife was surprisingly good for discussions and planing ... for a little while at least. After three nights, the team returned to Melbourne and we did our first screen and chat for the EM Southeast Asia in OZ Tour at the Gertrude's Brown Couch, Fitzroy.

AG in Sunset

On the dawn of Monday, 7/3, Yerry and I flew to Sydney, and on Wednesday, 9/3, screened and chatted with students at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). The event was co-organised by the Sydney based Indonesian Solidarity Forum. The talks ranged from Papua, licensing, security and journalism. The class featured quite a number of Japanese foreign exchange students, along with Southeast Asian studies and human rights activists. Aside from Yerry and I, EngageMedia's Communications Coordinator Alexandra Crosby also joined the chat. Ali is also one of the writers of Videochronic.

On the next day, the duo took the train up to Newcastle. This time the screen and chat was organized at the Renew Newcastle Headquarters. The host of the event was the group Kanuguba though its artist Fern York, and long time Timor and women's activist and author Jude Conway was at hand getting people to come and engage. The audience was a mix of Newcastle Uni students, artists, activists from the climate action group Rising Tide, and Newie's film and documentary fans. The chat was intimate but inspiring. The coal town film 'A Step Back in Time' was particularly well received as it was a comparison to Newcastle's coal history. Activists from the Rising Tide were also preparing for that weekend's coal ship blockade, while the Newies were bracing for the various debates over the town's development and rise of artists movement. And oh, by the way, Newcastle was voted one of Lonely Planet's Top 10 Cities for 2011.

Newie boat

After the evening's event, Yerry and I were back on the train to Sydney to catch the morning's train to Canberra. To our surprise, the train only went halfway to Gosford, so from midnight to 3am, we enjoyed the Gosford's breeze while I caught up with Jude's new book on Timorese women. Finally, the train arrived and we hopped from one train to another to a taxi to the Australian National University.

Rico Gosford

The screen and chat at the ANU was organized by the School of Island Southeast Asia, and some heavyweight academics and Indonesianists like Ariel Heryanto, Amrih Widodo, Margot Lyon, and other academics. The seminar type space was very inviting for questions as we we tried as much to discuss issues in the limited time.

Yerry Gosford

The big question from Ariel was, "Are you still confident that you can make change in this day and age?" Well, with your help, Oom Ariel, we sure are.

.Yerry Aboriginal Embassy

The films screened throughout the trip were 'A Step Back in Time' by Indrani Kopal, 'A Short Portrait Of Mamdouh Habib' by Serge Stanley, 'Gaharu: Save the People and Forests of Papua' by SKP-Kam, and 'Adidas: Stop Wearing Us Out' by Sarah Rennie.

St Kilda

Aside from doing screenings and chats, we also managed to touch base with old friends and make new ones. We were inspired by the determination of people like Marni Cordell of New Matilda, intrigued by Sarah Hunt of Hidden Documentary, enjoyed the brief encounter with the Bill & George, and many many more. Of course the Melbourne greens, Newcastle beach, Bondi and Canberra’s National Archive helped completed the tour. Oh yeah, we also bumped into some   naked bike riders along the way.

Stay tuned for the videos!

Video Vortex #6, Amsterdam

by Andrew March 31, 2011

On the 11/12 of March I attended the Video Vortex #6 event at the Trouw in Amsterdam. The conference was the latest in a series that started in Brussels in October 2007. In the intervening period interest in the world of online video, particularly critical discourse, has certainly grown, and much more is needed.

There was a large number of topics at the event, highlights included

  • Holmes Wilson's presentation on Universal Subtitles - a great tool and something we hope to have running on EngageMedia in the next 3/4 months. {video}
  • Ben Moskowitz on the new possibilities of html5. {video}
  • Evan Roth of the Graffiti Research Lab and his unique take on .gif mashups. {video}
  • Mel Hogan's take on the failure of several online video art archives in Canada - interesting to hear about projects that didn't work, and why. {video}
  • Natalie Bookchin and her amazing online video documentary deconstructions/creations. {video}
  • Sam Gregory of WITNESS and his take on remix video, aggregated video and Human Rights activism {video}

I also spoke along with Sam on the Online Video as a Political Tool panel discussing the corporatisation of online video and online media in general, and the current state of activist initiatives to create free and open online video.  {video}

All the videos from the conference can be found here.

The Video Vortex reader was also launched. A lot of great content in there. I'm currently getting through David Teh's take on video in Southeast Asia.

I was expecting a little less art and a little more activism from the event, basically more focus on the social change angle. We only really hit this in the last session but I think there is so much more to discuss. I look forward finding a forum for this in the future, we just seemed to be getting into the meat of the debate regarding the political economy of web 2.0 and what the role of the media activists is in such a dramatically changing landscape.

A future Video Vortex event is planned in Yogyakarta Indonesia, mid this year. EngageMedia is hoping to participate in that. There are also plans for a future event at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb in April or May 2012.

Vote: Deutsche Welle nominate EngageMedia for best blog & video channel

by Andrew March 31, 2011
EngageMedia has been nominated for "best blog" and "best video channel" as part of Deutsche Welle's TV annual BOB awards. The award is given to the project that receives the most votes! We need you to vote for EngageMedia!

EngageMedia has been nominated for "best blog" and "best video channel" as part of Deutsche Welle's TV annual BOB awards. The award is given to the project that receives the most votes! We need you to vote for EngageMedia today!

From the about us page

    The Deutsche Welle International Blog Awards - The BOBs - honors websites in 11 languages that champion the open exchange of ideas and freedom of expression. Blog were just beginning to establish themselves as a new type of media and the BOBs aimed to show that this new form of communication was worthy of being taken seriously.

You can check out the nominees and vote for us in "best video channel" here.
You can check out the nominees and vote for us in "best blog" here.

Votes are caste using your Facebook or Twitter login.

Stop reading this and head there now! :)

APC meets in Bohol

by Andrew Garton August 19, 2012
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) meets triennially with its members, staff, management and its board to review its strategic plan, network with new members and elect a new board. This year the APC met on Panglao Island, Bohol, in the Philippines with local member, Foundation for Media Alternatives as our host. I attended as EngageMedia's APC member representative.

This years meeting was particularly special. Not only was it the first member meeting in Asia, the APC celebrated 20 years since its founding in 1990. The issues that stirred its founding members to create a global network of computer connected social justice organisations are still are the forefront of the APC, though many have been in recent times eclipsed by the need to sustain access to the internet as a fundamental human right along with the protections the UN Charter of Human Rights affords.

The need for a strong coalition of advocates for such rights online are more pertinent now than ever and it was with this, and recent environmental catastrophes and the political upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East in mind that we set about to learn, share and support each other over the first two weeks of March, 2011.

Network Learning Forum

The APC convened a research, learning and collaboration forum that preceded the member meeting. The objectives of the Network Learning Forum (NLF) were to:

  • Build a common understanding of what an open, fair and sustainable internet means to us.

  • Look back as activists and advocates on what we have achieved in the last 2 years in the NLF’s thematic areas.

  • To learn from one another, share skills and strategies among APC members, partners, research networks and project teams.

  • To plan and collaborate for an open, fair and sustainable internet.

The NLF was based around poster presentations, World Cafe facilitated working groups or “clusters”, conversational clinics presided over by experts in their chosen fields and open discussions based on television talk show formats. The most successful session, and the one most folks sought more time for, were the poster presentations.

A poster.

It was clear people wanted to know more about participating organisations, their work, methodologies and possible future collaborations. In short, how can we learn from each other to strengthen our overall united social impact goals.

The poster session I presented was titled The media is nothing without the message, the message is meaningless without an audience, an audience is dis-empowered without a meaningful message.

The session described project design and implementation methodology towards achieving tangible social impact with video and video distribution. It drew substantial numbers of forum participants and no end of questions. So much so that I'd not had a chance to attend anyone else's presentations. In anycase, after three days of input, outputs and over-coffee conversations the following points stood out:

  1. Get a communications strategy designed during project design and planning. Don't wait till the project's finished. Kind of common knowledge, but often over-looked.

  2. Collaborating with organisations that have strong communications / media campaigning skills is key to successful social impact goals. EM's strategy, described by Privacy International founder, Simon Davis as a “federated approach”, of collaborating with groups such as Human Rights Watch, was seen as exemplary in both getting “gripping the media tiger by the ears” and protecting our sources, staff and online services.

  3. There wasn't enough time to dig deeper. Many organisations wanted to know more about EngageMedia, and I wanted to get to know others better too. The opportunities for networking in a meaningful way were too few.

  4. Social entrepreneurship works. Well, it does in India and the Digital Empowerment Foundation, one of APC's newest members, is a leading example for how few resources can be put to significant use towards measurable social impact.

Digital Empowerment Foundation

I don't know how these folks do it. They manage to run an unfathomable number of initiatives to “uplift the downtrodden and to create economic and commercial viability using Information Communication and Technology as means.”

I was particularly moved by a project in which they had taught a single piece of software to weavers of Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh, a project described as a “fusion between history, culture, technology, art and ancient skill.” Weavers with a tradition going back some 600 years are now using computers to design their own weaves, breaking their dependency on an exploitative mercantile chain that saw them earn less than USD$40/month from which they would support their entire families.

Founder of the Digital Empowerment Foundation, Osama Manzar, talked with great enthusiasm about this project, describing the changes in the weaver communities of Chanderi, the significance a single piece of software in the improvement of people's lives. Read the full story.

APC Council Meeting

Aside from the reports to members on program work, the outgoing boards final report and an update on finances, we broke into working groups to discuss options for possible changes to APC's membership policy.

We discussed whether the fees were too high or low, whether individuals and partners, mostly large international organisations, could participate as members and if so, to what extent.

In 20 years the APC barely changed its membership policy. Is it time to broaden the membership base and if so, how do we do this?

Working groups returned with a series of options that would be taken up by a subcommittee to draft into a proposal for review by the incoming board.

At the end of the meeting.

The Council Meeting concluded with the board elections which saw two ties, two additional ballots and eventually, a new board!

  • Danijela Babic, ZamirNet, Croatia (APC Chair)
  • Valentina Pellizzer, owpsee, Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Andrew Garton, EngageMedia, Australia/Indonesia
  • Julian Casasbuenas, Colnodo, Colombia
  • Shahzad Ahmad, BytesForAll, Pakistan
  • Graciela Selaimen, NUPEF, Brazil
  • Liz Probert, GreenNet, United Kingdom

Hearty congratulations to all new board members and a special thanks to all members who put their trust in faith in me to enter a third term on APC's board.

Rapid Response Network meeting

The following day of the meeting a small number of us, in collaboration with representatives from Tactical Tech and Access Now, we huddled over notes and plans towards a new look Rapid Response Network for the APC. We reviewed options to address the immediate needs of our Tokyo based, Japanese member, JCafe, hosting around 400 NGOs many providing critical post-disaster information and under constant threat of power outages and Government intervention. We were told JCafe members are publishing much information contradicting that made public by the Government on the nuclear threat.

By the end of the day we agreed that a proposal wold be prepared based on our deliberations that could see us respond to internet threats in a much more effective way than had been possible. That said, it should be noted that in spite of any formal policies and procedures, APC members have, and continue to respond to threats and potential technical hazards when ever possible and fast! There's palpable, unwavering support amongst its members and our peers. APC is most certainly still, 20 years on, truly on the side of good!

Panglao Island

And with the formalities at an end I spent my remaining days, before returning to Dunmoochin, on Panglao Island in life-changing under-water experiences and casual horizon gazing. It never ceases to astound me just how many different things there are to marvel at on planet earth.

Launching the EM-micro tour

by Andrew Garton August 20, 2012
EngageMedia launched its discussion and screening tour, featuring two of our Indonesian team members, at Gertrude's Brown Couch, Fitzroy, 4 March 2011.

Merchandise at Brown CouchThe medium is nothing without the message and the message last Friday, at our first public appearance in Melbourne for some years, was that public engagement is everything when it comes to mobilising communities to change the behaviour of elites.

EngageMedia celebrated a week of project and strategic planning with a launch of its first screening and video for change discussion tour taking in Victoria, Canberra and NSW.

Gertrude's Brown Couch was host to about 50 of Melbourne's social change media makers, from radio to video producers, activists and representatives from various Southeast Asian communities that have sought refuge here.

I'd opened the evening with a short history of activism and computer communications, from modems in 1990 to mobile devices and video over 20 years later. The needs are the same, the injustices greater, the technology more accessible and yet remote communities remain hard to reach and in many parts of the region, more at threat now than ever.

Andrew Lowenthal introduced our full team and an over-view of our work from 2005 to the present. Enrico talked about our work from an editorial and Indonesian perspective paving way for the films we screened.

On the program were:

As we closed the evening I was approached by some one who had heard me give a very similar introduction in 1993 at an event I'd co-produced, FIERCE-InterRave. We were raising funds for modems to be sent to Sarawak. In 2011 we're still finding ways to improve communications for remote communities there, particularly those defending their forest homes and their native customary rights.

Another visitor to our event, a stalwart of Australia's progressive movements for decades remarked that having come to our event had given him some heart that the good work continues, that it does so in-spite of diminishing funds and a culture of denial in Australia for Indonesian cultural studies in particular, that produced a generation of bi-lingual Australians adept at Bahasa Indonesian.

Major updates to EngageMedia.org

by Andrew August 24, 2012

We've just upgraded EngageMedia.org to Plumi 4.1.1, the open source video sharing platform we produce in collaboration with Unweb.me and other developers.

The release includes a swag of new features, including...

  • Bittorrent: when you upload a video a bittorrent file is automatically created, great for users with slow connections that break mid-download and also for sharing to bittorrent networks.
  • Plays/downloads on videos: videos now show the number of times they have been played and downloaded.
  • Low resolution version of video player: you now have the option to watch streaming video in a lower resolution, good for slower connections.
  • Other videos by this member listed on video pages: thumbnail links to other videos you have contributed to the site.
  • Video listings now link prominently to member profile pages.
  • Paypal: you can now add your Paypal account to your profile page to accept donations.
  • Facebook/Twitter etc. accounts can be easily linked to from your profile page.
  • Profile page shows the most recent comments you have made.
  • Number of comments on an item are shown on video listings.

For the geeky, fuller announcement please go here.