It’s time to start a new Blog!

As a freelancer it’s necessary to not only have a blog but also a website. And it was about time to start this new exciting project. You can see the result on mariosorgalla.de!

This will be the new home for my personal blog. It will mostly be in German but from time to time I will also publish posts in English.

Screenshot von mariosorgalla.de

The Debate Magazine “Globalization under the Shadow of Surveillance” is Now Available!

The debate magazine “Internet, Democracy, Trade – Globalization under the Shadow of Surveillance” produced by the Internet & Society Collaboratory (CoLab) in cooperation with Future Challenges and newthinking is now available online (in German) and on newsstands everywhere (Price: €6). I’m proud to be part of this initiative and of the working group on “Internet and Culture”. Here you can read an article that was one of my contributions for the magazine. Below you can read the official press release. 

InsGlobalisierung im Schatten der Überwachungtead of the usual final report, CoLab is pioneering a debate magazine format to broadcast the results of the 9th Globalization and Internet” initiative. People taking part in the initiative present their views on key issues of globalization and the Internet and on the upcoming transatlantic free-trade agreement (TTIP) between the EU and the USA. They give answers to such crucial questions as: How does the Internet relate to the national state, and what new borders are now being created in the Net despite globalization? What impact will the transatlantic free-trade agreement have on ecology, consumer protection and culture, and how can greater transparency and participation by civil society be achieved?

Please note that this publication is only available in German. In the coming weeks we’ll be gradually publishing articles from the magazine on our website under a free CC license so it’s well worth your while to drop by. The magazine presenting the final results of the 9th initiative will be companioned by a separate special issue in English on the TTIP which should appear in mid- December.

The debate magazine on “Internet, Democracy, Trade – Globalization under the Shadow of Surveillance” will also be presented on 11 December at CoLAB’s BASE_camp winter get-together of network activists.

Social Media Sprechstunde Köln: eine Facebook Fan Page erzeugt noch keinen Wandel

Der Beratungsbedarf hinsichtlich des Umgangs mit sozialen Medien scheint in vielen Non-Profit-Organisationen und –Projekten groß zu sein. Diese Erfahrungen haben wir mit der Social Media Sprechstunde Köln in den letzten zwei Wochen gemacht. Eine Email an einen entwicklungspolitischen Verteiler stieß auf großes Interesse.

In der Anfangszeit der Social Media Sprechstunde ab April 2013 hatten wir einige Freiberufler als Teilnehmer in der Sprechstunde zu Gast. Für mich hat jedoch die Idee Non-Profit Projekten und/oder –Organisationen eine erste Orientierung in den sozialen Medien zu geben einen noch größeren Reiz. Warum?

Zum Einen fehlt einigen dieser Organisationen oder Projekte schlicht das große Geld, um sich fundierte Expertise einzukaufen (ja, der Grund ist manchmal auch vorgeschoben) und zum Anderen stellt sich in Organisationen neben der reinen Beherrschung der Kanäle noch eine viel wichtigere Frage: Ist der Wille zu einer authentischen und ehrlichen Kommunikation über soziale Medien überhaupt vorhanden? Welcher Wandel muss sich in der jeweiligen Organisation erst vollziehen, um diesen Schritt überhaupt machen zu können? Wie können die Social Media Vorreiter in den Organisationen unterstützt werden damit sich die Idee einer offeneren Kommunikation im gesamten Haus durchsetzen kann?

Das sind natürlich große Fragen. Aber es sind genau die Hindernisse mit denen sich unzählige Kommunikationsverantwortliche und auch Mitarbeiter, die sich nur nebenbei um die Kommunikation „kümmern“,  in Organisationen (und natürlich auch in Unternehmen) konfrontiert sehen.

No Comment

Viele Organisationen und auch Unternehmen haben nach wie vor großen Nachholbedarf was die Kommunikation über soziale Medien betrifft. Es findet vielfach noch gar keine Kommunikation mit Stakeholdern, Spendern, Partnern etc. statt. Foto: Mario Sorgalla

Es reicht eben nicht, sich mal eben die Fähigkeit anzueignen, eine Facebook Fan Page zu bedienen oder zu wissen welcher tiefere Sinn in Hashtags und Retweets liegt. Das klingt nun zynischer als es gemeint ist. Vielen Mitarbeitern in Organisationen und/oder Unternehmen, die sich einer Kommunikation mit Kunden, Stakeholdern, Spendern, Partnern usw. bisher verweigern ist klar, dass sie nicht nur die erste Social Media Welle verpasst haben sondern noch die ein oder andere weitere. Um in Zukunft nicht völlig auf dem Trockenen zu sitzen möchten sie handeln. Die Herausforderung kann jedoch gewaltig sein.

Schluss mit der langen Vorrede. Rein ins konkrete Beispiel. Maria*, eine der Teilnehmerinnen der vergangenen Social Media Sprechstunde (am 06.11.2013), ist Projektleiterin eines entwicklungspolitischen Non-Profit-Projekts, das sich zum Ziel gesetzt hat, an Hochschulen und weiteren Bildungseinrichtungen über (un-) faire Produktionsbedingungen in der Textilindustrie aufzuklären. Maria ist die einzige angestellte Mitarbeiterin für dieses Projekt, das ansonsten von einigen Honorarkräften untersützt wird. Meine Kollegin Claire Oberwinter und ich haben schnell gemerkt, dass Maria wirklich kaum zeitliche Ressourcen hat, um die Social Media Kommunikation entscheidend voran zu bringen. Es gibt jedoch einen entscheidenden Vorteil, den diese Organisation noch nicht ausreichend ausspielt: sie verfügt über Inhalte. Die Honorarkräfte werden eingeladen zu Workshops, Vorträgen an Hochschulen usw. Die Aufklärung über die Produktionsbedingungen in der Textilindustrie in Entwicklungsländern erfolgt unter anderem durch die Veranschaulichung eben dieser Produktionsbedingungen. Die Erzählung dieser Geschichten muss ja nicht begrenzt bleiben auf die Hörsäle und Seminarräume. Sie würden eine hervorragende Basis für einen Blog der Organisation ergeben. Nun hat Maria kaum freie Kapazitäten diese Geschichten zu schreiben. Es wäre aber doch realistisch die Honorarkröfte davon zu überzeugen diesen Part zu übernehmen. Ihre Tätigkeit als Honorarkräfte erfordert ja geradezu auch im Netz sichtbar zu sein denn die Zahl derer, die sich Expertise von Leuten einkaufen die im Netz unsichtbar sind, dürfte im Sinken begriffen sein. Die Honorarkräfte könnten also ein eigenes Interesse haben ihre Geschichten auch online zu erzählen. Maria möchte diesen Weg nun gehen und ich bin gespannt auf ihre Erfahrungen.

Ein etwas weniger verheißungsvolles Bild der Social Media Zukunft ihrer Organisation haben wir den Schilderungen Sophias* entnommen. Die Website ihrer Organisation aus dem entwicklungspolitischen Bildungs- und Schulungsbereich wirkt bisher sehr statisch und es gibt auch keinerlei Anbindung an soziale Medien. Wie sieht es denn nun innerhalb der Organisation mit dem Willen zu einer – und wenn auch nur graduellen – Veränderung aus? Und noch viel wichtiger: ist den anderen Mitarbeitern überhaupt klar, dass an dieser Schraube massiv gedreht werden muss? Eher nicht. Es scheint so zu sein, als hätten die Mitarbeiter, die für das inhaltliche Bespielen der sozialen Medien in Frage kämen, bereits zu verstehen gegeben, dass sie definitiv keine Zeit dafür haben. Nun haben wir Sophia – vermutlich zu ihrer eigenen Überraschung – geraten erstmal keine Präsenz auf Facebook, Twitter oder wo auch immer zu initiieren. In diesem Falle scheint das dringlichste Vorhaben erstmal zu sein innerhalb der Organisation Bewusstsein zu schaffen für einen nötigen Wandel. Man könnte sich natürlich fragen, ob es nicht auch mal Sinn macht das Pferd von hinten aufzuzäumen und beispielsweise mit einer Facebook Fan Page zu starten. Ein möglicher Erfolg könnte ja auch andere Mitarbeiter in der Organisation überzeugen. Ich halte dies jedoch für wenig hilfreich für Sophia, da sie auch bisher schon ausgelastet ist. Würde sie nun noch –  zwar mit Duldung der Leitung der Organisation – die Social Media Kommunikation übernehmen, während sich alle anderen raushalten und sowieso nicht wissen was das alles für ein Gedöns ist, tut sich Sophia sicherlich keinen Gefallen. Wir haben ihr daher geraten sich zunächst einmal intern Mitstreiter zu suchen und mit Hilfe einiger positiver Beispiele von Organisationen aus dem entwicklungspolitischen Bereich (die es durchaus gibt) zu versuchen, Unterstützung im eigenen Haus zu bekommen. Sobald dies gelungen ist stehen die Türen der Social Media Sprechstunde Köln natürlich immer offen, um den nächsten Schritt zu gehen und konkrete Funktionsweisen der sozialen Medien zu besprechen!

*die Namen sind geändert. Dies mag etwas hochtrabend erscheinen aber ich möchte den Wunsch der Teilnehmer respektieren hier nicht namentlich und mit ihrer Organisation genannt zu werden.

My Neighbour in Pakistan

Some Internet light-years ago there used to be the social networks studivz, meinvz or schülervz. These were very popular social networks which were used by German-speaking people and which assembled millions of users – including myself. But for me the international frame was always missing on the German VZ networks. Switching to Facebook was a logical step because that way I was able to connect with friends from abroad.

Now I want to overcome the temptation to equate Facebook with the Internet though this map may suggest that there is little more than Google and Facebook.

The Age of Internet Empires.

The Age of Internet Empires. This map shows the most visited website in countries all over the world. There are two empires: one is ruled by Google and the other one by Facebook. The map was created by the Oxford Internet Institute. Published under a CC BY-NC 3.0 license.

I tell you about this anecdote to illustrate the potential of intercultural communication enabled by the Internet. And this vast potential is not even fully exploited if we only restricted it to Facebook or to some messenger services. The magazine (part of the workshop series “Internet and Globalization”) which will feature this commentary came (or will come) into being with the support of some authors from abroad who haven’t been to Berlin to join us at the magazine sprint. We talked to each other using video chats, we worked on texts collaboratively using Google Docs and our Workshop-Sessions in Berlin were livestreamed. It was thus possible for us to write texts across borders with an intercultural aspect. These texts, in turn, were dealing with the question if the Internet is paving the way for a new culture, that is to say a culture which can be seen as supranational and borderless. The composition of our working group as well as our modus operandi make us biased. How can we stay neutral towards this question if we’re already acting like there were no borders!

I communicate in an international setting both privately and professionally. There is a pattern that I notice again and again. It’s the common denominator regarding interests, political attitude or characteristic traits that is shared by many people from all over the world. This common denominator exists despite of cultural differences that result from different traditions or different languages. But the latter points are dwarfed if you share common values, interests or characteristic traits. Why should I feel more connected to a person that shares the same mother tongue and the same nationality if we, apart from that, repel each other like two positive magnetic poles?

That’s why I think that the Internet is at least providing a space which raises awareness for the existence of a universal, supranational culture; a culture which is based on values instead of nationalities. Communication across borders can illustrate that there are people in Pakistan, Australia or in Brazil that we are more connected to in comparison to our neighbours next door.

This post is a translation (from German into English) of an article that appears in a magazine that will be published by the Internet und Gesellschaft Collaboratory and Future Challenges

Future Challenges Blog Carnival: Does the Internet Create a New Supranational, Borderless Culture?

This post has originally been published on futurechallenges.org.

Future Challenges and the Internet and Society Collaboratory are organizers of the initiative “Globalization and the Internet: Information, People, Goods.” This blog carnival is part of the Collaboratory’s working group that analyzes the cultural aspects of Internet-related globalization.

Telecommunications can be justifiably described as one of the areas that has been most affected by globalization. Time and space have become nearly irrelevant when it comes to telecommunication. The Internet is the prime example of this stage of modern communication.

One of the milestones on the path to communication across distance was the invention of the electrical telegraph in the 1830s. In his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death (here is a brief summary), prominent media critic Neil Postman asked the provocative question what does the invention of the telegraph mean for humanity’s perception of relevance. Prior to that time, the relevance of information was strongly connected to its local impact. Local newspapers were relevant because they reported local news. But with the widespread use of electrical telegraphs, it was possible to separate the information from its local context. Why, however, would people want to be flooded with news from faraway parts of the country (or even from abroad)? Does it have any relevance to them?

Today, these assumptions strike us as being from another era—and in fact they are. There is a coup in a far-flung country on another continent? You will hear about it immediately. And even the news about the birth of a #royalbaby in the United Kingdom is brought to every corner of the world in the blink of an eye. Are these news stories relevant? I wouldn’t want to venture an answer. This is the way the world works today. Trying to stop the march of time is a lost cause.

Other questions are more important. Do globalized telecommunications and communication across borders and cultures have any impact on intercultural practices? Does the Internet create a bigger space for cultural similarities? Or does it instead have the opposite effect? Does it increase awareness of the cultural differences all over the world?

Mini Wikipedia globe. Does the Internet bring the world's cultures closer together? Picture published by Lane Hartwell and Wikimedia Foundation on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA.

Mini Wikipedia globe. Does the Internet bring the world’s cultures closer together? Picture published by Lane Hartwell and Wikimedia Foundation on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA.

We’re used to describing “cultural identity” in terms of nationality, language, traditions, and customs. If two individuals share all these characteristics, it is assumed that they have a significant degree of shared identity. But is that really true?

The Internet is a tool that can put us in touch with people from all over the world. I have come to realize that I share many characteristics, such as tolerance, curiosity, and openness, with people from distant countries. Can we call this a global identity? Aren’t such shared values more significant than the language and nationality you might have in common with your closed-minded, intolerant next-door neighbor? And finally, is the Internet the tool that will lead the way in this direction?

Do you know how a blog carnival works?

The Future Challenges blogger network is a large network of talented, open-minded people from all over the world, and I hope some of them will share their thoughts on these questions.

If you are interested in responding to the question of whether the Internet creates a bigger space for cultural similarities, please publish a blogpost on your own blog by Wednesday, 28th August 2013 and link to this article. We will publish a summary of all the posts (including a link to the blogpost on your blog) on futurechallenges.org. The best of the posts will also be used—provided you give your permission—in a book sprint that will be organized by Future Challenges and the Internet and Society Collaboratory in Berlin.

Kickoff Workshop For „Globalization and the Internet“ Project in Berlin

On Future Challenges we’re focusing on globalization issues and a big network of bloggers provides a broad range of perspectives on these topics. How is free trade perceived in developing countries? Is it different from what people in developed countries think about it? How does labour migration affect societies around the world and what are the concrete impacts not only on a macro level but rather on a personal level? Our bloggers tell us.

All this is possible via the use of the Internet which is one of the reasons why we at Future Challenges are interested in the intersection of globalization and the Internet. We’re happy that we can deepen our understanding of these processes in a project that was launched in Berlin on Thursday, last week: „Globalization and the Internet: People, Information, Goods“.

This project is based on a cooperation between the Internet and Society Collaboratory  and Future Challenges. A group of round about 30 people is divided into four working groups. These working groups are a direct result of an initial brainstorming during the kick-off workshop in a former supermarket in Berlin.

Participants off the kickoff workshop in front of the "Supermarket"

Participants off the kickoff workshop in front of the “Supermarket” in Berlin. Photo taken by the author.

The working groups will collaborate online to refine their initial concepts. At a second workshop at the end of August the #CoLab9 participants will take part in a booksprint, which is an innovative way of writing books – not the classical way but much faster and written by many authors. At the end of November the Internet und Gesellschaft Collaboratory and Future Challenges will present the results of the „Globalization and the Internet“ initiative. Feedback is welcome at any point of this process!

I’m personally involved in the second working group which will analyse the impact of  the Internet on cultures worldwide. Does the Internet even facilitate the development of a supranational, meta culture? One of the participants in this group proposed to start a blogparade among the Future Challenges bloggers as soon as we have detailed questions we’ll be working on. I think it’s a brilliant idea!

Colab9 participants discussing

The #Colab9 participants are discussing the booksprint format. It’s planned to make such a booksprint during the second workshop at the end of August. Photo taken by the Internet und Gesellschaft Collaboratory.

Another working group will focus on the impact of the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the EU.  During the kickoff workshop this gorup has already set up a Tumblr blog: TAFTA TTIP WATCH.

It will be interesting to see how the working groups will highlight different aspects of the overall topic „Globalization and the Internet“. I will keep you posted!

Social Media Surgery in Cologne

A few months ago a colleague of mine (thanks Anke) told me about a Social Media Surgery in Hamburg. A Social Media Surgery? Who is going to a Social Media Surgery? People who are suffering from social media burnout?

I did some research and got to know that the Social Media Surgery in Hamburg is based on an idea by Nick Booth who started the first Social Media Surgery in Birmingham. The website socialmediasurgery.com defines it in the following way:

A social media surgery is an informal gathering of people who want to learn how to use the web to communicate, campaign or collaborate. Surgeries are deliberately relaxed. No presentations, no jargon, noone telling people what they think they should know.

Nick Booth and the Social Media Surgeries even received the Big Society Award by the British Prime Minster in 2012.

I immediately loved the idea of assisting other people (free of charge) in starting their social media activities and so far I really enjoy our monthly Social Media Sprechstunde Köln which I am running together with my friend Felix Kamella.

A spontaneous Social Media Surgery at the Open Transfer BarCamp in Cologne

A spontaneous Social Media Surgery at the Open Transfer BarCamp in Cologne, 7th June 2013. Picture published on opentransfer.de.

A lot of freelancers have taken part: photographers, designers, journalists and so on. Most of them are trying to figure out what could be the potential of social media in order to promote their work. However, everybody can take part reagrdless of the professional background. The reason why so far many freelancers have taken part might be explained by the fact that I’m working in a coworking space for freelancers.

When I was attending a BarCamp in Cologne last month I spontaneously decided to make a Social Media Surgery for those participants who are interested. And I was happy that some of them joined this surgery. If you speak German here is a short summary of it.

Our next step is to invite other social media professionals as mentors. But the most important aspect is: it has to be fun for the mentors as well as for the participants!

New “Globalization & Internet” Project is Looking for Experts

Future Challenges and the Internet and Society Collaboratory will be co-initiators of the initiative “Globalization and Internet  – Information, People, Goods”.

This project is part of a series by the Collaboratory in Berlin. It’s the 9th initative concerning topics that deal with digital change.

Globalization and Internet: Information, People and Goods

Globalization and Internet: Information, People and Goods. Public domain picture.

One might think that globalization has already reached a peak. We can travel almost everywhere. You can buy goods in the supermarket around the corner from every region of the world. And the Internet is disrupting borders anyway. A friend of mine wrote on Facebook a couple of days ago:

“Just learnt that a Canadian boy tried kangaroo in a Chinese restaurant with a vegetarian Argentinian in Braunschweig, Germany. This is the 21st Century friends!”

Yes, this is how the 21st century looks like and I am personally very happy about it. However, wouldn’t it be a bit shortsighted if you limit globalization to travelling and supermarkets?

Future Challenges and the Internet and Society Collaboratory are looking for experts whose professional outlook mirrors the ideas behind the initiative: promoting a fresh and multidimensional view on globalization. Here you will find more information about the initiative.

Drowning in a Sea of Petitions

Stop all animal experiments at Covance! Sign this petition in order to force the German government to codify net neutrality in Germany as a law. And it’s time again to stop the whale massacre. Yes, of course it’s about time to sign dozens of petitions per day. There are so many petitions out there that pursue noble causes and could you reconcile with your conscience if you don’t sign one of these petitions?

Now this may all sound a bit cynical. And while I’m writing this I’m actually wondering why it has come so far. I have signed lots of petitions in the past couple of months and it actually makes me happy to support these initiatives by just typing in my name and my address. It’s so easy to do something good in order to fight for the rights of citizens, animals or data packages, don’t you think?

This is a screenshot from change.org and it shows the petition that requests that the Deutsche Telekom won't introduce new tariffs that would endanger net neutrality.

This is one of the petitions I have signed lately. This is a screenshot from change.org and it shows the petition that requests that the Deutsche Telekom won’t introduce new rates that would endanger net neutrality.

Nevertheless it’s getting harder to decide which petitions I will sign. If you’re online every day for a couple of hours you will be confronted with lots of petitions, via Facebook, Twitter, Emails or via any other online channel. The information overload is accompanied by a petition overload. Should I simply sign all the petitions that come by and which contain nice pictures and appealing headlines? For me this would not be the best solution because I’m too curious to proceed like that. I want to know what the petition is about. Could there possibly be any side effects if the request of a single petition will be implemented? I guess in most of the cases the benefits will outweigh any possible side effect but still I want to get a clear picture. And this is where the factor time comes into play (convenience might also be a factor ). It would be too time-consuming to inform myself about each and every campaign that is launched and that hits me via social networks.

For this reason being able to ignore  is very important. It’s basically one of the most important characteristics for those of us who are online all day. If you don’t want to feel overburdened you have to ignore most of the tweets, Facebook updates or petitions. Everybody has to adjust his/her filter in a way that suits best. In terms of online petitions my filter is emotion. If I feel emotionally attached to a certain cause it’s more likely that I will sign. If I have ever done a whale watching tour I will probably sign a petition that calls for an end to the whale massacre.

A personal filter

We all need personal filters to separate important information from non-relevant information. Picture published by Flickr user Kain Kalju, CC BY 2.0

Drawing a personal conclusion: should I have a bad conscience if I stumble upon a petition and I don’t sign it although it seems to be worth – at first glance – all support it can get? My approach is to inform myself diligently about the requests that emanate from a specific campaign. If I’m willing to support it and I agree with the requests I will of course sign it. Any bad conscience in the light of all the petitions that I do not sign? Sometimes, maybe, but every signed petition with a noble cause is better than doing nothing.

What do you think Tobias? => “DROWNING IN A SEA OF PETITIONS” A RESPONSE.

Irrepressible Voices: A New Human Rights Video Website

In recent years, few major catastrophes have taken place without being captured through video, pictures, or tweets by ordinary citizens. Citizen journalists have reported on everything from the civil war in Syria, to natural disasters such as the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, to incidents of police brutality at Occupy protests.

This kind of raw documentation brings new complexity to the information landscape. It has created new avenues for news dissemination, and as more mainstream media outlets include citizen media in their reporting, it has changed and enhanced their coverage. However, there still is a gap between the mainstream media, with their large audiences, and these citizen journalists that must be bridged.

The newly launched project Irrepressible Voices (IV) aims to fill this gap by creating a platform that will connect online activists, bloggers, and citizen journalists with the mainstream media as well as with policy and decision makers.

Irrepressible Voices will focus explicitly on human rights. Users from all over the world are invited to securely upload their videos to the Irrepressible Voices platform. After content is uploaded to the platform, the IV team will verify the video’s content, discuss the problems depicted, and identify ways to advocate on the issue in question. This final step will often involve work with other NGOs working in this area. While the community interacts on the platform, IV will connect them with experts from partner institutions.

This short video provides a first impression of the topics that Irrepressible Voices wants to cover:

Irrepressible Voices came into being a year ago during the 5th Initiative on Human Rights and Internet by the Internet & Society Collaboratory. Bloggers from around the world were asked to send their video responses on how the Internet helps to enforce human rights.

The response confirmed the need for people to broadcast their living environment and realities. The Berlin-based Irrepressible Voices team (journalist and social entrepreneur Isabel Gahren, human rights expert Linda Walter, and Eike Leonhardt, a scientist at the Leibniz Information Centre for Economics) started Irrepressible Voices with the support of Futurechallenges.org and Internet & Society Collaboratory.

IV’s partners and media collaborators will help to reach an international audience and thereby increase awareness of their causes. Irrepressible Voices is already collaborating with Reporters without Borders Germany, Futurechallenges.org, Witness.org, Co:llaboratory, Social Impact Lab, and Sourcefabric.

The Irrepressible Voices website is still in its beta phase, but there are already some videos on the platform. The video above was produced in cooperation with Future Challenges and it shows how important the Internet is when it comes to human rights violations. Citizens from all over the world can raise awareness for their causes and make their voices heard.

This post has originally been published on Global Voices Advocacy.