It’s always a pleasure being back in Berlin. Clubbing, shopping, museums, or just some beers at the Spree… there are a lot of things to do in the German capital, but this time we took part at Re:publica, the biggest media convention in Europe.
During three days, more than 300 sessions were held in 18 different stages and more than 6000 visitors attended the conference which this year celebrated its 14th edition.
Big data was the key issue, and names like Snowden, Wikileaks and Assange were repeated in almost every session. Influence of social media in recent revolutions and riots among Arab band European countries. We also had a brief idea of how online and print media as well as innovative start ups are being developed in Africa and other emerging economies.
But the absolute trending topic during the three days was internet freedom data protection, and internet surveillance which has become more relevant after the 2013 NSA events.
Most of the sessions and interviews were in German, but many of them were in English too,
which is very useful if you’re a Spanish expat struggling with the language of Goethe, that´s why was more an international event rather than something local.
The sessions were divided in different groups as media, politics, culture and environment, belonging most of them to political topics.
Sarah Harrison from Wikileaks talked about how’s life after leaking information and being prosecuted by the US government, receiving political asylum abroad and having no guarantees for freedom in her own country just for making known the truth. I also learnt how the importance of social media and bloggers is increasing in the so called non developed countries and the protagonists of the Arab Spring in 2011. The revolutions in Egypt and Syria would be completely different without them or maybe they just wouldn’t be revolutions. And it’s interesting how the governments themselves have their own support in the web in order to control the population and repress their freedom, like the Arzeshi do in Iran, with a wide bloggers network connecting their conservative ideas. But we don’t have to go that far, even in Europe Mr. Erdogan, the Turkish PM has recently blocked Twitter and Youtube… which seems a weird measure if you’re trying to join the EU in the near future.
Turning to the internet freedom and data protection issues, Mikko Hyppönen, Chief Research Officer for F-Secure gave a speech about this issue and even read a manifesto, stating that ’’our privacy is the building block of our democraties’’. He defended the creation of new and strong European internet companies to face the American internet monsters like Amazon, Facebook, Google or Yahoo. Everything sounded really great and full of enthusiasm, but lost some credibility after David Hasselhoff joined him on stage (we shouldn’t forget that Microsoft was one of the sponsors).
Saskia Sassen from the London School of Economics pointed out that some kind of moral reflexion needs to be made after the global crisis that has shaken the global economy during the last years. It`s unacceptable how the powers and the people above is allowing millions of foreclosures every year in the Western world but at the same time is impressive how solidarity and empathy from the ordinary citizens are facing this brutality extended trough the capitalist and economic world.
Sascha Lobo, an author and consultant who wrote several books on the influence of the internet on society, talked about „the state of the nation„.
His main concern is the little interest of the internet community in Germany to get into action against big data and the gate keepers. He feels the neeed to mobilize them to start the „march through the institutions“ . In referring to the political action of the previous generation of the late 60ties. Collecting money for the associations and lobby that are concerned with legal action against misuse of data and talking the political delegates seems to him a meaningful way to move.
Alongside these events, the Media Convention which took place at the same time offered some sessions about the future of the media. I personally liked the ’23 thesis for the future of the media’, the conclusion was that the way to present news has to change dramatically as the example of Vice for instance shows. Also interesting was getting to know ’15 start-ups you need to know in a presentation that will blow your mind’, where became evident that the publishing business is dramatically changing and there’s still a long way to go fort he German publishing houses and journalists.
The most impressive example of future journalism online still is the story „Snowfall“ of the New York Times about the accident of a group of skiers that were caught in an avalanche. The reconstruction of the accident is considered to be a milestone in the history of news telling online.
Relating to media and communication I was also interested in the round table meeting of the chief online-editors of leading news magazines like Spiegel online, Zeit online and Stern. There is an ongoing controversy between the online journalists and the print journalist about the quality of their work. The online editors were concerned about the fact, that there are much more successful new start ups in the States than in Germany.
Another session I was interested in, concerned the relation of PR agencies and bloggers. A German agency, an Italian and a Russian agency compared their approach to the way of integrating bloggers in their campaigns.
The problem of paying for content by agencies and clients and the independent role of bloggers acting as journalist that have no income was discussed with the audience.