Saturday, 12 April 2008

British Council Blogger Day

Celebrating 60 years in Indonesia

Special attention to blogging is not something new for the British Council, take a look at this article in the online Guardian. In 2003 they had already create an event using blogs to enrich and inspire dialog across different countries and cultures. They created the event "Big Blogger" where the combination of Western and Middle Eastern journalists joined forces to report from the ground at the first World Summit on the Information Society. The result can be seen on the Web. They were all journalists, so we can expect them to be trained to deliver news on the spot. Journalists can do their live reporting, how about bloggers? Can they do their live reporting?

The rising uproar of citizen journalism and the high increase of online users are perhaps the reason why British Council would like to give its special attention to the Indonesian bloggers in the celebration of its 60th anniversary of service in Indonesia, one of 109 countries in which the British Council has offices. On April 6 British Council Indonesia invited at least 100 bloggers to its British Council Blogger Day, not only to come to meet other bloggers but also to try live blogging which they claimed to be the first live blogging competition in Indonesia.

Despite the one-stop service in Jakarta that was provided by the British Council during its early period in Indonesia, it is now expanding its services other cities. Dina Lucky, director of business services and relations for the British Council Indonesia, said that instead of waiting for costumers to come to the office, it now prefers to come directly to its customers.

I do miss the British Council library that was handed over to the Indonesian government in 2004, yet I can't deny that I was not a regular visitor at closing time. Long distance transportation to the center of the city perhaps was the main reason for my rare visits. I have visited the new location for the library's books, and I found the new place to be quite nice too. I just hope its collection of books and multimedia materials will grow as it did under British Council management.

As stated in its Web site, the main tasks of the British Council in Indonesia are providing the latest information about studying in the U.K.; promoting British education and training; and demonstrating the innovation, creativity and excellence of British arts, music and design. Its main purpose is to build mutually beneficial relationships between people in the U.K. and Indonesia and to increase Indonesians' appreciation of the U.K.'s creative ideas and achievements.

Its work is driven by its strong belief in internationalism, a commitment to professionalism and an enthusiasm for creativity. In that belief they hold themselves to the highest possible standard of integrity. They believe that cultural relations can help individuals and the world community to thrive.

A new blog such as The Exeter blog is surely a great help for English language teachers around the world, as it provides the chance to take the benefit of the world's biggest ELT conferences. The British Council Hub blog that provides online discussions for adult learners at British Council Centers can also be useful for those who do not have the chance to take formal courses due to financial problems or to their residential location far from the city.

The English language has become more and more important as a tool to communicate in these recent days. The number of people who use English as their second language or even just as one of their foreign languages is increasing day by day. Youngsters in Indonesia are now preparing to use the language since their early age. International schools are mushrooming throughout the country. But this blogger day was not exclusively for bloggers who blog in English, it was open for those who came and asked for the invitation through the special Web site for British Council 60th Anniversary. In fact all bloggers who came to this event are Indonesians; there were more international bloggers in the National Blogger Party last year.

Last year, the Indonesian minister of communication and information had inaugurated a special day for Indonesian bloggers, a national blogger day on Oct. 27 in the National Blogger Party. Yet, the "party" might be over if the implementations of the new Indonesian Cyber Law of Information and Electronic Transaction (UU Informasi dan Transaksi Elektronik; UU ITE) are more into blocking the freedom of speaking and the freedom of gaining information on the Internet.

Leo Batubara, vice chairman of the Indonesian Press Council, in his article in the printed national daily Kompas (April 7) explained the paradox of this cyber law. On one hand it was intended to fight pornography, online gambling, blackmail or even threats, but on the other hand it could be a chain to restrict freedom of the press.

Recently the short film "Fitna" uploaded to YouTube by a Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, has sparked reactions from Indonesians. Some articles from wikimu.com's contributors were discussing the controversial issue. Readers were also giving their opinions; some used their objective and balancing views to calm those who found the film to be an insult to their belief. I posted a link to an article by Claire George to show the need of good communication in fighting prejudices. The reaction to this film made the minister ask local ISP providers to block this film; some providers were trying to block this film and caused the blocking of access to the whole of YouTube.

This fact was also raised in the bloggers' discussion during the British Council Blogger Day. Most speakers in that forum agreed that government is needed more for helping to protect the intellectual copyrights of bloggers than for controlling Internet access to information. As an example, there is a case when a blogger saw a printed book using his blog materials, the case went into trial and hopefully the original writer will get back his intellectual property.

While the Law of Information and Electronic Transaction is also helping Indonesia in gaining back trust in cyber transactions, there is also the possibility of using part of this law to perform criminal defamation of press as the mainstream media are also going online these days. Journalists were also browsing the cyber world to help them gain more information quicker. The network gained through the cyber world is another important aspect to help ease the journalistic work. Closing some part of this cyber world would not help the media gain objective views from the global world.

Three years ago a blogger was arrested because his blog post was considered an insult to the president, bloggers were then questioning the freedom of speech. The controversial blog was deleted, but the writer keep blogging, he also came to the British Council Blogger Day. Most bloggers agreed that there are social and ethical guidelines in the presentation of blogs, and each writer does have their own preferences. Cyber bullying was sometimes conducted by anonymous people who pressed their own way of thinking in the comments section. That's why a lot of bloggers prefer to have the comments moderated. There was also some evidence that blogger's names were used in making comments in other blogger's blogs, while it was actually not his or her comment.

The other topics of conversation were mainly about blogging -- how the famous bloggers started their blogs, and how some of them published their books based on their famous blogs. Microsoft was also presenting its Windows Live Writer and Popfly to enhance the bloggers' knowledge in improving the performance of their blogs.

British Council Blogger Day postponed announcing the winner of its live blogging competition that day as there were more bloggers who came with their laptop and the Wi-Fi connection was not reliable enough, they did prolonged the competition for three hours after the meeting and will announce the winner online. Also, there will be three months competition with one particular topic each month, and according to Dina Lucky the competition is open for bloggers either in Bahasa Indonesia or in English.

The British Council is now focusing more into its out of office activities such as the student exchange program between Indonesia and the U.K., where five couples of Indonesian student and a U.K. student will live three months in Indonesia and three months in the U.K. together, experiencing the exchange of cultures. Blogs will be a very unique way to express their cultural shocks, and their interaction with their new community. One couple will stay together like brothers or sisters, so helping each other in coping with the new environment will be challenging and it would really be an interesting content for a blog!

OMNI Published 2008-04-09 09:27 (KST)

1 comment:

Bolasinema said...

My friend, I was there lho. Very rame pisan. Crazy,cool. Sering-sering aza. Gak percaya? Kunjungi aku di http://bolasinema.blogspot.com. Sekalian salam kenal.