Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Egypt elections and the 'hype cycle'

As the verdict in Egypt's election comes in, I can't help but think about my post written a year ago, just after Mubarak's ouster, predicting the course of the revolution. In my post "Revolutions and emotions in the Middle East" I stated that:

  1. It is too early to write off Islam as a political force in Egypt
  2. Revolutionary emotions give rise to reactionary forces
  3. Islam is not necessarily antithetical to ideals of "democracy" and there is the danger of media narratives shaping such a demarcation

Now as we see it, in Egypt today, the parliament stands dissolved, there's no constitution and the president will now either be from the Muslim Brotherhood (Mohd Morsi) or the old guard (Ahmed Shafiq). Did the revolutionaries anticipate it? I don't think so. The revolution has not ended in Egypt and the repercussions of this phase will be significant on world politics and the politics of the region. As I wrote in my post a year earlier, it is now that the revolution has entered the "trough of disillusionment" in the hype cycle. This is where the 'realpolitik' begins and only in the coming few years we will see what it would lead to. 

For a section of Egyptians, Mohd Morsi by virtue of being a conservative Islamist, may represent a millenarian break from the past to a better social order. While Shafiq might represent stability and order that came with the old guard. It will be interesting to see the media rhetoric and media's representation of Egypt's situation in the coming few days and the reporting on Muslim Brotherhood and the mood in Egypt's street. 

For those who led the civil resistance in Egypt, this was definitely something that they never anticipated. Nonetheless, the revolution is far from dead... in fact it has just started!

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur

Friday, June 1, 2012

Blogathon India 2012: A high impact meet in New Delhi

Unlike in the West, where blogs have emerged as a serious form of commentary, in India, traditional media remains dominant. While niche blogs are becoming important in spaces like food, music, sports, travel, fashion, entertainment and gadgets, bloggers have a long way to go before wielding any serious influence on the public discourse. Blogs are important to expand the civic space and break the stranglehold of 'brahmanical' Indian media, where sometimes, vested interests can influence conversations.

It was therefore interesting to have a Blogathon in New Delhi recently, that saw more than 100+ bloggers getting together to interact and network. Blogathon India, a new network for Indian bloggers, concluded their first meet up called the ‘Dell Blogathon’ 2012 on May 26th, at The Second Sin, New Delhi. The theme of the meet up was aligned to the aim of the network .i.e. 
"Celebrating the power of blogging together"

(From L t R: Ankul, Akshita & Karan)
The event was organized by Blogathon India co-founders Ankul Barar, Akshita Jain and communications professional Karan Bhujbal. The Blogathon saw  an attendance of 100+ bloggers, across categories like technology, food, lifestyle, fashion, all together. There were bloggers who came in from other cities like Lucknow as well. There were bloggers who blog on the most unique of categories (for e.g. there was a Powerpoint blogger) at the event. It became a rage on social media and was trending on the number 2 spot in India and number 1 spot in New Delhi.

Post the event, I sought Karan Bhujbal's views on the following:

Q: What was the motivation for organizing a blogathon and what did you intend to achieve?
Karan: The insight for the event was that the blogger scenario today has witnessed a significant change, as a blogger’s influence is just not restricted to his or her blog, but permeates across all social networks they belong to. With an increasing number of people on social networks and an increasing amount of time spent by them on social networks, bloggers have become serious influencers for brands. Blogathon, hence, became a platform where brands meet bloggers. 
Now meet ups of this nature have been done before, but the measure of success for me was to get all kinds of bloggers together (fashion, tech, food, travel etc.), on one stage, to celebrate the power of blogging together; and to do it in a manner that was enjoyable to all the attendees across the marathon blogger event. 
Q. Are blogs acceptable as serios commentary? Do their opinions count? How & Why?
Karan: The thing with blogs and bloggers is, even if a particular blog has just 50 regular visitors to it, the credibility of that blogger amongst those 50 people is very high. There are more people today who are actually leaving their full time jobs to be professional bloggers too. And a proof point of their opinions being counted is the fact that more companies today, across industries, have a proactive blogger outreach, very similar to what is done for media. 
Q. How do you feel about the way the event turned out to be?
Karan: The event turned out great. The event was sponsored by Dell and #dellblogathon trended on twitter on India at No. 3 and on Delhi at No.1. And it continued to trend in Delhi till 12pm on the next day! There are multiple requests for a next Blogathon to be planned sooner too. 
We look forward to such meetups!

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur

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