Is the Digital Indaba the Internet Berlin Conference of 2006?

(This post is a follow-on to a previous one on next week’s Digital Indaba on Blogging and the resulting comments that included accusations of my being racist and illegitimate)

Does the African blog-space – if there is such a thing – need codification, a coming together, a corralling under the auspices of a code of conduct or a common front? I do not think so and yet I have noticed a recent trend toward this end of trying to create a ‘mainstream’ African blog-space that confers ‘legitimacy’ on its members. Implying, if only gently, that those outside its auspices are illegitimate at worst or at best might be irrelevant to goals as varied as civil society ‘empowerment’, the creation of alternate media, etc. We are living in a world that increasingly looks to observed and enforced standards. It is almost as if the more peoples become exposed to one another, by virtue of blogging for example, the greater is the discomfort of those associated with the West (like the White so-called Africans who pissed me off by calling this blog racist and illegitimate.) They want a world where bloggers are ‘responsible citizens’, ‘legitimate’ and ‘empowerment minded.’ As noble as such sentiments sound, they have lurking behind them not an evil conspiracy but rather an instinct to occupy territory – the high ground of individual African blogging ideas and opinions – which has been much talked about in the last couple of years in the international and local media.

What organizers and conveners of events such as the Digital Indaba on Blogging refuse to recognize is the essential magic of blogging which is that every blog is THE CENTER. It is made so by the decision of one person to speak as they will, when they will, about whatever they wish. The blog’s audience, if it exists, is therefore treated to an act of one. Consider how many unique minds or perspectives can come to the fore due to this freedom. It is not that the Indaba will still the blogger. Rather, combined with others like it in the future, it will act like a force of gravity by forming positions, networks and attitudes that by virtue of advertisement and promotion occupy the centre or rather attempt to claim such occupation for themselves so that bloggers who are not ‘inside’ will presumably operate in the margins. As if there is not enough of that already within the traditional forms of media.

A central goal of these kinds of meetings is to move ideas and knowledge out of their tacit forms – where they are owned by individuals and received by individuals – to codified forms. Not for the benefit of the blogger but rather to profit the administrator who enables and ‘owns’ the codifying space. Knowledge when it is codified is made into a standardized message that is precious in the marketplace, far more in many instances that its tacit counterpart. Codification allows easy reproduction and because to do it means knowledge being more exactly described, it becomes easier to mark as intellectual property. This is a good thing since it can now be transmitted cheaper to a wider audience, creating profits and, when of a positive nature, leading to better societies. Unfortunately this is not the process the indaba represents. Let me explain.

The high costs in producing knowledge are start up ones – usually paid in the initial phase when ideas or knowledge are tacit. That is to say the writing of your blog is tougher, more expensive, than holding a conference of bloggers to come up with an organizing principle or organizational character. But since many ideas in blogs are not worth much financially, the value is to be had in the joining. By the one who claims to have created the common ground you stand on with others. The blogger who would join an ‘African Code of Conduct’ might earn some minor monies from a conference per diem or from a donor. But the one who will really clean up, in financial and power terms, will be the convener of the conference: the institution or person who boasts of ‘facilitating’ African voices, helping them ‘make a huge impact by sharing knowledge and enthusiasm and demonstrating to the rest of the world that Africa is more than a passive observer in the global village’ (quote from the website of next week’s first Indaba on Blogging)

Blogging on this continent does not need midwives. Especially not ones who want to demonstrate ‘to the rest of the world that Africa is more than a passive observer in the global village.’ It is this kind of defeatism and obsession with the opinions of others that puts paid to the creation of independent paths of our own. That we should now blog to show the world (read the West and White folks) that we are somehow worthy of their respectful consideration. What nonsense. Perhaps the way to ‘show the world’ is to have a conference of black people in the audience listening to panels basically made up of white people. You know? To hope that the authority of whiteness rubs off on the poor little African blogosphere. I wish I will be proven wrong about such panels but the defensiveness of the white Mandelas tells the tale. Ultimately though, whoever the panelists are, and despite the ‘rush for white,’ the logic of this benignly conducted colonisation of Africa’s blog universe will have plenty of rainbow colored African volunteers.

What really pulls my goat among all the ills of this ‘inclusive’ event is the corralling of bloggers – most of whom are just doing their own thing – into the donor universe. Consider once again the language of the Indaba which views blogging, at least in one aspect, thus:

Blogging, because of its far reach and networking qualities, is an essential tool in ensuring that the UN Millennium Development Goals are achieved in Africa and NEPAD remains a united and benevolent alliance on the continent.

Millennium development goals? NEPAD? Ensuring that it remains a united and benevolent alliance? That, ladies and gentlemen, is called the language of the hustler. Some wise African – and he or she could be white or black – who has identified an angle, a cow to milk. And that cow is you dear blogger. You are going to be positioned, united with others, invited to liberal, black loving Grahamstown. Even before you leave, little hustle proposals on ‘empowering African voices’ will be in the mail, probably on the same flight as you. Not that you will ever get more than a few cents. What you will get though is a big, prominent logo on your site that says something like Proud Member of Indaba Code. Somewhere in the proposal will be the sentence, ‘Indaba and company, a non-profit, civil society initiative, is proud to announce that 5% of known African blogs have signed up to the Code of Conduct we established and will form an important African digital voice in the achievement of the MDGs and the sustenance of NEPAD’s profile. We now require further funding for the Indaba to expand its activities…’

In return for a few bloggers being thrown the bone to listen to ‘20 renowned and respected speakers from across the globe and a confirmed line-up that would make Silicon Valley jealous,’ many others will operate in a blog-space that is marked and demarcated territory by little people who would try and update the Berlin 1885 scramble for Africa to the digital space. My railing against this process will not stop it I know, but I think it is important to be aware that what the Indaba and like conferences represent is a grab for territory. And when the African internet Bismarcks and Leopolds can call me racist for asking a question, then you better be aware that the gloves are going to be off during this scramble. The weapons will be to meet challenges with a deafening silence; refer to them as ‘unacceptably racist and misinformed’ (courtesy of one Vincent ‘Madiba’ Maher); and the calling of even more conferences. But, blogging being what it is and since they have decided to piss off the worst Gikuyu this side of the keyboard, I will only say this: I am watching and will ask questions first and then pull the trigger to my nukes later.

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About bulletsandhoney
I read my first book when I was three, then my second one a few weeks later. It has carried on this way for decades with only temporary distractions of eating, fighting, loving, heartbreak and other such irrelevant biographical details.

34 Responses to Is the Digital Indaba the Internet Berlin Conference of 2006?

  1. alexcia says:

    @ MMK,
    The arguments on the economics of blogging are above my head.

    The pen, be it on blogs or paper, is still mightier than the gun. Many bloggers, i included, do not see this. Maybe someone in this indaba thing is trying to exploit this.
    we should not stop them from trying because they will not succeed.

    As i see it, blogging is not the be all and end all in our lives. We, after all, blog about what we see outside the blogging world. And every decent blog like any good piece writing is not “self-centered”.
    Stated differently blogs are closer to photos than abstract paintings, where one captures what we see and hear the other what we imagine.

  2. Ntwiga says:

    Dude,

    What a post.

    Now, let the knee jerk responses to presentation rather than content come

    Like The Binj said, “How juicy”.

    I have been near apoplexy waiting for this follow up. It will be interesting to see if this post will again be dismissed by “red-neck, honke-rambling brain”s not able to process content or deconstruct arguments before thinking about presentation. And I can’t wait for some of the bigger blogging sites to get this so that we can really get this party started right when everyone and their uncle opinion comes out of the woodwork.

    Sorry but I can’t resist the temptation to blog here either: I will not attempt to be comprehensive in my comment – instead, let me focus on two parts of these: your comment: “the Indaba and like conferences represent is a grab for territory” and the whole idea that the African blogging space needs to be codified uniquely.

    You know what strikes me about all of this – the deja vu I get when I compare what you describe to what we used to call “NGO-speak” with some friends of mine back when I thought I knew it all in. That arcane vocabulary that the clique of “program & liaison officers” and “directors” at NGOs in Nairobi (and the rest of the developing world I’m sure) spoke that could only be deciphered by their counterpart “officers” and “directors” at the dozens of international foundations whose offices litter Kileleshwa, Kilimani, Westlands and the rest of Nairobi’s better suburbs in low slung bungalows sitting on huge well trimmed lawns tended by huge armies of underpaid “groundkeepers”.

    This language allows “programmes” (sic) to monetize situations and problems transforming them into checks to fund “projects”, pay for “research & field work” by “expert consultants”. Same said consultants jet in Monday, spent the day poolside at the Hilton, visit client foundation Tuesday, the relevant government PS Wednesday and finally take an 8 hour trip to the “bush” Thursday to see whats actually going on on the ground. Some consultants consider this step optional though. No chance that they will spend the night out there so by 9, they are at the Revolving Restaurant at the top of the Hilton checking out the Nairobi skyline while enjoying a nice steak. Finally, to complete a week of grueling work. same said expert consultant spends Friday afternoon in a round of “meet & greet”s followed by cocktails and the “Carnivore Experience” before jetting off Saturday morning after emailing i)their (huge) invoice ii)the recommendation that the foundation continue to retain their services iii) a recomendation that some LandRovers be purchased to make cruising in and out of the countryside that little bit easier the next time same said expert consultant is in town.

    The point of my tale you ask? The point is “What is life without 45% in administrative overhead?”.

    Replace the terms “consultants”, “officers” and “directors” with the corresponding currently fashonable nouns from that beast I loath to name – the “blogosphere” – and surprise surprise ladies and gentlemen, the players are different but the game remains the same.

    Make no mistake MMK, you claim to be asking questions first with your finger on the trigger but I am afraid that in this case, your post IS the nuke.

    In this world, any time you do away with the dainty cucumber sandwiches, lemon curd and earl grey served on china to go straight to business leaving tact dusty on the roadside in the way that you have, you ARE launching the nukes. You simply cannot monkey with the paycheck and expect silence.

    But.

    Its a tough job and someone has to do it, right? Many may argue that MMK has missed the point but I have to agree with him here. The money is the point. I can’t help but think that this is a case of “someone is going to monetize this blogging thing, better me than A. N. Other”.

    On to second disjointed thought formed as a question: there already exists a Handbook for Bloggers (while this is not endorsement for this work, it seems generally accepted that this is “the definitive guide” for bloggers): what additional value will an African code offer? Is it meant to constrait the class of African bloggers further? Or to put in in plain language, what separates the class of African bloggers from all others to the extent that they need to be subject to a separate “African” code.

    Can’t wait to see what other nukes you have packed away MMK.

    – Steve

  3. Yaa Asantewa says:

    This post comes as no surprise. mmk thinks to have found a winning formula to receive some attention, which he would have actually liked to have during the conference, but no such luck!

    But what a clever idea to firstly pull the race card (which always works), and secondly attack an initiative which WILL of course get people aroused on the other side and create a hustle. But that’s all it is – mmk has achieved nothing but an unconstructive, negative and pessimistic hustle. A decent debate, one with logic and structure would have been far more constructive, but then that would not generate many hits would it now mmk?

  4. MMK says:

    yaa asantewa – I had to respond quickly to you. Not because of the nonsense you spout in assuming that I wanted to go to the conference for attention (look through this blog and you will find I am not lacking in means to go wherever I please) but I am responding due to the name you have signed on as. The travesty that you should call yourself yaa asantewa who had this to say when the British demanded the Ashanti king’s Golden Stool: “If you men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I will call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men until the last of us falls on the battlefields.” Shame on you to assume a name lived with such courage and integrity for such petty thoughts. Better perhaps to refer to yourself as Wegbaja since you appear to have an inkling of historical knowledge.

  5. AK says:

    Thumbs up! Had this come from a black South African, the ‘Mahers’ would have wished it away as the usual brouhaha!

    Oh! white South Africa! You have have never seen anything on that land you didn’t want to own, especially public opinion. There is always the tendency to direct, patent, own and in these processes, crush any dissenting voices (real or imagined) on its way, using nothing more than recycled myths, propaganda and tired stereotypes!

    Months ago, I attended a workshop at Rhodes,yes the same Rhodes. The workshop was funded by a donor body purpoting to build black skills and capacity and yet I was one of the only two AfriKans out of about 70 attendees, some of them flown from Europe. Better still, most of the research material presented had been collected by darkies. The Afrikan collects the data and the whitey deconstructs!

    The Mahers might argue that they weren’t part of this workshop. Of course you weren’t, just the same way you were not part of the apartheid system!

  6. Binyavanga says:

    ON BEING A BABI

    Maybe it is the case that the only true cosmopolitans can come from a developing country – far away from the centre of power. The evoluees who can dream soft, star-struck dreams about egalite, fraternite and so on because they have never come close to seeing that shit in practice.

    In Kenya, those cosmopolitans can be called Babis – in the service of the empire of Babylon. In the past they have been homeguards, DOs, some call them True Believers – they are neither left wing nor right wing. They digest information well, have excellent report cards, laugh appropriately when their fellow students carry wooden signboards on their chest for speaking “Mother Tongue”; they can reproduce whatever they are given on an exam paper without doubt or subversion (Queen Victoria, our Queen, and the founder of the British Empire…). They have faces that shine with loyalty when applied with Vaseline (so as not to threaten the emissaries of Babylon).

    There is a Kenyan character brilliantly satirised in Under the Skin – by Nina Bawden, a truly insightful book – who arrives in London, and shocks his London hosts by the fervor of his belief in Queen, and Parliament and Big Ben. He sees no bloody history, no contested Nation in Britain. He sees the England as the Final Objectivity, the Level Playingfield, the capital of Fair Play and Honor. He leaves for Kenya bitter, but unable to shake his first fervours. This guy – written in the 1960s, was the first generation of our leaders, who sold our shit cheap because they were so excited to now “belong”

    Babis believe that Africans and other dark people’s are full of subversions and white people are earnest, objective and generally compassionate – if you deliver.

    Because they watch a lot of mitumba sitcoms when they were children – and so white people are seen as the dad in Different Strokes or the safe, good teacher of wayward Coloured peoples in Mind Your Language. Or Michelle Pfeiffer pulling the Ghetto up by its bootstraps.

    White people are therefore devoid of politics, jealousies, self interests. They care for the world.

    A thing like apartheid was terrible – but really if one looks at it – it could be said that the bleks were their own worst enemies and they made the poor caring whites to what they did.

    It is this sort of Babi who came running to SA in the early 90s, looking for education in white universities and jobs in multinationals that had dumped Nairobi for Johannesburg. Some of them worked in NGOs.

    I was living there at the time – and kept hearing how “nice” was Mr. Jones, how helpful was Mr. Smith, and how the bleks keep rioting for I dontknowwhy.

    They are so, “funney”

    The bleks, they said, behaved, “funnily”.

    Always speaking their language and not English.

    Now. Hey, people should get along, friends made, love happens, and so on. I am the last guy to start talking about maGhettoisations.

    But – if you have a single piece of wisdom in your head, and even the slightest knowledge of the most cursory sort about your history – it should be clear to you never to take political things in South Africa at face value. And media is at the centre of a giant battle in SA.

    Often you, Babi Kenyan Miro, whose favorite song is Heal The World, make it a Better Place, Or We are the World are used because the so called local “bleks” who are incorruptible have seen through the bullshit, and you stupid stupid person, waltz in there and talk about ‘codes’ and ‘standards’ with no second eye – assuming the universe is flat; and your formulae will yield a perfect and consistent International Solution to the Problem of Africa.

    In Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote – a novel that must be read of only to shock and amuse and enlighten – the children of the exiles, all educated in France – yaani Babis, all believing in the shining light that is France, took money from the same French government that had created the Monster dictator Eyadema to come and “bring democracy” to Togo.

    Fine. Hey, who does not want human rights? The thing that made them even worse than Eyadema – is their refusal to see self interests in their donors – and that whole project collapsed (even ordinary Togolese peasants were skeptical). My camera was taken from me by a French Mercenary in an airport in Chad. If there is anybody who does not understand that the French were quite happy to butcher and kill to keep their influence in Francophone Africa, right up to the 90s, they live in Planet Sitcom. Babis are always less streetwise even than villagers. Now Togo lurches from crisis to crisis, and the Babis have fled to France where they wring their hands and say “Oh, we need to instill the culture of democracy” and some such shit.”

    Cold Tusker talks about white people working in India or Kenya Breweries. Fine – her competence is competence. What India, or China or Korea, never did, in their big pictures is forget their history. Things are strategic – not blind. What I am saying is understand that people come into a relationship with their own interests, and once that is understood, things can progress, love even. Fine. But always understand where you stand in relation to others.
    Because they always know where they stand in relation to you. And in the whole world, only the Third World Babi does not know this. One asked me on radio why African Writers never apply for The Pulitzer. She works as a Manager of a local PR firm.

    Power in South Africa has always been held by liberal, white English speaking money: everybody else scrambles to get a piece of their cake. Liberal white capital speaks gently, and compassionately because it has never really been threatened.

    “The Blecks” don’t speak like this, because they have been threatened.

    The Rhodes School of Journalism is an excellent school -and has supplied some of the leading commentators of these times to all the big papers. In fact, it is the single most influential institution of its kinds in SA, and probably in Africa. And just like you have your own self-interests and constituency, it does too.

    It is usually, like most such institutions, pleasantly surprised to receive foreign Babis – black, shiny, A students – happy people who like to say eeeeu how gross, and who nod, agree and never see beyond the church spires, which are sooo cute. When I lived in the Eastern Cape, these people were called Dekaffs – and were an institutional joke.

    Some IT guy was telling me about Interface – or some such. The thing you see in front of your computer that is friendly offers three happy big buttons to click into – and pretends that it is the whole software, easy to use, friendly and happy and intelligent. And some people me included, prefer to take it as the whole software, and it is only when my comp crashes, and somebody tells me that that software, had ma-built in things, terribly intricate, that collect info on me, and use it “to help me”, and leaves my back door wide open to ma viruses. That interface is what a Babi is.

    Some amazing writers too have come out of Rhodes – but the institution remains at the centre of a battle – it is not “objective”, nor is any institution “objective” in SA.

    They are all loaded with old and deep power battles – and some as fundamental as whose right it is to be an African or not, what some should be allowed to say.

    As a matter of fact, for anybody in the ‘know’ the warning sign for this conference is the word “INDABA” – this and the word “UBUNTU” and a few others are always things you can associate with white liberals looking for a safe “African” camouflage. The logos always have “iNdebele colours”.

    Of all of the bullshit that has emerged from some Babi-sh points of view – the perpetuated idea that the Rhodes conference is essentially a harmless talk shop – by a happy, friendly and marginalized group of bloggers is a myth and a lie. Fine, if you feel the conversation needs to take place in the conference, reach out, touch, network, whatever.

    We all need to pay our rent. And I cannot carry a high moral ground about attending conferences. I attend many. Quite quite happily.

    Just do not assume you are in a place that is not playing big power games. The craziest thing about Babis is that those of them (us?) who allow themselves to see beyond the obvious, are the new breed, the guys who can use our little strategic advantages to make our home better and more prosperous. ColdTusker – That is the IT guy in Bangalore – who saw through the Silicon Valley self-interest (where many were little more than slaves), and pulled a move. Now they know the ma-insider things, they peleka-ed them home and started to give the Valley a run for its money, and when they needed to speak INADABASPEAK they did so – because it helped them get ahead, not because it was “right” or “wrong”
    But…you, Kenyan Babi, just go, eeeeu, that’s, like, so gross…why would I want to go to Bangalore?

    Sun City. That’s the Place.

  7. Rista says:

    mmk – great explanation of how money could be made off blogging and news creation (maybe I should be the A.N.Other making money off this 🙂
    A blogger wanting to sign up to a code (i.e. be fettered) would have to be a journalist looking to get into the mainstream? But maybe there are significant benefits to belonging to a code… can’t wait to hear what they are.
    The one concern I had when I read about the conference was for the safety of the bloggers. Freedom of expression and of dissent have a long way to go on this continent, with blogs being yet another front on which government is fighting to censor information. Zimpundit’s possible non-attendance due to fear for personal safety is only pragmatic… no need to help government track you down. A good enough reason to maintain the chaotic, non-codified blog status quo.
    I think the MDGs are a fantasy that will not be realized because they are not of, for, or by us. Not being pessimistic, but as long as no one wants to discuss the lynchpin of trade that would achieve them, they’re dead in the water.
    Bloggers on the continent will remain under-represented because of infrastructure and access. It would be really worthwhile if the conference addressed infrastructure and other such meaningful aspects of getting the continent onto the information highway… maybe next time?
    We should all endeavor to understand the economics and the potential of blogs (aspects that will, happily, be addressed at the indaba and maybe a smart babi will take the ball and run with it, creating enough jobs and capital to make coldtusker happy and turn binyavanga into a believer in blogging babi power)… otherwise a sunny morning someday soon will reveal we unwittingly sold what little we had for a few shiny beads all over again (see case of the “diddy” name as illustration of what happens when someone’s not paying attention).
    Regarding coldtusker’s long list of others in the ‘developing world’ who have done well by collaborating with ‘the west’… I take nothing from them, they’ve done a great job. Wish he would reel off, as easily, a list of Africans doing a great job of building empires. They exist you see. They may not be featured in newsweek, time, or the economist, but they’re there and they’ve made their money legitimately (if this word can be used when referring to business). I take nothing from Mark first-african-in-space Shuttleworth, just remember that he was able to develop the program that he later parlayed into millions because his mother let him live with her while he worked on it. I know several programmers who would give their eyeteeth for such a cushion, but their social and economic situations preclude that route. It’s coming soon though… don’t write us off.

  8. Binyavanga says:

    Seems to me a conference has started right here – some very pertinent issues coming up, spontenous combustions, all free of the weight of “institutional” pressures and pyramids – which blogging seeks to avoid…

  9. Nic says:

    I think that alexcia has some brilliant points. A code of conduct can be implemented for those who care. the rest of us will keep on blogging and others will read if they so choose. We must be careful about allowing blogs to become “intellectual” and more relevant than others. who defines what is relevant and said by whom for what purpose?

    I have a more extensive post on my blog Shutterview.

    I am also in the process of trying to determine the intentions of a code of conduct as proposed by the DCI. Should be interesting to see the responses.

  10. cirdan says:

    Binyavanga, you probably won’t remember this, but I met you once in Steers.

    Anyway, I’m entirely puzzled by your comment above. It’s true that the interests of black Africans and those of various do-gooding bodies won’t always coincide. But then what? It doesn’t follow that black Africans shouldn’t join the NGO lot – indeed, one may be obliged to act with them if they offer the soundest means of reaching some common goal. When and where to act with NGO’s and that lot is a practical, not an ideological problem. So, as I say, I’m puzzled to discover that both you and Marto think there’s a serious problem of principle in working with them. There are, anyway, incredibly few political actors who haven’t got power games in mind; nothing would ever get done if purity of heart and objective were necessary conditions for political action.

  11. cirdan says:

    Marto, re some things you said earlier about Africanness.

    Presumably, we agree that roughly speaking:

    1. African was, originally, a relatively innocent geographic term.
    2. The racialisation and narrowing of the term so that it is synonymous with person of visible sub-Saharan descent is both recent and hostile.

    Your beef doesn’t seem to be the racialisation of the term, only that it has been racialised in the wrong way. But why should we accept the racialisation of the term at all? There’s no good reason for it; nobody at this late stage is unaware that there are various races in Africa. Why should we accept the a premiss taken from the race-thinking of the imperialist?

  12. Binyavanga says:

    Hi Cirdan,

    My point was that one should no enter wide eyed into these things: NGO, Corporate, or other. We can’t of course abandon dealing – that is silly. What is crazy is the true believer who imagines the donor does what they do for love. I think I made this quite clear. I work with NGOS – and I remain aware that the soft soft language often hides a search for power no different from NARC KENYA or LDP’s. Yaani – we are Miros – and we have a 10 billion dollar economy. And we generally get screwed because we have no negociating power – so we need to be careful not to enter relationships with wide trusting eyes….that is all I mean….

  13. Jay says:

    “We must be careful about allowing blogs to become “intellectual” and more relevant than others. who defines what is relevant and said by whom for what purpose?”

    I agree. As if there is somehow the proper way to blog and the improper way to blog. The proper things to blog about and improper things to blog about.

  14. p says:

    MMK, thanks for drawing attention to the united and benevolent alliance of bloggers. It sounds frightful.

    Your blog is neither united nor benevolent, which is perhaps why you received no invitation. It is also perhaps why I read it, I think the most interesting blogs are not united and benevolent. When the MDG and NEPAD faithful absorb the united and benevolent agenda of the Indaba Conference, they will find their blogs becoming more and more boring and the same, and their visitors will be limited to those other members of the alliance of the united uninteresting… the best blogs are the ones that are cutting and willing to be controversial, your’s is one of them.

  15. Asma says:

    “…and it is only when my comp crashes, and somebody tells me that that software, had ma-built in things, terribly intricate, that collect info on me, and use it “to help me”, and leaves my back door wide open to ma viruses. That interface is what a Babi is.”

    …lol, Binyavanga, isn’t this a bit harsh?

  16. Vincent Maher says:

    The code of conduct, like you’d find at any newspaper, has to do with journalistic standards and credibility from a professional and ethical point of view.

    Obviously this code of conduct won’t be relevant to a large portion of bloggers and it’s not intended for them. It is going to be something worked on together by those who specifically plan to operate as citizen journalists and will cover things like quoting sources accurately, etc etc.

  17. Vincent Maher says:

    Oh and just two other points: 1) the so-called definitive guide to blogging comes from the same NGO space everyone here seems to despise so much.

    and 2) there is no universal code of conduct for citizen journalism so er… we would actually be doing something quite special in terms of showing solidarity as a continent.

    Another thing you should all know (but i realisd a long time ago that facts are not that relevant in this space you are talking in) is that the code will be an open editable wiki so if you don’t like what it says or the way it is worded it you can change it yourself.

    But of course white people are evil, what was I thinking 🙂

  18. MMK says:

    Binyavanga – Thanks for this pointed, personal breakdown on the politics of power and race in South Africa. There is a tendency in that part of the continent to ride forth, north usually, with the assumption that you are stepping into a vacuum with no resistance or opinion of your agenda. And should there be a bit of the former, resistance that is, it can only be unfair and unthinking. And babis, dear wonderful, striving, eager-to-be-liked babis, can be so mercenary, so willfully stupid that they will never even pursue their own interests. So eager are they not to make waves, happy to just be in the room. I do not know which one is worse, the jungu trying to corner a space or the miro who disregards all – including giving up really precious shit of theirs – just to be a minor part of the action. By this I mean that even while creating common spaces will happen (it already has and will continue) what I hate most is the odious roping in of the idea of blogging on this continent with the tired dance of ‘empowerment’ (from donor cash amid prostrations of helplessness otherwise known as digital divide speak.) Its benefits are so spare, so narrow and yet it screams incessantly from billboards and headlines so that we start to believe that we should expend even more of our energies to ensuring the dead-in-the-water NEPAD remains a united and benevolent alliance and other such nonsense. Go for it, provided it is with awareness that games are being played.

    Maher – I weary of your victimized whiteness as revealed in your vacuous, snide asides. I believe that there was some substance to my post that you are only partly, and resentfully, addressing (for example by revealing that the said code will be Wiki style.) The attempt to represent my comments and those of others on this blog as a knee-jerk hatred of white people is disingenuous.

    This solidarity you refer to: what is it supposed to unite ‘citizen journalists’ for or against? Is it yet another white Rhodes University initiative that imagines somehow that the bleeding liberal heart will vault itself into the midst of the poor bleks and help lead their charge towards…what? I suspect that they have no time for you despite all your do-gooder protestations. If you want Kenyans like me to stay out of your hair – and I suspect that by now you do – be sure to try and make it clearer that you have convened a South African blogger conference. Also that it is a journalistic code and not the African Code of Conduct advertised in your program – or maybe it was just a Freudian slip.

  19. Vincent Maher says:

    I like debate and discussion so I’m not worried about anything being in may hair except the occasional insect.

    If it turns out that the people who attend the conference (only about 30 of the 120 will be South African) feel the same way you do then we clearly need to go back to the drawing-board. If not then we have to try understand why this particular group feel one way and others differently.

    As Ory Okolloh said :

    wake me up as soon as “true” Africans plan, fund, and organize, the “true” African blogging indab…um..un-conference

  20. Binyavanga says:

    why, exactly does an..erm..blogg..erm..INDABA have to take place in a physical venue with “funding” – why not in the blogshere?

  21. Eugene Nijssen says:

    When I hear the word NGO I already take a U turn.
    The Country (Holland) where I live is being terrorised by something they call “management” bring that together with NGO and you have disaster.

    Why Africans accept to be exposed to this type of things I just cannot understand. I am a business man and vist Kenya, Tanzania several times a year. I make good money but I am not funded by anyone. I pay taxes Kenya and in the Netherlands.

    They use part of taxes on NGO’s that spend it on landcruisers and diners it is just disgusting.read Ntwiga post that is exactly how it is

    It turns people into beggars. How can you life just holding up your hand?

    If you want to get your message across to Europeans just tell in their face what you think (I am one myself so I think I have some authority on the matter).

    Just blog whatever you want to blog and let no one tell you what to do

  22. Anonymous says:

    Toughly amusing, the stance of the native, the shock of the missionary, the state of the native, the ignorance of the missionary or is it the native?

  23. jke says:

    @Binyavanga: “There is another Kenya growing out of these ashes. It has learnt to need nobody; to be competitive and creative.”(source: editorial @ Kwani’03 by BW)

    => Maybe you should send them a copy of Kwani and underline that Blogging per se doesn’t need a conference, at least not such an event where a lot of funding adds to the already satisfied and negative image all these little conferences and meetings have with us in EAK. Who benefits? The organizers?

    just wondering…

  24. Rista says:

    Now, as an african on this continent, pulling myself up by the bootstraps, i really weary of having to defend my ability and competence.
    This article speaks more eloquently on this matter than I could. And Jikomboe suggests an african indaba acknowledge african languages.

  25. Magaidi says:

    MMK – by just reading this post, you have educated me sir. You look at the big picture, and the continued comments below it are even more education. Thank you.

  26. HASH says:

    Holy Hell. I’m late to the party, and all the good juicy bits are out in the open.

    I blog. I blog about what I find interesting. I read blogs. I read bloggers I find interesting. I don’t care if they are white/black/brown.

    In my line of work, I find myself at a lot of different conferences/summits. I enjoy them not because of the agenda of the conference, but because of the individuals I meet there and with whom I share ideas and get a real life conversation with. Blogging, on a macro scale, is this.

    That being said, I think that this discussion is much like that. Ideas are bandied about – thoughts on issues are discussed, and hopefully everyone learns something.

    MMK is correct about blogs being about the individual. I can’t agree more that any code of conduct for blogging is just silly. If blogging isn’t about independence and self-expression, I just don’t know what is.

    This digital chance that we have to disrupt things is built on technology that allows us – actually it screams for us – to be different, not to go with the status quo and to bypass the inefficient beauracracies and entities that slow down thought, trade and forward movement.

    In the end, I don’t care who is calling who racist. I’m just not that interested. I am, however, interested in the ideas and the thought provoking commentary.

    Are conferences idea and thought generators, or are they defenders of the status quo? That’s a good question and one I’m going to have to think on some more.

    Thanks for the firefight MMK, there’s a reason why you’re one of my favorite bloggers. 🙂

    Now, I’m going bck to my technology hole where most things are color-agnostic…

  27. Adhis-toto says:

    With all due respect I think you are overreacting. The existence of a formal blogging fraternity in no way disenfranchises those who are outside of this fraternity. On the contrary the existence of such a fraternity especially in africa empowers its members and increases the leverage of bloggers tenfold. Things have to start somewhere – big deal- the blogging seed does not constitute a comprehensive grassroot group of ‘african bloggers’. BUT this conference did present a unique opportunity for African bloggers to commune with each other in a way that would not be possible in the near future given the obvious economics of the African continent. The average african blogger, I assume, would not part with a dollar and fifteen cents to pay airfare to participate in a blogging conference that is out of his/her niche of formal employment and in that respect this particular conference was invaluable in facilitating something that would otherwise not have happened.

    Having said that, if we were to follow your logic then the mere existence of aggregators like KBW, we can argue also delegitimizes bloggers like myself who are not listed members. How about that?

    I love your blog and will continue reading.

  28. Pete says:

    The fact that you don’t like waht someone else is doing is fine, say what you want and as loudly as you want to, let your opinion be known!

    BUT, not liking what a group of people does, and then using racial arguments or racially charged statements makes YOU the racist.

  29. Hi,

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  30. hash sez:
    This digital chance that we have to disrupt things is built on technology that allows us – actually it screams for us – to be different, not to go with the status quo and to bypass the inefficient beauracracies and entities that slow down thought, trade and forward movement.
    Indeed, and independent African bloggers, even if they be “non approved” and not in the bureaucratic tentacles of “coordination” with NEPAD, MDG and other “initiatives”, need to seize the moment and speak bluntly. Expect however to be voices in the wilderness. Money is flowing towards the Ahabs, not the Elishas.

    Adhis-toto sez:
    The existence of a formal blogging fraternity in no way disenfranchises those who are outside of this fraternity. On the contrary the existence of such a fraternity especially in africa empowers its members and increases the leverage of bloggers tenfold. Things have to start somewhere – big deal- the blogging seed does not constitute a comprehensive grassroot group of ‘african bloggers’. BUT this conference did present a unique opportunity for African bloggers to commune with each other in a way that would not be possible in the near future given the obvious economics of the African continent.
    On paper of course such disenfranchisement does not exist. But given the dependence of African elites on NGOs, donor agencies and other miscellaneous processors of paper, MMK does raise legitimate questions as to the role of said NGOs and bureaucratic agents in “guiding” the blogspace. And did the conference represent a unique opportunity as claimed? How so? And how is communication via the Net not possible in the near future? And given the “obvious economics of the African continent” how will yet another talking shop in “coordination” with yet more bureaucratic agendas help the broad masses, whether they blog or not?

  31. MMK says:

    Enrique – I could not have said it better myself. There is such a lack of critical distance from donor money among many Africans such that they are able to argue for their own independence even as they seek funding. It is not that it is impossible to make positive contributions with donor money, it is just that it has become so common and mundane that it is rare for forums like the Digital Indaba to even consider the consequences of the donor-isation of the blog space.

  32. MMK sez:
    “it is just that it has become so common and mundane that it is rare for forums like the Digital Indaba to even consider the consequences of the donor-isation of the blog space..”

    Agreed. And what is telling is the make up of the guest list. 2 questions to you or any other poster if the thread is still alive:

    1) If you were putting on an African blogger’s conference, how would you structure it in an alternative scenario?

    2) What do you feel are the biggest issues in the African blogsphere today? Political oppression? donorisation? bureaucratic “guidance”? Limited exposure? ?

  33. coldtusker says:

    Sigh… I came back only after this storm (in a teacup) had passed!

    Rista – Collaboration works both ways. At least the West has figured out how to take advantage of the brain drain!

    There is a huge stratum of engineers & medicos who are of recent “immigrant” stock in the USA. These are the folks & their kids who came to the USA from 1960 onwards. Hmmm… I wonder if I can include Obama in that list???

    A large portion of my UoN classmates are in the USA! Cream of the crop (them not me)! Others are in UK & Australia! Trust me this was PURELY economic… 1990-1997… frequent closures & all that bullshit!

    Binya – Wacha tabia mbaya! You were always good at talking your way out! Anyway, its good to see/read your stuff! Keep it up!

    We need to be (selective) sponges… Look at the Chinese & Indians, they are virtually unstoppable in manufacturing & software/IT. They went to the West to learn & returned with ideas & knowledge.

    There were fewer than 5 African billionaires (black, white or green) whereas the Indians & Chinese had well over 20 each & most were SELF-MADE!

    I don’t know what sacrifices they have made in pursuit of money/economic growth BUT better on a full stomach than the perpetual hunger faced in Africa!

    So to me Mark Shuttleworth is a “good” guy who could have copped out of Africa but stayed on… He definitely has the brains unlike a crop of African “leaders”….

    Was sese seko or idi amin any better than leopold?

  34. Pingback: Steve Ntwiga Mugiri » Archives » musical link: Orchestra Mangelepa and Jamuhuri Jazz

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