BEIRUT: For three days, artists, activists and information technology experts will gather together to celebrate music, social media and Internet freedom throughout the capital at Share Beirut.
Share was started in Serbia last year by activists who believed that NGOs had become too elite and detached. The group has chosen Beirut as the second venue because of its underground music scene and its relative freedom of expression – compared with the rest of the region, that is.
“This is a special place,” said Vladan Jolen, who – along with two other Share organizers – answered questions about the event at the Lebanon Press Club in Furn al-Shubbak.
“There are different underground cultures, and there’s a high level of freedom of speech and expression that allows this event to happen,” he said.
He described Share as a “strange event” that is designed for the 1,700 participants – a number which is steadily increasing – to explore Internet culture through creative activities.
The lineup of events includes an evening of independent short films, performances by local alternative DJs and musicians and an improv group from New York, as well as talks by prominent Arab bloggers from various countries, local leaders in Lebanon’s nascent Internet startup community, and a designer from Facebook.
Presentations will take place at Solea V in Sin al-Fil, Yukukun in Gemmayzeh, the DRM, Metro al-Madina and Alt City in Hamra, and EM Chill and Radio Beirut in Mar Mikhael.
“We’re trying to protect the Internet for open communication,” Jolen said.
“We want to preserve Internet freedom. The government wants it more controlled, and commercial [corporations] want it to be like a TV.”
Peter Sunde, an organizer, said it is important to show the transition from traditional to new media.
Michelle Thorne, who works for the Mozilla Foundation, said she hoped the Share conference would show people the vast opportunities the Internet provides for activism and creativity.
“I want to see people makers – and not just users – of the Internet,” she said.
When Share organizers were asked if they had hesitated to come to Beirut in light of the ongoing regional unrest, as well as the recent string of kidnappings and explosions, Jolen joked, “You know, we are from Belgrade.”
“Share Beirut” will take place across multiple venues from Oct. 5-7. For more information, please visit www.sharebeirut.net.