Cultural policy and Internet in Serbia, free knowledge, Wikimedia etc.
I was talking yesterday in Belgrade about cultural policy and Internet in Serbia together with people from Serbia and Belgrade government institutions, as well as with some cultural and Internet activists and entrepreneurs. It is organized by portal SEE Cult (in English) and Media documentation Ebard (in Serbian). Announcement of the meeting may be found here (in Serbian).
Besides me, participants were: Sreten Ugricic, director of the People’s (National) Library of Serbia (in English) and a member of the work group for digitalization of Serbian Ministry for Culture (in English); however, he said that work group was never met; he just asked a couple of years ago would he be a member of that body; Jovan Jovanovic from the Belgrade’s Secretariat for Culture (in English); Slobodan Markovic, director of the Center for Internet Development (in English); Milos Scepanovic, marketing director of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra (in English) and Ivan Mitic, director of the agency Artemedija (in Serbian). Moderators were Velimir Curguz Kazimir, director of Ebard and Vesna Milosavljevic, director of SEECult.
There were around 30-40 people in the audience, mostly from cultural sphere. Podcast in Serbian will be available at the site of the Network of Creative People (in Serbian). Report from the meeting is available in Serbian here.
In short, I was wrong when I said that there is no cultural policy in Serbia. Cultural policy exists, but it is bad and it doesn’t know for the term “Internet” (I am not so sure if it knows for the term “computer”).
The worst product of this cultural policy is passionate nationalism which produces hate speech as an acceptable public behavior. Of course, Serbian Wikipedia is not an exception. Even some of the most influential Serbian Wikipedians are tolerating hate speech or don’t know to recognize obvious forms of hate speech (the good thing is that the majority of Serbian Wikipedians know to recognize it and don’t tolerate it). To be honest, it is not the exception on Wikipedia; actually, it is sadly to conclude that it is the rule on Wikipedias with a few exceptions. Which implies that there is a problem with cultural policy in general, not with the particular implementation of it.
Interesting thing is that I was preparing for confrontation, but, before I started to talk — other speakers mentioned that problem (bad cultural policy in Serbia). However, I don’t think that they understood me when I said that I think that the only good implementation of cultural policy is no cultural policy. The only good thing which may be done by authorities is to make a good prerequisites for people who are making knowledge, art and preservation of cultural artifacts etc.
During the speech I mentioned that we have two working examples of cooperation between particular professors from Belgrade University and Wikimedia. Thanks to prof. Slobodan Macura, a Wikipedian, seminar works for the fourth year students of the Faculty for physical chemistry (in Serbian) is consisted of writing articles on Wikipedia. Also, thanks to another Wikipedian, a teaching assistant Djordje Stakic, as well as to professors Dusko Vitas (in English) and Cvetana Krstev (in Serbian, but you may get a Google translation from French by clicking on British flag 🙂 ), students from a couple of study groups at Philological Faculty (in Serbian) write Wikipedia articles as seminar works.
I mentioned that — only as one of the good examples for grass-root organizing of free knowledge and educational work — in the contrast of the lack of any kind of recognizing needs by state (and city) authorities. And I didn’t expect that I’ll get positive feedback after the official part of talk is finished.
It was rarely productive gathering. We got the next possibilities:
- Mileta Prodanovic (in English), one of the well known authors in Serbia and professor at the University of Arts (in English) in Belgrade said that it is a good idea to give to his students as seminar works to write articles on Wikipedia. I mentioned to him that English Wikipedia needs articles from the art history.
- One of the people who talked is from the city’s authorities and he is responsible for the City’s library (in Serbian). He mentioned that “all of their software is payed and legal”, after which I mentioned that they don’t have to pay for (the most of) software because there is free software. We agreed to meet and to talk about possibilities of implementing of free software solutions in the City’s library (and more then 70 external divisions of the library).
- After the meeting I was talking with two women from the Museum of Contemporary Art. This kind of museums is the best example for making deals with free knowledge projects: their finances are coming completely from the state authorities and they don’t have a lot of interests in selling anything. But, they need a way how to promote their institution, as well as they need advices how to organize their digitalization work. We made a deal to talk about it during the next week. In general, all of digitalized photos of their exhibits will be on Wikimedia Commons, as well as they will make articles about important pieces and authors.
- I know director of People’s (National) Library of Serbia for five years. However, I didn’t have a time to meet him and talk about the cooperation between Wikimedia Serbia and the library. He is very open for new technologies and spreading knowledge and we made a deal to meet and talk about cooperation. For sure, this will be the most complex cooperation for WM Serbia and, I hope, the most productive.
And I have to mention one more thing from the yesterday evening.
A couple of days ago I wrote the article about the place where to hold Wikimania. I still think that there are 10-15 countries (excluding Serbia) which are the good places for Wikimania because they are the most open for people from the rest of the world.
The day before yesterday I found some very interesting facts about Serbia on Wikipedia: it is the country with the smallest social differences in the world.
Yesterday I heard one extremely interesting (however, not yet confirmed) fact which gave to us a nice hack for the future Wikimanias. After adoption of the law a couple of weeks ago, you are able to become a citizen of Serbia only by saying that you feel as a member of Serbian nation. And you don’t need to give up of your previous citizenship. Unlike for German or Spanish citizenship, there is no requirement that you have to prove that you have some Serbian ancestor.
In other words, please go to the nearest embassy or consulate of Serbia and ask for citizenship! If all Wikimedians have it, we will know where to hold Wikimanias and/or worldwide Wikimedian community headquarters 😉