May ’98 in Barcelona

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
9 May, 2017
Editorial: 96
Fecha de publicación original: 2 diciembre, 1997

A word spoken is just recalling

Almost a year has passed since the Grup de Periodistes Digitals (Group of Digital Journalists or GPD) was formed. At the end of November last year, the III Congress of Journalists was held in Barcelona and its highpoint (without any doubt for us) was the opening speech on Digital Jounalism. Debates during the Congress consolidated the recently formed GPD and its discussion list, which has been through everything since then bar winning the lottery (perhaps we should buy a ticket for the Christmas lottery and then we could carry on with what we’re doing feeling less poor and happier). Right from the beginning, the list, as is only logical, consisted of people who had come to the Internet with expectations that were not necessarily “compatible” from a journalistic point of view. This has meant several inevitable conflicts. The journalistic profession is, after all, culturally rich and full of nuances, but heart-to-heart two-way discussions where no rank is pulled is not exactly one of its fortes. One of the reasons is of course time and the fact that people usually group together in their respective workplaces (if there is one at all). The list split this dynamic down the middle. In the first place, it accurately reflected the profound, and not clearly understood, metamorphosis that the definition of journalism on the Net was undergoing. In addition, it created time where there hadn’t been any before and from out of the hat it pulled a forum visited by 240 people with each message. This is, incidentally, the biggest newsroom staff in Catalonia and one of the biggest in Spain. I use the term newsroom here in its broadest sense, but it’s important that we take it into account because on this will depend whether the list remains a list or whether we turn it into something more intelligent.

Our first big opportunity will be the first big event the GPD is busy organising with the Col.legi de Periodistes de CatalunyaMay ’98, I International Congress on Electronic Publications, better known by its Catalan abbreviation “Maig’98”, to be held in Barcelona. In fact, the Congress is already developing on the Internet. The fact that it is going to be held in Barcelona, that it deals with electronic publications and that it’s being organised online, is no coincidence. Catalonia has not missed a beat since the WWW made its appearance and it’s the autonomous region in Spain with the highest number of connected people and, without doubt, the most initiatives in cyberspace. On the other hand, the world of communications finds itself at a crossroads after three years on the Web where it has enjoyed the varied resources that the Net offers. We have found in it the ideal media platform and we’ve lived it to the full during these years. We have discovered the simplicity and flexibility that integrated media provide: text, voice, graphics, images, video; and, above all, we have been exposed, with all the candour and energy the situation demanded, to having contact with the users of the system (individuals, organisations, businesses, administrations, the secret or uniformed services, schools, cities, countries, etc.). This activity has introduced us to a wealth of experience, but it hasn’t brought us any closer yet to discovering what the applications of this big media platform could possibly consist of. It is not clear what these will be exactly nor what training will be necessary to create and develop them, least of all what their objectives will be.

This is the territory which Maig ’98 has set out to explore. The efforts made so far have been mostly on the part of Net journalists and, in some cases, networked journalists (regardless of what we are by training, accreditation, job or digital naturalisation). The latter, that of journalists working on the Net, is certainly one of the richest aspects the Internet offers, especially in its most advanced form, such as digital publications –or digital information systems–. Here, as we have said before, we face a number of different options:

  • The transfer of content from the physical world to cyberspace.
  • The reproduction in cyberspace of the way we work in the physical world.
  • The creation of specific media which take into account all the characteristics of networking.

To get to grips with this problem, we have decided to divide the Congress into three seminars and 11 workshops. The seminars will examine the three phases in the development of the Net: its beginnings, the present moment and its future development. In other words:

  1. The appearance of electronic publications and points of conflict which they gave rise to with the traditional media, which many have named the bits/paper dilemma. Is it real? To what extent and in what sense?
  2. The context within which new publications proliferate and interact, freedom of expression and interaction, the thousands of ways of intervening in other systems: Watching the Net.
  3. The appearance of new languages as a result of factors such as multimedia and interaction. This research, called the hipocentre of the hyperlanguage, will try to clean out the traditional language of mass communication and establish new bases for the emerging culture in the Net.

Starting always from the perspective of electronic publications, the workshops will try to probe into the particular contexts within which these develop, the tools needed, new fields of research and the problems which these imply in the judicial, labour market, citizen networks and educational fields:

  1. Virtual communities.
  2. Electronic publications and language.
  3. Setting up new enterprises The effect of the Net on the present ones.
  4. Advertising on the Net.
  5. Tools for electronic publication.
  6. Specialised or multi-task journalists.
  7. Copyright.
  8. Unemployment, new professions, tele-working.
  9. Social integration.
  10. Research: the knowledge officer and the communications engineer.
  11. Education.

There is one person responsible for each seminar and workshop, who will be in charge of leading the debates, enhancing it with new or existing documentation in the Net, proposing the development of projects related to the topics and encouraging the integration of existent initiatives into the Congress as further contributions to be discussed. We have chosen to work through the Net not just for purist reasons. The Congress, by May, should be a meeting to discuss conclusions reached from the work done up until then. We will invite outstanding people to speak to us (or people who show themselves to be exceptional during the debates), not so they can expound their views on the human and the divine in the digital kingdom, but instead to critically examine conclusions reached and to help us plan future action. We think that the best way to turn ‘Maig 98’ into a lasting landmark is by making sure that work continues afterwards through projects and work done together by the participants. Consequently, this is a congress open to everyone interested in the subject matter regardless of age, distance, language or beliefs.

‘Maig ’98’ should become a turning point for the GPD. This initiative has no equal in the Hispanic world yet and we don’t know of many others like it. The Congress will develop a photograph of the GPD that will show us if a proposal of this kind is merely a lot of goodwill and ideas brought together by the density of users in a particular digital territory or, on the contrary, if it represents something more and is really a different way of working in the field of communication, above all communication in cyberspace.

Translation: Bridget King.