Thanks to the dynamic new digital media user community in Madagascar ( in trying conditions nonetheless), there is a tiny silver lining in the ongoing puzzling crisis at home.
It seems that I have gotten the opportunity to explain it quite a bit recently. The fact that I get the call to do it is very unfair because as I said repeatedly, without the content produced by users In Madagascar, there would be nothing for me to talk about, translate or amplify like below:
(CNN's Errol Barnett is truly an amazing guy, I now understand the confessed crushes that many lady friends have expressed, granted probably not for the same reasons).
Let me clarify a few other things that I wanted to get off my chest for a while:
1) What I do on twitter is exactly what I do for Global Voices Online but for all digital media (blogs. videos etc..) Malagasy bloggers produce informative content that we get to translate and contextualize.
All other 220 authors/translators at Global Voices Online are doing the exact same thing. The goal is to explain and shine a light on regions and issues that may be underexposed. That philosophy is what drives most of us to twitter and to other platforms.
2) Ethan Zuckerman is the primary reason why the twitter Malagasy community got on the radar during the crisis. Evidence ? I had about 130 followers on twitter before his post on following the crisis on twitter on February 19th. I have a few more now. Of course, most people are still asking where Madagascar is or whether Angelina Jolie took over the island.( I am looking at you Vinvin :) ). The key is that Ethan cared about a "pothole" (h/t to Erik) that is not really in his neighborhood and wrote about it ( aka the caring issue as Joi Ito coined it). And after reading that post, many journalists agreed: there might be a story there worth telling and the new way how some information is conveyed from there ( on twitter or on sms-based crisis mapping) is also important.
3) As you may have noticed, I was willing to talk to anyone who would write/video about the crisis. Attention seeker much ? Well, that's for you to judge but the goal once again is to get people to look beyond the animated movie and the striking biodiversity. Not that we at Foko don't care about biodiversity, because we do. But it needs to be contextualized. That's what the bloggers at Foko in Madagascar do so at every opportunity we get, we direct people towards their work. This is not to get rewards from Google adsense because after all, we are all volunteers there, but because the only reason to explain something is so for people to listen. If no one listens, it's a moot point, right? So I get to talk because it's more convenient for everyone involved ( media, local bloggers are obvously quite preoccupied) right now but whenever possible, I'd much rather have the guys on site do the talking, without the diaspora as a proxy.
4) Let me repeat as well the other reason why citizen media added an important value to the information pool during the crisis. Journalists cannot possibly be everywhere, yet troubles were happening in several blocks of the city and in many different cities. Witnesses who can transmit information rapidly are crucial components. it is also no secret that airwaves were filled with biased news generated by both parties. Twitterers correcting info or warning people of potential hoaxes happened more than once.
The memory that will probably always stay with me once this crisis is over is this inocuous tweet on March 17th:
Dipnote is the twitter handle for the official Blog of the U.S. Department of State. I should be mad that I was wrong but3 independent sources also posted it and even the very knowledgeable French cable news France 24 reported it before amending it. I immediately Re-tweeted the note to notify people of my mistake and that the president is not at the US embassy( where he is even now is still anyone's guess). I think it is awesome that the administration is savvy enough to know that this is the beauty of twitter. Instant amendment of false information by sources who know better. When there is a gap in information, one wants to collect all potential info and get all the twitter users to verify and help sort out truth from rumors. Another reason why twitter worked in this situation.
addendum: Andrew Meldrum's piece on twitter & Madagascar summarize the idea well: "twitterers are not real journalists [..] we are complementary to journalism"
So there, I hope I clarified the sudden blitz about new media and the Madagascar crisis. The attention as oso said before, will come and go anyway and that's fine. Hopefully, the crisis will also be behind at that time and one can start elaborating more constructive projects.
But at least now if one ever wanted to visit Madagascar, even virtually, one would know where to find a few real people online.