It's been more than 10 days since I returned from a way-too-short trip to Santiago for the Global Voices 2010 Summit. Many newspapers and people have weighed in on the Summit, their experience, take-aways, suggestions and so forth.
If you'd like to have a sense of the ambiance there, it's worth your while to read what they wrote. I think it would be very difficult to compose a more diverse group of people all gathered in one location. I am talking of citizenship of course but also daily occupations,age and interest. The mind boggled at the range of topics addressed there in a couple of days.
If you were not ready to open your mind to topics you were unfamiliar with, the summit would force you to be exposed to it at least once. The ideas coming from left and right during the sessions were enough to make one head's spin, add to that the wide range of conversation on the sides and the simultaneous bilingual broadcast and you would easily understand why "beverages" were in such high demand at day's end.
I would understand why it might have been sometimes frustrating to some that the range of conversation was so extensive. After all, one can only fully engage in so many subjects. But if you think about what the Internet is all about, it's about a decentralized network where you are never really sure where you are going to land next. In many ways, the summit was just that: a real life series of serendipitous encounters with people, culture and ideas, without a pre-ordained agenda. If you are a company looking out for your bottom-line, you probably would want some control over what comes out of your summit and not let your stakeholders hold the stage for most of summit. A Global Voices Summit is the antithesis of that. the inmates run the asylum if you will, only 1) the inmates are willing and wicked smart polyglots and 2) the asylum is really the modern reincarnation of the original Serment du Jeu de Paume. A new contributor seating next to me asked: "So who's in charge here?" his colleague replied: "the ones sitting on the floor".
It's cliche but the appeal of the online world for me has been the absence of order, hierarchy. I don't think Global Voices is structured this way for the sake of being a James Deanesque "rebel-without-a-cause" organisation, but rather because of the belief that the next best idea, or the person with the best insight could be found outside the usual channels of communication. After all, as this map states, every country is best at something. (A controversial graph but you get the point).
I was grateful to learn real life stories of H1N1 in Monterrey from Isa, hear the most devastating under-reported climate change story from Nomad Green and see that my fellow compatriots play football barefoot whether they are back home or against Santiago's youth. All of us have made random lasting memories and learn new ideas.
A final thought on the Summit that I would steal and expand from a fellow GVer in the mailing list (I hope he won't mind):
"The inner beauty of Global Voices: the qualities and characteristics found in each and everyone"
Well, if we are to judge from the slide show from the Summit below, the "inner" part of my friend's statement can now be scratched off. Indeed, Random is Beautiful.