Geert Lovink on Mon, 26 Jul 1999 03:42:46 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Hippies from Hell?

From: jo van der spek <>

Pristina 24th of July
Reporting Jo


People in Prishtina are still massively cruising the mainstreets of
Kosov@'s capital. Celebrating their liberation, relaxing after a hard days
work of rebuilding their homes, or trying to get over whatever they have
suffered. I am not sure if the joy and energy many of them show on first
sight is a way of repressing trauma, or a sign of true optimism. I can't
stop asking myself though, what are the dark sides of this situation. 

Although much less than in Bosnia and parts of Croatia, the level of death
and destruction in Kosov@ is immense. Far more so in the countryside than
in Prishtina. The capital always gives you a distorted picture of reality
in any country, but especially in these circumstances, where a massive
presence of military and civil international agencies creates a weird mix
of expectations, manipulations and confusions. Meanwhile, 14 people were
killed last friday on a dirt-road not far from Prishtina. There are
instances of the UCK openly threatening aid-agencies to stop helping
Serbs. And of course the Roma continue to be an easy target for Albanians
with a desire to settle scores. And nobody really seems to care enough to
undertake serious action to stop it. The international agencies are still
in the process of finding out where they've landed, carving out their
piece of territory, competing for the best skilled locals, and of course
digging bureaucratic trenches, from where they hope to sustain their own
existence or make it on the scale of best performing agent of the year. 

Anyway, in the middle of all this a bunch of crazy, dream-driven and
extremely dedicated persons, is working like hell to realize a digital
revolution, preferably before any of the above mentioned obstacles gets in
the way and kills this darling. The taskforce, basically consists of
Teresa Crawford, Paul Meyer and Ilir Zenku. Teresa is a project-manager
doing human rights stuff with The Advocacy-Project, Paul Meyer is a young
lawyer from New York with a mandate of the International Rescue Committee
(IRC) to develop technology for post-crisis management and Ilir Zenku came
to Kosov@ after working for years as the Internet project-manager with OSI
(Open Society Institute) in Tirana. 

While I was dreaming up RIKS in Macedonia, two months ago, as an
Internet-based project to reconnect refugees, now returnees with the aim
to reconstruct or even re-invent Kosov@ Society, the technical taskforce
started to get together a complete Internet Network for Kosova: a
satellite dish, microwave connections for UN, KFOR and Aid Agencies and
for a free-access provider to serve the local community. First in
Prishtina, and then to be expanded alover Kosov@, including USAID setting
up nodes in 7 cities. Whether or not this will materialize this coming
month remains to be seen. There are lots of loose ends and pitfalls on the
way. But so far the response from the internet-wise part of Albanian
society, which like the rest of Balkania is a people of engineers, has
been tremendous. And international agencies may not really be aware that
this project is of huge significance for Kosov@ and for their own
practice, they tend to be scared of things they think may be beyond their
grasp, or add so much to the state of anarchy and multi-layered
administrative chaos reigning here. And thus they tend to stop it off or
create obstacles. Although fortunately there is a circle, maybe a
generation of aid-professionals who dig this piece of independent
non-governmental action, and happily jump on this wild-card game of adding
digital freedom to sinister history and an opaque attempt at
world-government. Is this a post-governmental project or is it not? 

To come now to the point: suppose that we manage to get the technical
infrastructure on and off the ground, how can we create an environment for
it to blossom, a culture of digital regeneration, a blossoming of events,
projects, campaigns,. contests and conferences to give substance to this
network? To create a human infrastructure of stakeholders, trustees and
creative minds to keep the network out of the strangling hands of
bureaucrats, politicians and commercializers. In other words how to create
a free-zone of connectivity, communication and content that will hold
against the inevitable mechanisms that tend to occupy these zones.  I am
working out the idea of setting up internet-workspaces for local people
and projects to develop, present and project themselves and their future
on the Internet. 

Of course the profits of the network should partly be channeled to
non-profit providers and clients: universities and schools,
community-services, creative subcultures and communicators in diaspora. Of
course there is additional money to be generated from international donors
and sponsors. But the hardest part is how to start up a climate for
producing content, using it for creating this free zone and giving it
sustainability through substance and dedication: the critical mass, as
Paul calls it. 

I think we need people, projects and inspiration too from abroad. This has
to know no borders. 

So I invite you to share this experience: come here to Prishtina, Prizren,
Peja and Djakovo and see who is living and dying here. Come forward with
ideas and projects that can be part of this enterprise to invent a Virtual
Kosova of flesh and blood. We must create multimedia events, organize
contests for networkers or architects (how to house hundred thousand
people before winter), create wild and innovating websites, organize
workshops, meetings and conference to release imagination and prevent
stagnation. We can just do it: campaign for countries without borders, a
world without man-inflicted misery ( a dangerous dream I'm afraid) and a
globe of free expression. 

Jo van der Spek radio-journalist and RIKS-coordinator phone

mos ban luft ban dashuri!

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