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From Samizdat to Blogging: Globalization and New Forms of Political Expression

International Workshop organized by the International Samizdat [Research] Association in cooperation with OSA Archivum, CEU Department of Political Science, CEU Curriculum Research Center and the HESP-ReSET Alternative Culture Beyond Borders Project, to be held in Budapest, Hungary 20-21 February 2008.

This workshop aims to explore the changes in oppositional or alternative political expression that have followed in the wake of the end of the Cold War. The particular focus will be on the changes that have come about as a result of revolutions in communications technologies, which have brought about new forms and modes of alternative expression, but also new challenges for alternative politics.

On the first day of the workshop we will consider examples of both print culture and radio broadcasting during the Cold War era, and then compare the type of social networks forged by these practices with citizens' political mobilization via community radio, SMS, blogging, and participatory media. The second day will focus on the issue of political praxis, and we will question the utopic rhetoric that often accompanies the advent of web-based media. What kind of freedom does access to the internet allow, and does this bring with it a new space for alternative culture and/or effect political change?

In addition to the roundtables, on Wednesday evening at 6pm the workshop will feature a keynote speech by Hossein Derakhshan, on "Blogging for what kind of change in Iran?"

In the interest of maintaining an informal setting while maximizing time for discussion, the workshop will consist of five roundtables instead of traditional panels. Each roundtable will feature several short presentations by selected participants as well as a general discussion. All participants of the workshop are encouraged to consult the website where focused discussion questions will be posted for each session.


Wednesday, 20 February

9:30 Welcome & Introductions

OSA Archivum: István Rév
Central European University: Marsha Siefert (History), Arne Hintz (CMCS)
International Samizdat [Research] Association: Olga Zaslavskaya (OSA Archivum)
OSI-HESP ReSET “Alternative Culture Beyond Borders”: Jessie Labov (Stanford U)
OSI-HESP Challenge Seminar "Visual Studies of Immedia": Almira Ousmanova (EHU)
“From Samizdat to Blogging” Workshop: Barbara Falk (CFC)

10:00 - 11:30 Session I: Print

Olga Zaslavskaya (OSA Archivum) / Barbara Falk (CFC)

This roundtable will focus on samizdat and tamizdat as social practices, looking more closely at how underground networks were established, maintained, and grew. Where can we see evidence of those networks in post-89 print culture and in other media? How is the legacy of samizdat being preserved and recorded in archives and other institutions? Does it provide any template for activists today? What do we do with the examples of so-called “bad” samizdat, i.e. racist, anti-semitic, and/or extreme nationalist publications that circulated underground during the Cold War but were overshadowed by the attention paid to the “mainstream” underground civil society movements? Do we consider this part of samizdat culture or a separate phenomenon (and is there any relationship between nationalist samizdat with analogous expressions in online environments, such as on LiveJournal in Russia)? Finally, this roundtable will highlight the gaps and incompatibilities between the ‘sub-world’ of dissent and the reality of the respective regimes in which secret police and propaganda, as well as the silent majority, played a significant and at times dominant role. Why did the message of the opposition fail to appeal to the majority in most cases and what are the implications of this ‘failure’ when we look for parallel movements in authoritarian environments today?

Victoria Harms (European U-Viadrina), "From where Samizdat Emerged: The Second Public in the GDR and Hungary"

Libora Oates-Indruchová (Masaryk U), "'Internal Samizdat'?: Academic Publishing and Communication in Czechoslovakia during So-Called Normalization (1969-89)"

Anna Piotrowska (Jagiellonian U), "Polish Roma (Re)presenting Themselves in the Roma Press"

Gorkem Akgoz (IISH), "Markopasa: An Early Example of Turkish Samizdat"

Alisher Sharipov (EHU), "Soviet Samizdat: Materialization of the Truth"

Ivor Stodolsky (Aleksanteri Insitute), “Samizdat Art”

11:30 Coffee

12:00 - 13:30 Session II: Radio

Marsha Siefert (CEU) / Kate Coyer (CEU)

This roundtable will treat radio as a bridge between the “print” and “internet” era. We will begin by looking back to the point at which radio was a new medium, and brought with it the same excitement and utopic mindset that we see surrounding web-based practices today. We will reflect briefly on the early history of radio as it was transformed from a mode of point-to-point communication to broadcasting — and the role of amateur radio operators and other informal groups in developing listening communities. From these early experiences, we are interested in how and why radio continues to be of importance in promoting alternative culture—and alternative political practice—today. Institutions like Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty worked in an almost symbiotic relationship with the circulation of texts in samizdat and tamizdat. Does radio co-exist and complement the dissemination of information over the internet, particularly in censored environments, in much the same way (e.g., Radio B92 in the former Yugoslavia)? Do the listening practices established during the Cold War era in Eastern Europe leave any legacy in today’s media environment(s)? Why does radio remain such a vital medium for the expression of alternative culture today and how does this help us understand the transition to "broadcasting" a message in an online environment?

András Mink (OSA Archivum), "The Totalitarian Experience of Radio"

Victor Radchenko (EISES), "Independent Radio in Belarus"

Ekaterina Bezchagina (RFE/RL), "B92 from Radio to the Web"

Camelia Craciun (CEU), "Radio Free Europe as Political Alternative: Voicing Dissent"

13:30 - 15:00 Lunch

15:00 - 17:00 Session III: Trust

Jessie Labov (Stanford U) / Elizabeth Bucar (UNC-Greensboro)

Moving from the examples of print and radio, this roundtable will focus on the nature of trust in print vs. radio vs. online communities. When asking the question, “does samizdat exist on the web?” we are not just asking about the presence of specific texts which would be banned in specific political environments, but about the establishment of social networks dedicated to disrupting those political environments. Surveying some of the work that has been done on human-computer interface, we will first draw some distinctions between different types of online communities (weblogging, social utilities, participatory networks, smart mobs) that have gained attention for their potential for political mobilization. Do these forms of social interaction engender the same element of trust/friendship which was brought about by the face-to-face interaction at the core of samizdat and other underground networks? If we see samizdat activity as a series of “nested public events,” is this same activity possible on the web? For movements like samizdat to be successful, their message had to be disseminated through virtual communities as well (via transfer and reprinting of texts, via radio). Some aspect of trust was necessary for a particular radio station or journal to be effective in extending that social network. Is there really such a sharp line to be drawn between the virtual communities established during the Cold War and those on the web today?

Friederike Kind-Kovács (ZZF), "Trust between Samizdat and Tamizdat"

Tarana Mahmudova (Baku U), "New Forms of Political Expression in Azerbaijan"

Alla Pigalskaya (EHU), "The Disciplinary Dimension of Blogging. Belarus: Publicity through Blogging"

Helena Popović (U of Zagreb), "Audiences and Fan Practices"

Natia Sirabidze (Batumi U), "Credibility"

18:00 - 19:30 Keynote: Hossein Derakhshan

"Blogging for what kind of change in Iran?"

Weblogs are more popular than anywhere in the Middle East. They have contributed to a Habermasian public sphere, where there is nothing too sacred to discuss. But unlike what many think or wish, this public sphere does not necessarily work against the Iranian government.

Hossein Derakhshan began as a print journalist writing about internet culture in Tehran before emigrating to Canada in 2001. There, he began his bilingual weblog "Sardabir: khodam," or "Editor: Myself," encouraging others both inside of Iran and in emigration to start their own blogs. Mr. Derakhshan is often credited with initiating the Persian blogging movement, AKA Weblogistan, and his own blog has been filtered by the Iranian government since 2004. Beyond speaking out against internet censorship (in 2003 he founded the site, Mr. Derakhshan has publicly taken political positions, such as traveling to Israel as a peace activist, and has loudly criticized the Bush administration’s aggressive stance towards Iran. In addition to maintaining his own blog in Persian and English (, he has a column in The Guardian ( and writes regularly for The Washington Post's Post Global section. He is currently pursuing a post-graduate degree with the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London.

Respondent: Elizabeth Bucar (UNC-Greensboro), “Free Speech in Weblogistan? The Offline Consequences of Online Communication”

Chair: Barbara Falk (CFC)

19:30 Reception

Thursday, 21 February

9:30 Coffee

10:00 - 12:00 Session IV: Inter/Active/Net: Politics Of/On the Net

Imre Szemán (McMaster U) / Miklós Sükösd (CEU Political Science) / Balázs Bodó (MOKK) / Arne Hintz (CEU CMCS)

The advent of the Internet was initially viewed by both theorists and activists in an utopic fashion. It was imagined that the spread of electronic communications would bring about the long hoped for eclipse of national-cultural divisions; that political and alternative communities could more freely connect not only with one another but with the public at large; and that capitalism itself would be threatened by the new forms of identity and subjectivity brought into existence by the Net. Twenty years into the life of Internet, these hopes have given way to a more cautious, complex view of the Net and its alternative politics. If we look past the commercialism of parts of the Internet, there is certainly a plethora of alternative positions advocated on the web from a wide-range of perspectives. However, with some exceptions, these political energies have not resulted in broad-scale political change; if anything, capital seems to have extensified (complete proletarianization of labour) and intensified (biopower) its grip on earth. This roundtable which consider the role that the Internet has played, continue to plays and will play in the future for forms of alternative cultural and political expression.

Aleksandra Kleschina (Ekaterinburg State University), "The Public Position and Role of Russian Bloggers in the Development of Civil Society"

Viktor Martinovich (BSU), "Blogs that rule news-papers and TV: the Belarusian Case"

Ekaterina Lapina-Kratasyuk (Russian State University for the Humanities), "News in Contemporary Russia: TV vs. the Internet"

Alisa Prudnikova (NCAC, Yekaterinburg), "Where is Political Art in Russia Today and How Can Alternative Media help to construct it?"

Elena Strukova (RSHL): "Internet Resources and the 2007 Elections to the State Duma"

12:00 - 14:00 Lunch

14:00 - 16:00 Session V: Freedom

Barbara Falk (CFC) / András Bozóki (CEU) / Almira Ausmanova (EHU)

This roundtable focuses on the nature of freedom and political action in online communities. What kind of freedom to choose does access to the internet allow? If coalition building was the basis for all successful actions in Central and Eastern Europe, is this possible on the web (and is being a member of a coalition a kind of virtual community anyway)? Can online communities be a source of liberation/freedom for those in social isolation? Is there a difference between turning to the internet for exchange of information (as we see in political crises where media is shut down, i.e. Pakistan, Burma, or on a longer-term basis in China) and using it for freedom of expression in a censored environment (blogging in Iran)?

Natalia Sokolova (Samara State University), "Popular Culture and the Politics of Resistance in the New Media Age"

Natalia Koulinka (Belarus State U), "Gender Modeling in Traditional Print Media and Blogging"

Hajrudin Hromadzić (U of Zagreb), "New Perspectives of the Media Public"

Dzmitri Karenka (EHU), "Subversive Political Communication: the Medium or the Message?"

Viktoriya Kanstantsiuk (EHU), "New Media and New Forms of Subjectivity and Publicity"

16:30 Reception

Event is organized and supported by: OSA Archivum, International Alternative Culture Center (IACC), Center for Media and Communications Studies (CMCS) and the Curriculum Resource Center (CRC) of Central European University (CEU), OSI-HESP ReSET "Alternative Culture Beyond Borders" and Challenge Seminar "Visual Studies of Immedia", International Samizdat [Research] Association.

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