Reportage fra Amman

In December 2010, female bloggers from Denmark and the Arab World met for an intensive workshop in Amman. The workshop quickly became an action mill, sprawling with ideas centered on interaction.

The thrust being this: if we did well indulging in some creative expression processes on our individual blogs, what would it take to weave those individual processes together and tap into what will come of it?

When Nora Fitzgerald wrote on her blog Life in Marrakesh 10 top broken things, she spelt a crack of air into the ordinary and made it present itself in quite a distinctive way.

From sidewalks, to painted lines on the ground that mark the road’s lanes, to birth certificates, Fitzgerald walks us through different things around her that get broken.

In the process, she reveals a piece of her Moroccan city, an everyday that doesn’t hold enough cruxes for others to write about it. Yet, when she does, she slips some food for her reader’s imagination about life in Marrakech. She knows it and masters it.

“Blogging is about turning ordinary things in life into extraordinary things,” is how she introduced her self in the second Women Bloggers workshop in Amman, December 2010.

ADB10, short for Arab-Danish bloggers 2010, became the group’s hashtag on Twitter, which was flooded with thoughtful comments, excited cheers and hip compliments, amongst other things.

But Arab-Danish bloggers in Amman remained solely a hashtag, and not necessarily a label that bestows a burden of representation on the workshop’s members.

In May 2010, DCCD alongside KVINFO, supported the first Arab-Danish women bloggers workshop in Cairo, where 15 participants met and talked about the wide-ranging scope of their online activity for three days. From digital activism, to art making, to aimless individual meanderings, the differences looked piercing.

When they were initially pronounced, they were accompanied by the fears and tensions of representation; representation of a culture, of a country or of a blogsphere.

Tensions faded to the background

With the development of various mutual engagements among workshop members and new comers, those tensions slowly faded to the background.

In Amman, women spoke assertively and creatively about their blogs and blogposts. The national and cultural connotations were still there, but left for someone else, a researcher or an academic or an observer, to study them. They no longer became a subject of interest to the meeting.

Instead, a state of collective individualities rose. We learn about the pharmacist gone astray, delving into the eclectic world of technology and web design.

We learn about the journalist who rejoices going back to her blog, “because it’s nice to have a place where you’re not edited all the time.” So, she feeds it with her passion for old pictures that are “not very personal yet quite personal”, poetry and picks on feminist representations in the media.

Blogging is like being in at kitchen

We also learn about how “writing in a blog is like being in a kitchen” where you ponder over how scattered happenings of the day can come together and form a creative piece of expression.

We learn how blogging can be a site of memory, where the past is reactivated and revisited with a gaze on the future.

Past insightful introductions, the workshop quickly became an action mill, sprawling with ideas centered on interaction.

The thrust being this: if we did well indulging in some creative expression processes on our individual blogs, what would it take to weave those individual processes together and tap into what will come of it?

Digital platform

A digital platform was built to house those weavings. After countless back-and-forths, Blog-on became its name. Blog-on will become a house for a common theme that all group members will blog about on a weekly basis.

The theme is curated by a group member who pitches the idea to the rest, opens up ways of expressing it and mobilizes the exercise across borders and seas.

This exercise extends from the Cairo Workshop, after which participants blogged collectively about common themes, including the city, food and more.

Blog-on will also house a collectively designed fictional character that derives traits and features from personal psyches, lifestyles and social surroundings. The built character interrogates in the betwixt and between of the fictional and the non-fictional.

The introductory text of Blog-on, which describes what this project is about, is collaboratively built through a series of individual statements written by the different group members.

The statements mix the trivial with the serious and pronounce what comes in between. The final statement will stand to speak to the institutional statement of the project that was ordered long before this knotting exercise took place.

Blog-on aside, the project participants are building an exhibit-able artwork based on their blogging activities.

Titled Action-Reaction, bloggers will engage in a series of responses to each other’s posts of preference, and the responses will unfold in an art form that draws on existing skills; photography, illustration, poetry and more! The resulting artwork will be on display in Copenhagen in May 2011.

Spurring creativity

The spurring creativity around those ideas and others did not sideline pressing questions and did not pretend they don’t matter.

A discussion about language of blogging loomed for a while with divergences centered on whether we should be faithful to our native languages when blogging or whether we should use English as a common language of understanding for such a dialogue project.

The debate exposed many layers that were urgent to the shaping of the project’s function: Are we here to communicate among ourselves? Are we here to talk to the outside world? Are we here to talk to our local blogspheres? Without falling into grand nationalistic traps, the conversation opened up some profound fields of thought around language, and when it stops being an ideology and starts being a mere tool.

The hype around blogging is perhaps outdated now, in a post-blogging era where owning a personal parcel of the cyber space has become business as usual and where Twitter and Facebook are the vogue of social media.

But what is not outdated is how this space continues to house and produce personal narratives that make us think of the world differently. When those territories meet, art emerges and possibilities unfold.

ADB10 became a mere acronym that served a temporary function. Blog-on is next to come.

Reportage by Lina Attalah, regional coordinator