Sunday, March 07, 2010

Young Leaders Social Media Café launch in Beirut

There has been all these talks about Social Media in Lebanon and the Arab world lately, and it's definitely nothing new. There is the web 2.0, the latest extremely popular social networks such as facebook and twitter, there is mostly the sharing spirit such as youtube, the manifestation of talent or simply good times such as flickr, the new way of knowledge stream such as wikipedia, and the window to the world such as giant search engines, i.e. google, and the blogosphere (sustained by blogger, wordpress...), all this is what everybody has been experiencing in this virtual yet so real world and can feel like it's no longer just logging into the internet, checking your emails and sharing some photos.

The project is initiated by the Swedish Institute, and coordinated by Hiba FARHAT in Beirut. More on their blog.

Young Leaders Social Media Café (YLSMC) is a part of Young Leaders Visitors Program which was successfully launched in 2008, and yesterday, Saturday March 6, was the launching of YLSMC in Lebanon, precisely in Zico's House, it will continue to happen almost once a month in many of the MENA region. The program included fast-paced presentation by International and Regional Speakers including the most influential figures in social media worldwide.

The main purpose of these presentations is to incite young persons out there to think outside the box, to work hard, do what they love and are passionate about, and definitely use social media for their benefit in a constructive way.

Mark COMERFORD was one of the presenters who participated in YLSMC, he is from STOCKHOLM University, he gave a pretty unconventional and heavy presentation about how Digital Media will F*ck you up. For him it's not the fact that social media changed the way we deal with life, instead he mentioned that before, we used to do things in private and we decide if we want them to go public, yet on web 2.0, it's the opposite.

He was barefoot, I asked him why? He said he's been doing it for the past 15 years in all his presentations, and that he doesn't remember why, I didn't believe him of course, but I respected the fact that he didn't want to elaborate more, yet he continued saying:

"I walk around a lot".

Another presentation was done by Sami BEN GHARBIA - Advocacy Global Voices Online.

This presentation certainly shed light on some pretty shocking numbers which awakened in us the sense of solidarity with many people who get arrested even jailed because of blogging and the censorship that is being imposed in their country on them. The point of the presentation wasn't to scare people away from blogging, instead it was there to encourage people to find different and various methods to keep blogging and sending out information concerning their situation. You can view the presentation "Digital Activism and online free speech" here.

I was also very happy to know about the WIT (Women in Technology) initiative which is there to help and encourage women over 50 - which generation didn't get the chance of learning how to use a pc and the internet - how to extend themselves through these online tools, the presentation was given by Nada Hamzeh. Another speaker "Jessica Dheere" actually stressed on that same point:

When you're using media, you're basically extending yourself, be it a paintbrush, a camera... 
Nada showed us a video about women in Lebanon who learned how to use a computer and about blogging, and were sharing their experience in blogging. Some of these women blog in order to promote their business abroad. WITLebanon basically train these women in order to obtain the skills mentioned earlier.

A woman said:
I used to just clean the dust from off the computer, now I use one and have a blog.

Another nice project was presented by Simba and Edd Abbas from Taste Kulcha.

Taste Culture organizes various cultural events like film screenings, African / Asian cuisine, photo exhibitions, installations, hip hop, music and public discussions so as to link African, Asian and Arab cultures and struggles

Moreover they spoke about the recent events they've been holding, such as "7keeleh", which is an open mic session at its best for hip hop, poetry, spoken word and music. It is hosted by Fareeq el Atrash.

We were lucky enough to hear a small jam by Edd, an incredibly nice song, genre hip hop.

Many other speakers participated, you can read more about them here.

Live tweeting was taking place yesterday, reporting live on speakers and presentations content, audience's mood and interaction, and the whole ambiance in general, it was done on twitter, and you can read them here.

Thanks to Hiba who gave me the chance to be part and help out yesterday, nevertheless in reality watch great presentations and speed network with great persons out there.

My advice would be when YLSMC comes to your country, make sure you attend. Food for thought.


  1. Great event! Thank you Hiba, the Swedish Institute, and the speakers for making me a smarter person :)

    Mark's presentation was very good, too bad his toes grabbed more attention than necessary. (many more people, including I, asked him about his shoes)

  2. Nice post, enjoyed reading every word of it, and yes add me to those wondering why Mark was shoe free.