Babel Ackademy 2008: young, journalist and enterprising
Rome. Fiumicino airport. The exit of terminal C. Thirty glorious degrees over five days in early September. Forty young people clucking about like your typical fifteen-year old adolescents, unleashed at the doors of their first ever nightclub. Only here, we are surrounded by suitcases, backpacks and trolleys.
Perhaps they are a hysterical group of Ricky Martin fans? Some political party’s puppies preparing an ambush for the new season? A brotherhood of nostalgic scouts and guides without any plans for the summer? They are waiting for the bus which will take them two and a half hours away to Isola Polvese, the biggest island on Trasimeno Lake, in the heart of Italy’s Umbria region. Pine trees, belfries and pot holes fly by along the motorway.
From daddy cools to buzzing mosquitos
These guys are the props in a journalistic adventure apt to the twenty-first century. They make transnational media triumph over the maturer models of national journalism, the oldest of which isn’t more than thirty. They represent up to nineteen European countries from Estonia to Spain. They blurt out their own nonsense in between guffaws, all trying to speak in a common language which isn’t their native tongue, forced to use vocabulary which neither dazzles nor claims much splendour. It’s not Shakespeare’s English, Dante’s Italian or Moliere’s French, but they are spoken and shared with equal enthusiasm alongside Cervantes’ Spanish, Camões’ Portuguese or Kafka’s Czech. Viola Fiore (read: ‘Violet Flower’), our summer Italian intern in Paris HQ, is factótum in choosing this idyllic spot. She is also the unlucky one percent who loses her luggage along the way, which is hopefully not en route to Dubai on the Kuwait Airways Boeing which the team from Paris have just climbed off. Later, once settled in the bunker bed room, someone in the team has managed to sort her out clean undies, skirts, vests and various hygienic means in the form of friendly and discreet contraband; she can forget about the segregation which chance plays a hand with with many fellow travellers of the globalised world.
The fourth edition of cafebabel.com’s biannual ‘Babel Ackademy’ – cafebabel.com’s very own European participatory journalism academy - has just kicked off in Italy, after previous editions in Barcelona, Bombannes, Bois le Roi abd Berlin. As tradition dictates for an organisation born in 2001, cafebabel.com’s inner workings and equilibrium have an element of mystery to them. ‘Fernando,’ uh-oh – I rememeber a Spanish translator’s email to me, which arrives in my inbos one hour before the publication of a translation of an article. ‘I am in India and have spent the last two days suffering from extreme diorrhea, so I couldn’t get the translation to you this time.’
But this group of apparent daddy cool trippers are not here to start sucking each other's dicks just yet, a la Harvey Keitel ( The Wolf in Pulp Fiction). In an almost scientifically isolated atmosphere, populated almost only by hovering clouds of mosquitos, they are here to become those very irritating mosquitos which tug on the ears of Europe’s politicians. A Public European Opinion is the main goal which rises up like the main actor in the European elections of June 2009, due to wind down the political discourse we are premiering here. We are isolated on doctor’s orders, says Julien Bidoret, one half part of the Pau-based Oxys duo, the technical wizards behind cafebabel.com’s online creation. ‘Cafebabel.com is not a closed sphere,’ Bidoret clarifies, ‘which has to connect with the rest of the blogosphere and network in general.’ A heart ready to beat systoles and diastoles to nourish and feed itself with new journalism, up until the final capillary of the most remote local team in Europe’s last confines.
Strategy for 2009: less sexual fantasies, more just do it
The star projects which cafebabel.com launch from September 2008 to September 2009 include EU Campaign On the Ground and Eudebate2009.eu. ‘Journalism 1.0 is dead,’ Adriano Farano, director of publication repeats. ‘Journalism 2.0 means that even if an article is published online, it doesn’t mean that it is complete.’ More following through of concrete themes, lesser publication of more useful, accurate and connected articles? Time to discuss concrete strategies. And of course, nothing is left out under the microscope. ‘Up until now, cafebabel.com has been an overly pyramidal structure,’ Bidoret says. ‘The work done by a network of volunteers has to be more horizontal. Less Kominterns, less Soviets, more just doing it!’
What about the newest technical tools we can play with? ‘We want to be able to run surveys in the babelblogs! We want to be able to contact babelbloggers more easily!’ What about a life-sized piano?! Very shortly, cafebabel.com will be enjoying newer customised babelblog designs, video carrousels, interactive photo galleries, and less ‘error 500s’ which freeze our webpages when they crash. ‘Anyway,’ Farano insists, ‘as technology speeds on we fantasise increasingly. Bt we have to stay realistic with our goals!’ Tell me about it; forty online journalists gathered on one Italian island with not miserable wi-fi connection in the air!
Text: Fernando Navarro
Translation: Nabeelah Shabbir