Last week I spoke at the Eurasian Media Forum in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The conference brings together journalists, business leaders, academics and politicians for two days of discussion ranging from news coverage of global events such as the current economic crisis to the implications of the Obama Presidency on East-West relations.
It’s a pretty far flung place, but one with a fascinating mix of influences – cultural, economic, political, historical, religious. The conference is hosted by none other than the Daughter of the President, so the security bubble it (rightly) exists within also makes it quite different from most of the conferences I’ve been invited to.
I went, at least in part, in the hope that by talking about the tools and techniques of blogging and social media, I could encourage delegates to think about being more open, transparent and direct in their dealings with audiences, consumers and, for the politicians in attendance, the populaces they govern. It was my usual sort of presentation but attendance at my talk was a bit disappointing which I later discovered was because a small scale protest was going on outside the building. Dan Kennedy blogged about that and what happened in the subsequent panel which we both participated in, on his blog Media Nation.
Obviously, I can’t profess to have been aware of the protest at the time I was on stage nor could I, as an outsider, ever expect to fully understand it – Central Asia has cultural and contextual differences that can, without a proper analysis, make it hard for Westerners to fully unpick things. What I can say is that the purpose of the conference – creating a broad forum for debate about media, politics, society and business- made it absolutely worth attending. It’s an even more important debate in this region, where many are still trying to figure out exactly where they fit into a world that has changed dramatically around and within them over the past decade.