First blogger to put his hands on the Phone Around The World comes from the country of Georgia. Currently residing in Tbilisi, the capitol, he spent couple years at university in Bulgaria where he started his blog called “The Young Georgians”. You probably heard of Georgia recently, Dear Reader, because of the parliamentary elections and change of “the power”, which was called the first democratic change in Caucasus. But let’s forget about the mainstream voice and hear what the young Georgian has to say.
Podróżniccy: Mirian, we know each other for a while, I am happy that you agreed to join our initiative as the first one, becoming the “guinea pig”, but even though we shared the fair share of Khinkali together (traditional Georgian dumplings) I still don’t know one thing – why did you call your blog “The Young Georgians”?
Mirian Jugheli: The initial initiative was to create a web portal for young Georgians who would like to create content not only for Georgia but for abroad as well and this is why the blog is mostly in English.
What’s hidden behind “Young”? New? Better? Beginner? You?
At the moment new, interactive media is in a phase of development in Georgia, lately mainstream media started quoting blogs, Facebook statuses, tweets, etc. and two years ago, when I started the blog it was not like that, hence I thought of creating something that would be interactive with local and international youth, as you may have seen most of the content is about things that young generation is interested in (social media, sports, activism, online tools, etc.)
Is the young generation really interested in activism?
Recent prison abuse protest is a clear example that young generation is interested in what is happening around them and they are getting involved. The entire protest was organized, promoted and covered online, using Facebook, YouTube, blogs, Twitter, etc. And I hope for more to come.
How was it used in detail? Organisation or awareness?
As Georgians say, they knew about prison abuse but many did not believe until they saw it themselves. The videos were aired on a TV channel, however it was immediately uploaded on YouTube and it went viral on Facebook (Most used social network in Georgia). The response was also immediate, a group of students created a Facebook event where they called for students from all universities to join and protest violations and abuses in local prisons. Promotional videos were created that were also posted on YouTube and later shared on Facebook. In the meantime protests were organized not only in Tbilisi but other cities as well, all the content from there was coming online, from citizen reporters, bloggers who were on cite. And you know like in many countries youth spends more time online than offline watching TV, so it was a right campaign with right delivery of messages.
How many other young Georgians – create blogs? Did this event inspire any growth?
I don’t think it increased a number of blogs, however it inspired many young bloggers who were apathetic about these issues to write about them, to express their ideas and join discussion.
Is blogging popular in Georgia?
Among individual bloggers (who have their own blogs) It is but writing about personal issues is more popular than let’s say political blogging. However on blogs of news organizations like RFE/RL’s Georgian service posts about political, social, etc. issues are really popular.
Really? Georgians are open up to public so much? That is not our impression.
Yes, some of them are, especially the young generation.
What topics go viral?
Church, LGBT, political satire
So how does the social media help young georgians?
In recent years we have seen a lot of protests planned and promoted online, according to Facebook, 860,000 Georgians are registered (Many fake accounts) which if say the population of Country is 4,5M every 5th Georgian is on Facebook and the biggest group is 18-24, students. They promote their ideas and content on social media and many discussion are happening on Facebook and only after they go viral mainstrem media covers them.
In Poland most popular blogs are: cooking, fashion and lifestyle. Then tech and others. Do you see any of those?
One of the most popular blogs (GE: http://ratatui.me EN: http://eatandtour.com/) is actually about cooking and it offers recipes of Georgian and international cuisine, reviews of cafes, etc. Lifestyle is also popular, fashion and tech not much, however there are Facebook groups like Georgian Mac Users Group where people discuss ideas, technical issues, etc.
What about political and activist blogs?
Political blogging as I have said mostly happens on news organizations’ blogs, however some individual bloggers write about it too. As of the church, many individual bloggers write about it, they raise their concerns, the latest post that was viral yesterday was about the new government increasing the Patriarchate budget.
Hmmm. In Poland we dont have many popular blogs about politics or activism. There are well known politicians who blog. There are “radical” right of left winged people who create buzz due to their views but centric voice is not present. When we have a presentation about activism or situation of bloggers in other countries – usually big silence follows. Is this something to be ashamed of or something other “bogospheres” countries should want?
I think most will agree that political blogging is important, mainstream media sometimes misses out or simply does not cover issues that are actually important and that’s when bloggers come in. In case of the Patriarchate budget increase, no media has actually questioned why it increased or how it will be spent or how has it been spent before. People who are concerned about these funds wrote about it on Facebook, blogs, etc. and it’s still one of the most debated topics for this week. Of course apathy and slacktivism is everywhere, I really like a Canadian project called Apathy is Boring: http://www.apathyisboring.com/ and I always tell my students to be active online and ask questions, join debates and raise issues.
You wish to have more cooking or more political bloggers?
Both. But more political and society-related.
We could continue this interview for ever BUT dear Reader – please ask questions to Mirian in comments – he is waiting there to talk. I have another one – you will have Phone Around The World for couple days. Any plans? Do you know what your One Cool Thing is going to be?
Mirian Jugheli: No idea yet but many thoughts, we’ll see.
Okay, let it be :)
Sidenote: at the moment there’s a joint Open Air talk show LIVE on three TV channels about the November 7, 2007 protest violently dispersed by police; and the public poll is conducted on Facebook instead of people calling or sending SMS to a certain number.