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Yesterday I gave a talk, along with Asteris Masouras on social media and activism for students of the school of journalism at the Aristotelion university of Thessaloniki. The talks was part of the course, Blogs and the New Media: legal matters and ethics organised by professor Elsa Delagianni. It was a nerve wrecking experince speaking in front of an audience in Greek and I'm sure that I garbled my grammar on more than one occasion. Still, both mine and Asteris's presentations on the uses of blogs, Twitter, Delicious and the like were well received.
As promised here is the slide show presentation I used along with a brief summary of my talk in English and a list of the sites mentioned. I will also post the video of the event as soon as it becomes available.
Greek riots 2008 - Using social media to tell a different story
The presentation is divided into three sections:
Finding out what was happening
The internet tools used to find out about events during the riots and protests that followed the death of 15 year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos on 6th December 2008. The killing of the teenager by a police officer sparked off a wave of violent responses that last nearly a month.
Using Twitter, blogs, Indymedia Athens, Technorati and Google's Blog Search I was able to find information on what was happening both here in Thessaloniki and across the country. In the beginning these were virtually the sources of reliable information available as the mainstream media were at a loss to explain what was happening and limited their coverage to long distance shots of burning streets and interviews with self - proclaimed experts who had no direct connection with the events happening in Athens and other cities.
Getting your story out
For most December I went out onto the streets to cover the marrches, demonstrations and riots that were taking place daily in Thessaloniki and then going home to publish the pictures I had taken and write article to explain the story behind the images. I used participatory journalism sites sites such as CNN's Ireport, Nowpublic and Guardian weekly to post stories and also wrote of my blog, put photos on Flickr and added video to Youtube.
As a result within days I was giving interviews to CNN, BBC, Sky news as well as French and Egyptian news outlets. The paradox was that foreign media services half a world away were better informed about what was happening here than their Greek counterparts who literally were just a kilometre or two away from what was happening.
The difference being that reporters in paris, London and New York had taken advatgae of the opportunities that social media sites such as Twitter and blogs offer in getting out a story and decided to interview those directly involved, Greek TV stations limited themselves to endless footage of burning cars and "analysis" by politicians who were at a loss to understand what was going on and just just that gap to peddle their own conspiracy theories. I don't think I saw an interview with anyone under 40 till nearly two weeks after the riots had kicked off.
A personal impressions of what happened
At one point I wrote in my blog that I felt like I had lived six months worth of experiences in six days. The more I look back at my blog entries from that period the more I believe that. December proved to be one of the pivotal moments in my life, a period of intense excitment, mixed in with large does of fear and exhaustion. The routine of going out and photographing, the often violent protests, researching and writing aricles as well as trying to fit in my day job as a teacher meant that by the day Chritmas came I was on the verge of burning out.
On the other hand I felt I had embarked on a hyper intensive journalism course in which months of tuition were compressed into a matter of days. In addition the huge gulf between what I witnessed and what the mainstream media reported confirmed many of the suspicions I had before abou