Monday, March 19, 2007

It continues :)

I'll just copy and paste from Onnik's report from Transparency International's blog for now since he summed it up so extremely well. Barring any further internet and technical difficulties, my video footage from the event will be up soon...

It’s been included in the Oxford English Dictionary since 2004, but it’s unlikely that more than a handful of people in Armenia know what a flash mob is. It’s even less likely that anybody actually cares, but nonetheless, history was made in Yerevan today when Sksel a, an informal grouping of civil society activists working to activate youth in time for the May parliamentary election, organized Armenia’s first ever flash mob.

In modern usage, flash mob describes a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, do something unusual for a brief period of time, and then quickly disperse. They are usually organized with the help of the Internet or other communications networks.

The term has also been applied to distributed mobs, who use similar means to coordinate sudden large scale simultaneous actions in multiple locations. An example of such an action is the widespread use of mobile phones in the 2005 civil unrest in France to coordinate widespread social disruption.

Usually, the organizers of such events don’t tell participants what exactly will happen and why, and today’s event was no exception. Apart from a non-descriptive advert posted on various blogs such as this one, no other details were announced prior to the
event. Even so, after two previously successful events, enough interest was aroused to attract around 150-200 young Armenians to turn up at the park opposite Yerevan’s Conservatory.


Of course, most of those attending were also present at Sksel a’s Barekendan and Կես կատակ կես լուրջ ցուՅցահանդես events, but for Armenia even this is impressive given the level of apathy and non-involvement in society. However, when interviewed by one journalist, a 15-year-old girl said she had attended all three events so far, but wasn’t too sure what this one was hoping to achieve. Still, perhaps that’s not too surprising.

Standing at the corner of each intersection leading into the roundabout opposite Yerevan’s Opera House, as well as circling the grassy area in its center, each participant stood with a newspaper reading separate articles of their choice out aloud. Also wearing hats made out of newspapers, the sight and sound of that alone was surreal and unexpected enough for Armenia even in this day and age.

As were leaflets handed out asking “are you satisfied with yourself, or with the person next to you?,” “are you guilty?,” and “are you afraid, or don’t you care?”

Tamar Palandjian, Youth Program Coordinator at the Civil Society Institute (CSI) says that the purpose of the event was straightforward enough. Under banners that asked “Shall We Read?” the event was aimed at encouraging the population to read newspapers. With all of the television stations under direct or indirect government
control
, the only plurality of opinion and diversity of information can be found in the print media.

Even so, newspaper circulation remains low with actual readership even lower, and even the most popular of papers can publish only a few thousand copies each day. Nevertheless, if the purpose of the event was to get people to take interest in the press, then the flash mob achieved its goal. Cars and public transport passing by stopped to take copies of the newspapers participants were handing out until the police asked the organizers to stop in case traffic was disrupted.

Once again, there were even a few members of the Diaspora in attendance, including representatives of two significant organizations albeit there in a personal capacity, and most observers were overall impressed with the new approaches taken by Sksel a with regards to activating society, and in particular youth. However, many still remain unsure as to where Sksel a is heading, and whether it’s ultimate goal is clear enough.

One participant attending for the first time, for example, said that she wanted to be involved with something, but wasn’t entirely sure what. Still, such events might help direct young Armenians in that sense, and it was interesting to see that after the initial action itself, participants were encouraged to cut out those articles they found most interesting to paste to a large board erected in the park.

“They’re making their own newspaper,” remarked one young Armenian from the Diaspora. “I wonder what it says?”

More events are planned in the very near future.

1 comment:

Evangelia said...

noush, i am SO proud of you :)