A second helping of Picnic


Picnic time, again! EJC editor Elisa Delaini so enjoyed the first helping that she thought, ‘Why not go back for seconds?’

Here’s how it went:
I am not gifted with ubiquity, so I couldn’t simultaneously follow the whole festival programme. But I did check out some partner events, attended interesting sessions at the main conference and organised the European Journalism Centre’s own event, the European Bloggers (Un)Conference.
Plus, of course, capped a few days with dessert at Picnic@Night!

It was at times exhausting, but Picnic comes once a year, so I had to manage and simply do it.

Feeling committed and full of energies, I started with a workshop organised by Hivos about the openness of the Internet. Of course, the web gave us a space that looks infinite. It seems everybody blogs.
But what happens when instead of posting pictures of your kitty you blog about political prisoners in Tunisia and build a mashup showing where they are kept? What if you wake up in the morning and you find out that Youtube is blocked and your government officially declares that technical problems are making social networking sites inaccessible?

Back to the main conference on Wednesday.
I didn’t know that somebody was collecting emotions expressed in weblogs and visualising them in colours and frequencies. Jonathan Harris uses what he calls ‘passive observation’ to map happiness, anger and every feeling that people decided to share by posting something in the blogoshpere. I am curious,
I open ‘We feel fine’. A lot of small colored dots floating on the screen. I click on a blue one. ‘I’m working on an anti corruption project in Russia, so it’s not I feel like I am in a position to pay anyone bribes.’ Well, that makes sense. Along with other posts containing ‘I feel’, or ‘I am feeling’, that person’s emotions are stored and arranged in murmurs, metrics, montage, etc. Discovering the different visualizations is pure pleasure. Harris’ latest project, Universe, explore news in a constellation of words. ‘It’s a new metaphor for organising information rather than a web page,’ Harris explains.

On Thursday, a strongly anticipated speaker at Future technology trends, Jeff Han, unfortunately cancelled. To fill the gap, hacker and futurist Pablos came on stage. In a both informative and hilarious session he explained that most people have a false sense of security in this age where cars, phones and many other gadgets are computers in disguise. Pablos designed devices that automatically hack into Wi-fi signals and discover passwords giving them the shape of robots and guns. He helped create the world’s smallest PC and even managed to change Cory (Boing Boing) Doctorow’s voicemail message live on stage through Skype.

On Friday, the tracks Feel, Make and Play anticipated the Ultimate PICNIC Show, which wrapped up the 4-day experience with videos and round-table discussions of what happened at Picnic 07.
Monique van Dusseldorp, the programme director of Picnic, enthusiastically thanked the participants of the European Bloggers (Un)conference for travelling to Amsterdam and invited the EJC to host the conference again next year.

At the end of Picnic 07, 8.700 people are part of its network. The interactions that started in Westergasfabriek can continue virtually, until the third edition of the event in 2008 will give people another opportunity to gather. For those who couldn’t participate, most of the sessions are now available online in the Picnic Archives. A Twitter page for the event was created and the Picnic Aggregator brings together in a crowd sourcing experiment blogs, pictures and videos taken during the week.