• Belem expanded report 2009

last modified December 4, 2009 by jnardi


Two Com Com working groups have worked on non media communication:
1) Inter communication working group, with referents Caritas France and Nova, with a
project for Hub of remote live intercommunication through video-chats in the frame of
Belem Expandida (which used also the website for preparation of the “event”)
2) On line participation working group, with referent Caritas France: a project of stimulation
of use of openfsm.net and support of the Belem organising committee for results  and

Emergence of  Belem Expanded social forum
The concept and name “ Belém expanded” (Belex) appeared in April 2008 in Abuja
International Council session. A team in the communication commission started thereafter
to work on the idea with Belém organizing committee people. The non confirmation status
of Belém expanded during the methodology meeting in July made it more difficult to
sensitize and include Belém organizing people in the build-up of the project.
A comprehensive project description document, based on previous experiences, was sent
in August to organizing and support committee dimensioned to a hub of 10 rooms
[ http://openfsm.net/projects/fsm2009interconexoes/projeto-para-o-espaco-em-Belém-
revisoes-na-ortografia-da-versao-em-portugues ]
In Belém the organising committee decided not to give to Belém Expanded registration
access in the event site, as requested, which would have probably been a strong incentive
for people out of Belém to confirm earlier their participation. Belém Expanded was
discussed and confirmed in September in Copenhagen International Council session – see
the invitation here: [ http://openfsm.net/projects/club-Belémexpanded/english]
At that meeting, some people expressed second thoughts about the concept of distance-
participation, either on the technical side (could not visualize what a collective video chat
can be), or political side (fear of taking strength out of Belém event, by making the trip to
Belém less necessary).

Dimensioning of team: visibility and space allotment
A small group of 4 people gathered in October in a facilitating team for on-line outreach,
backed by some announcements in the Wsf bulletin and the invitation issued by the IC in
Copenhagen. This phase was not easy, as the modest initial facilitating team was
weakened in many ways.  The  Wsf office (salaried staff), withdrew from being really active
WSF2009 – Communication commission shared projects report – p. 30
on line, at least partly because he did not feel it was within his expected scope of work,
and then was assigned to other tasks in Press centre. The IPF component withdrew
silently from the team in November, because was assigned to other tasks about Belém
internet infrastructure. The Nova component was taken a lot by Israeli attack on Gaza in
December, so her on line input during the outreach phase was significant but minor than
expected. So much of the work relied on the Caritas component, volunteer, whose input
stayed ongoing. A positive element was the partial availability and concern from a
Norwegian volunteer present in Belém, although with a limited scope. The project survived
in Belém thanks to help of other people who were somehow connected to it through
preliminary contacts (France, New York and Barcelona).
This draws a problematic map of involvement – that will be the main challenge for next
Remote communication with Belém
It proved rather difficult to include timely and with relevant information people from outside
Belém in the logistical preparation; this resulted in some mishaps that could have easily
been avoided. An example of this is the program for Belém Expanded: it took 12 pages of
the paper program in Belém but at the same time, since no one was really caring for it, the
exact location of the rooms was not visibly explained. Also the uncertainty about
availabilities of a (good) internet connection until the very last was like a de-motivation to
cooperation and proactive work. Finally, with the structural separation in two territories 5
km apart, it appeared that the street where the Belex rooms were located was not central.
Belém expanded was finally allotted 5 rooms: 1 computer room, 1 classroom and 3 rooms
neer the media center, which were used intensively
[ http://openfsm.net/projects/fsm2009interconexoes/spacebelexdetail ]
 The initial project was with 10 rooms and was downsized to 5; if there are had been more
publicity and the registration for Belém expandida on the same way as for Belém event,
probably the number of application would have been much higher. In that case a bigger
facilitating team in Belém would have been needed.
Outreach process
The outreach effort from October to January gathered  140 people in a  space and
associated mailing list: http://openfsm.net/projects/club-belemexpanded/project-home
Coming from 35 places
Early January a program was made
A chat room was installed which allowed some informal contact between Belém expanded
participants: http://openfsm.net/projects/club-Belémexpanded/chatbelex
Belém expanded had two facets: local organizing and online connection.
 Some groups were more interested in local organizing, some were interested in linking
WSF2009 – Communication commission shared projects report – p. 31
according to a standard passive format (interview slot – receiving videos).Some thought
having a live report from fellows in Belém.
Material installation and day to day logistics in the Belex hub
Internet connection was installed on 25th of January and inappropriate machines (too
basic or with insufficient memory) installed on 26th. We tried to use them on 27th,  then we
switched to using laptops and then kept hunting for usable lent laptops during the 4 days.
A little budget had been secured for material because it was increasingly clear that many
things would have to be purchased in the last moment. The video chat material was
bought at about 2000 euros, as well as rented video projectors. The only local usable
material was one video projector from the university;  we had brought 2 and had to rent 2.
We bought 5 stereo sound system and webcams and microphones and cable extensions
and adapters, and steel cables for equipment security.
Recommendation: if there is a big enough facilitating group (this is a critical point),
people can commit to bring their equipment laptops and video projectors and security
cables - then in complement,  small laptops can be bought and video projector rented in
complement after mobilizing local resources.
Volunteer training was held on Jan 24, 26 and 27, gathering around 20 volunteers. Ideally
we needed more trained and involved people that would accompany the last month of
preparation and outreach,  but linked to the absence of involved local actors, this was not
the case.  In general, volunteers came less than asked,  less skilled than hoped, practically
no volunteers came from the university. No international volunteer were provided by the
organizing committee (having a volunteer welcoming space on line would have helped).
Security: an issue
Fear of having the technical material stolen was continuous, most of the main material was
with security cable but not all - keeping keys of three rooms was a heavy constraint during
the four days, the two other rooms were taken care of by university people. One computer
(without cable) was stolen and we had to reimburse it to who had kindly lent it to us.
Visible Result obtained: 30 long video chats
Finally all the 30 video chats scheduled took place, totalling about 45 hours of interchange
– the long duration of the chats was a new achievement: not just symbolic linking but long
conversation. (The only failure was a video chat scheduled with Paris, due to use of
another system than skype, and last minute change on Paris' side in the agreed technical
WSF2009 – Communication commission shared projects report – p. 32
Public  attendance in video chats
We had a big banner (see photo above), but the rooms were quite invisible and uninviting.
All video chats went well in content, although with limited attendance on the Belém side.
People who had committed to be there as “fellows” for their counterparts home, were really
looking for Belém and eventually finding it. The street in UFPA was not a very crowded
place, and Belex space was not indicated or explained on maps and program. The other
people attending were mainly passers by that we could outreach for in a scarcely crowded
The perception of some organizers had been “interview like session”
Slots programmed in the local event - case for mexico – case for Stuttgart – these worked
out well but  did not bring much new – because it was formatted and short
Many chats were imagined in the format “fellows that are in Belém reporting home”
In general fellows did not spontaneously bring anybody from Brazil or other countries with
them (exception of Limousin who had contact with indiosonline and of Toulouse who made
three sessions and brought people; also Ivry brought a lot of people a whole group.
Learning curve for participants - counterparts
Many participants had to master skype and to a lesser extend openfsm. People where
oriented from outside towards the “abstract event”. Some realized quite late that they had
to find at least counterparts.
Networked activities
There was only one Belém activity that decided to locate itself in the belex space and look
outwards. It was a network meeting with many people being out of Belém
Inputing diversity and occasion of encounters
One of the facilitating team initiative was to outreach for wsf participants in the street and
encourage them to go and chat with people from other countries. This scheme was
particularly useful for some cities that had no fellows in Belém, and also we arranged to
have some one from another city taking care of being there (Aix, Grenoble, Louga) This
was a plus that introduced unexpected interchange and emotion of encounter in the fellow
to home video chat.
Louga was the most moving videochat: three hours exchange with a small city in Senegal,
and people from the street outreached to talk with them. See the Louga report text here :
After Belém – reporting phase
Here is a partial list of post-Belex results from various cities:
- Aix-en-Provence (France)
WSF2009 – Communication commission shared projects report – p. 33
- Louga (Senegal)
- Sao Paulo
- New York
(The latter is the page for the collaborative workshop which was not a video chat, but
explored other territories of intercommunication (collaborative drafting of documents and
consensus decision making)
Some reports and testimonies are obtained on a more personal link basis , there
The facilitation team has continued sending regularly messages in the mailing list,
informing people of new developments and sustaining the idea that they participated in
something new.
The Belem expanded experience was brought as an input in the “impulsfsm” assembly,
that collected proposals about improvement of wsf process:
Contact list
Chat space
Managing bought  technical material after the event
The initial idea was to leave material (webcams, stereo sound sets, microphones, cables)
to local organizations having prominently participated. But, because the Belem expanded
was  without Belem people we had none!  So we left part of it to some volunteers and
stored part of it for next opportunities.
Pierre George, Caritas