Central Asian Voices

by Nathan Hamm on 1/22/2007 · 2 comments

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has launched a new Central Asia website called Central Asian Voices. According to their press release, the site will feature “timely analysis of regional issues” in both English and Russian and a discussion forum for analysts, policymakers, journalists, bloggers, and others interested in Central Asia. The site has a large list of links to Central Asian government websites, regional media outlets, and blogs based in and covering the region. (They call this a unique feature, but plenty of blogs feature fine collections of links.) Martha Brill Olcott is directing the site.

A little more precisely, Central Asian Voices is a blog that also carries featured links to primary documents that are in the news and original research. Unfortunately, it has a bit of the sterile feel that institutional blogs often do. In fact, it feels a bit more like a Eurasia Daily Monitor or Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst running on blogging software than it does like a proper blog. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as I like that they offer interactivity with their audience. And while they offer that and are running on blog software, it is not clear to me whether or not they want to be a blog or not. They shy away from addressing that in their press release.

Either way, I noticed a couple other things about Central Asian Voices that made my eyebrows raise.

There is no mention of authorship on posts. If this is meant to be part of the blogging community, it would be nice for there to be some kind of personality associated with the site, especially if they are trying to build a discussion community. If it is not to be part of the Central Asian blogging community, it would still be nice to know who is writing.

Many of the sites they link to in the “Blogger Voices” section are actually static websites, not blogs. And looking through the news links section, I noticed a few blogs. This would seem to confirm that CAV is kind of in the dark about the blogging community. Nothing makes me as a blogger more suspicious of new institutionally-funded projects that want to have some kind of connection to the blogosphere than an ignorance of the community. In my experience, people tasked with running these projects want to get to know the community before launching with a press release making the new project sound like a gatekeeper, but those directing the projects tend to muck things up, giving the new site a credibility problem with bloggers.

About half the press release was about Martha Brill Olcott and her new paper, which is linked at CAV. One hopes that CAV’s intent is to feature a broad range of voices, but the press release certainly does not give that impression.

Though it has quite a bit to do with the fact that I work for Global Voices Online, I find the choice of Central Asian Voices quite unfortunate given the site’s mission. Just to compare, here’s CAV’s:

Central Asian Voices is an interactive multilingual website that features timely analysis of political, economic, social and security developments in the five states of Central Asia.

The website is produced by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, under the direction of Dr. Martha Brill Olcott.

Central Asian Voices welcomes the exchange of ideas by policy-makers, analysts, journalists, and informed readers through cyberspace.

Here’s GVO’s:

We aim to do the following:

1) To call attention to the most interesting conversations and perspectives emerging from citizens’ media around the world by linking to text, audio, and video blogs and other forms of grassroots citizens’ media being produced by people around the world.

2) To facilitate the emergence of new citizens’ voices through training, online tutorials, and publicizing the ways in which open-source and free tools can be used safely by people around the world to express themselves.

3) To advocate for freedom of expression around the world and to protect the rights of citizen journalists to report on events and opinions without fear of censorship or persecution.

Of course, they grabbed the name before anyone else, but especially when sites like Nepali Voices are popping up and “… Voices” is becoming something of a brand, I’d love to see Central Asian Voices draw attention to and amplify the voices of Central Asian bloggers.

Anyhow, CAV has potential, and new additions to the blogging community are always welcome. I would hope that, at the very least, it draws some new attention to the Central Asian blogosphere.

UPDATE: Here’s the press release if anyone’s interested in seeing it.

For Immediate Release: January 18, 2007

New Carnegie Website Launched
Central Asian Voices: An Interactive, Multilingual Resource Portal
Featuring New Carnegie Paper “Roots of Radical Islam in Central Asia”

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace today announced the launch of the Central Asian Voices Portal (www.centralasianvoices.org) – a Web site featuring timely analysis of regional issues, and a forum enabling the exchange of ideas among policymakers, analysts, journalists, bloggers, and informed readers across the globe.

Written in English and Russian, Central Asian Voices consistently features top stories from the region, and currently showcases such topics as: the appointment of the new Kazakh government and the prospects for political change in Uzbekistan. The Portal will also provide links to official primary source documents, and analysis of the regional and geopolitical implications of current events.

One of the Portal’s unique features is its compilation of blogs and media resources from Central Asia, enabling visitors to view press coverage from the region and read first-hand accounts of life in Central Asia from its burgeoning civil society. This direct access to the opinions and perspectives of Central Asians marks a new development in a region often characterized by government-controlled media and a lack of openness.

In line with its mission, the Portal will also feature a new Carnegie Paper by Senior Associate Martha Brill Olcott. Roots of Radical Islam in Central Asia explores the actions of regional Islamic communities, particularly in Uzbekistan, to protest against governments that are “both largely
unresponsive and…[made up] almost entirely by those who reject the teachings of Islam” – actions that include the evolution of the jihadi movements and the rise of key Islamic clerics and leaders.

Olcott contends that “the question of the relationship between Islamic believers and the state is a critical one; depending on how it is resolved, it either encourages, permits, or discourages the use of violence in the name of Islam.”

To read this Carnegie Paper, go to: http://www.centralasianvoices.org/research-analysis-archives.cfm
Direct Link to PDF: http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/cp_77_olcott_roots_final.pdf

Notes:

1. The Central Asian Voices Portal will provide analysis of regional events by adding one to two new feature stories per week that include an interface for user comments.

2. The site will also feature links to Internet-based resources in and about Central Asia, including government and media websites, on-line discussion groups, and blogs providing unique and fresh perspectives.

3. Martha Brill Olcott is a senior associate in the Russian and Eurasian Program at the Carnegie Endowment and directs the Central Asian Voices Portal. She specializes in Central Asia and the Caucasus and is the author of Central Asia’s Second Chance (Carnegie, 2005).

4. Press Contact: Trent Perrotto, 202/939-2372, tperrotto@CarnegieEndowment.org

5. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing cooperation between nations and promoting active international engagement by the United States. www.CarnegieEndowment.org

If you have received this press release in error, send a message to info@CarnegieEndowment.org


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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 2 comments }

Laurence January 22, 2007 at 2:39 pm

Hey, Nathan!

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…My Uzbek students used to copy stuff all the time, so perhaps Dr. Olcott has gone native? In any case, this sort of thing shows that you are having an impact. Strange that Carnegie didn’t offer you the job of webmaster. I wonder why not?

Nathan January 22, 2007 at 7:34 pm

I have very good reason to believe it’s not imitation, and that the last thing that they want is to be considered a blog. And following from that, I don’t think that they necessarily want to be considered “of the blogosphere,” but instead a more “serious” site that acknowledges (maybe even draws attention to?) the blogosphere and partially imitates its style.

I’ve noticed too that these institutional blog projects often don’t hire people from the blogosphere. I don’t think that they necessarily need to do so to do well, but it certainly helps, as politicians have learned. (I should note that Blake Hounshell/prakike of American Footprints fame is the web editor at Foreign Policy, which runs the very good FP Passport blog. So, CEIP has the know-how.)

But hey, if anyone else wants to hire me for something similar, I’ll be needing a job far too soon.

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