What is the state of the global blogosphere? Where is participatory media growing the fastest? And where, for that matter, are new voices being restricted by state censorship?

Is social media actually changing the electoral landscape in emerging democracies like Armenia, Kenya, and Venezuela? Has the promise of an international, barrier-free, multilingual conversation finally become reality? Most importantly, where do we go from here? How do we encourage dialog in times of heated international debate? How do we bring new voices from new communities into the universe of web 2.0? And how do we protect their rights to free speech once they begin participating?

All of these questions will be discussed, debated, and digested at the 2008 Global Voices Summit in Budapest, Hungary on June 27 and 28. During the first session of day two, five representatives from Rising Voices will present their experiences – either as trainers or trainees – in citizen media outreach projects in Colombia, Bolivia, Madagascar, and Kenya. They are all working to extend the conversation taking place online via blogs, podcasts, and video- and photo-sharing sites to communities that have traditionally been ignored by both mainstream and new media.

catalina.jpgCatalina Restrepo, an enthusiastic new blogger from MedellĂ­n, Colombia’s peripheral La Loma community, will describe how a group of young library users in her small hilltop community have commanded the respect of local leaders and attracted the attention of regional and national media outlets after establishing a name for themselves using blogs, photographs, and short video documentaries. Restrepo will also describe how the group of young bloggers decided to come together and build a new house for the subject of one of their online video documentaries. You can read a translation of a recent post by Restrepo on the HiperBarrio project blog.

collins.jpgCollins Dennis Oduor, co-founder of REPACTED, will describe how new media tools can be combined with participatory street theater to encourage distinct groups of a local community to come together and peacefully discuss the most pressing and controversial topics. For Oduor’s hometown of Nakuru, Kenya, those topics frequently include AIDS, poverty, and ethnicity. We will also learn about REPACTED’s role in promoting peace during Kenya’s post-election crisis earlier this year. You can read a Rising Voices interview with Oduor’s colleague, Dennis Kimambo on the REPACTED website.

images.jpegCristina Quisbert, one of the most active participants (and now a trainer) of the Voces Bolivianas project in Bolivia, will explain how, in less than one year, she has managed to create an important online resource and space of conversation for anyone interested in topics related to indigenous peoples in Bolivia, Latin America, and around the world. In addition to maintaining her prolific Spanish-language blog, Quisbert has also begun writing in English. She presented at the We Media conference in Miami about the potential of blogging as a means of inclusion for indigenous communities in Bolivia.

403.jpgMialy Andriamananjara is one of three Malagasy coordinators of the FOKO Madagascar project. She will provide an overview of how diaspora communities can use online tools to promote social change in their home countries. Using Skype, video-chats, and translated tutorials, Andriamananjara helps coordinate the training of new bloggers and vloggers in Toamasina, Majunga, and Antananarivo. Herself a published writer of fiction, Andriamananjara was born and raised in Madagascar, but now lives with her family in Washington D.C. She blogs in English and French, and recently recorded the first performance of the Vagina Monlogues in Malagasy. You can see a brief video interview on Rising Voices.

The session will be moderated by Lova Rakotomalala and aims to outline a framework of best practices for overcoming the many obstacles that stand in the way of narrowing the online participation gap around the world. Stay tuned to the Summit 2008 website to learn how to participate in the discussion via IRC chat. Or, even better, join the ranks of hundreds of bloggers from around the world, and come to Budapest to discuss in person the cutting edge issues surrounding how the global village communicates in the 21st century.