June 12-13, a large number of bloggers from the Penedès area went to Sant Salvador – a beach resort in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès) – and the 2nd Pendesfera Days (jornades de la Penedesfera). With over 500 member blogs, the Penedesfera is the biggest geographically defined network of its kind in Catalonia. If last year’s event in Gelida served as a first physical meeting point between its members then, this time, the modern auditorium within the classic Vil·la Casals transmitted that we have become an established phenomenon.
With a reference to the location, Penedesfera founder Daniel García Peris opened the session by quoting Pau Casals. In 1971, when the composer of the “Hymn to the United Nations” received the UN’s peace medal, he took the opportunity to address the assembly as an ambassador of the Catalan people. I am confident that Casals - a native of the Penedès - would consider the Penedesfera a good 21st century manifestation of his culture.
The jornades de la Penedesfera is built up by panel discussions and, this year, the first one was on “How Modern Communication Tools Transform Politics”, organized and moderated by Gemma Urgell and Ricard Espelt. Here, Izakun Bilbao, Ex-President of the Basque Parliament, won the admiration of the audience for how her party PNV has made it easier for people to reach their politicians. Ernest Benach, President of the Catalan Parliament, did his best to show that he and his colleagues are equally sophisticated, but somehow did not manage to convince me. Possibly, I know Catalan politics a bit too well to be fooled by a nice presentation.
The other part of the Friday program was “To Be Present on the Internet you First Have to Get There”, where Raül Buira moderated in a group of telecommunication experts. Their discussion did not reach far before the audience entered into a “Spain and Catalonia bashing mode”. Now, that was expected: why, after all, are broadband connections here more expensive and still slower than in most other EU countries?
Saturday morning started with the serious question about “The Present and Future of Mass Media”. Sergi Sabaté moderated in a group of people who did not only have things to say, but also knew how to make a point. Salvador Cot (the Terrassa and Sabadell editions of Avui) and Joan Raventós (el 3 de Vuit of Vilafranca) represented traditional media working to build a future on the web, while Carles Castro (Vilanova Digital) and Bernat Ferrer (AnoiaDiari.cat) represented the many modern news services which do not offer a print version. Finally, Xavier Güell from Tendencias.tv proudly presented his media channel; highly popular but not employing one single person with a formal title in journalism. And that must have been where an old-school journalist in the audience could not take it any longer but had to protest. However, after having defended the investigating version of his profession, he added that bloggers tend to intrude into “his territory” and rapidly turned all other participants against him.
After this followed a session on how to make use of “the Internet, Against the Crisis”, of which I plan to see the video recording, since I unfortunately had to leave for some hours. For the same reason, I missed the “Penedès inspired lunch” – a true pity for the wonderful garden where it was served.
I came back just in time for Sonia Diaz Suriol’s and Sylvie Pérez’ workshop on “Videoblogs and Other 2.0 Tools”. Some day I will have to look into the quality of my own clips on YouTube, and then the activities of Jesus Ferre, Ravennius and ZitunLog can serve as models.
The next part - “MySpace and Other Tools to Spread Music”, organised by Josep Guillén and Guillem Carol – came to focus on a question similar to the one about mass media, i.e. what incentives are there for quality work and effort when people expect everything to be free. The musicians present - Lax’n Busto ('Començar' etc) and Búhos – did not seem to worry very much. The Búhos gave examples of how their Barça song about Messi, thanks to the Internet, had made them famous in Argentina and concluded that what is suffering from current changes is the old music industry, not music as a cultural expression.
The last item of the program about “Wine and Cava: Challenges on the Internet” was the first event which the team “Cava&Twitts” organized outside the metropolitan area of Barcelona. Here, the cool “London, Berlin, New York, El Penedès, Shanghai” t-shirts which they had printed for the occasion, initially distracted the audience from being critical, but soon it found an excuse for self-flagellation, which resulted in comments like “why are we Catalans so poor in promoting our wines and the other good things we produce?”.
The Búhos rounded off the Second Penedesfera Days with a spontaneously created song. To sum up, I think that this event served as a status report on where Catalan society stands and although many participants of this meeting think that we have a lot to work on, it is a fact that on the Internet, the use of Catalan is much more vital than that of many much bigger languages.
From a more personal point of view, this was when I finally saw the benefits of becoming a Twitter user. A screen in the auditorium showed a real-time summary of the latest up-dates and that created a meta-discussion - sometimes a comment on something said by the participants of the different panels, but just as often a publicly displayed reaction on an earlier comments. Take a look at #penedesfera and you will see what I mean.
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To my wife, who is afraid that I put blogging ahead of business: Yes, I did a lot of active guerrilla marketing. Everyone present at Vil·la Casals received samples of my products and that, in turn, resulted in an article in Directe.cat. Finally, the news that RFSU is the first commercial brand which labels its condoms in Catalan has reached beyond the Penedès.
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