1. Dear Queena,

    thank you for your post. it touches a very important issue. I think that all our technology cannot do any good if peoples’ minds are full of hatred. People need to have a disposition to forgive and reconcile with their opponents in the first place. The photoblog can be a great tool to create a productive dialogue and to stress the similarities between people. Conflict transformation can only take place when “both parties [are] enabled to gain an understanding of the other’s standpoint and believe that the creation of a productive dialogue is possible” (Baú 2014:6).

    In your example people talk about music or film. I think that is a good starting point to avoid conflict. But on the other hand, I am wondering if a next step could be talking about the problem. Wouldn’t it be releasing to actually talk about Nagorno-Karabakh, but to talk about it with new awareness, a broader view and understanding? What do you think?

    Baú, Valentina (2014): Building peace through social change communication: participatory video in conflict-affected communities, in: Community development Journal.

    • Queena

      Dear Tanja,

      thank you for your comment! I agree with you that stimulating dialogue through culture and social media can open new possibilities and trigger changes in attitudes between conflicted nations.
      Those measures may seem unsufficient, because the are organised despite the media’s and governments’ propaganda and rarely directly adress the nature of the conflict.
      However, as Bau points out, „by reversing the audience-producer dichotomy, people can look at their lives and that of those around them from another perspective and regain control of their situation” (Bau, 2014). That is why I believe that projects like Onnik Kirkorian’s photoblog and reportages from the conflicted communities can constitute the important step towards peaceful coexistance of Azeris and Armenians, because their direct objective is raising awareness, facing the historical differences instead of existing despite the conflict. Considering how recently the last armed conflict has been settled, it will take many years – probably even generations to openly discuss the issue.
      It seems the South Caucasus main assets – its geopoliticaly strategic location and natural resources have been the region’s biggest curse so far. The three republics, besides dealing with their own conflicted past, have to build international relations and stable democratic regimes, which, considering current strong external influences, won’t be easy.
      Having that in mind, I think your question about Armenians and Azaris readiness and willingness to deal with the past remains open. At this point, with current economic and political instability, the longterm peaceful reconciliation strategy seems unlikely.

      Bau, V. (2014) Telling the stories of war through the screen. Participatory video approachesand practice for peace in conflict-affected context. Conflict & Communication Online. Vol.13, No. 1

  2. Interesting post! I think that a key feature of participatory media is that it brings new voices into the public sphere, which can counter narratives of the mainstream media/broadcast media. Shirty (2008) also stresses the potential of “everybody” to become a producer and not just consumer of media. That is a valuable way in which the capabilities of the people are empowered, as they can now share their own stories or counter mainstream representations. This is, indeed, important for democracy and is not just mediated, as you state, through journalists anymore due to the Web and its participatory character.
    Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations. Penguin.
    Cammaerts, B. (Eds.) (2006): Researching Media, Democracy and Participation. Tartu: Tartu University Press.

    • Queena

      Thank you Christopher for your comment. You put emphasis on a very important aspect which is a gradual change in people’s perception of their role in the public debate. In relatively young and politically unsettled countries like Armenia and Azerbaijan, participatory media can not only give people a chance to search for new ways of self-expression but to find new, productive sollutions to contribute to the evolution of a public discourse about reconcilation and post conflict reality.

      It is also important that people have a platform to report on crucial issues, often hidden from the public eye by the official regime propaganda (Search for Common Ground, 2009). Therefore, exchanging information on more individual level seems to be crucial in this context. Since transparency and accountability of mainstream regional media tends to be one of the burning issues in both conflicted countries, your argument that an alternative media platform provided the new empowering voice. Supported by local blogoshpere and cross-border participatory initiatives like those mentionned in my article, this „third narrative” has a potential to overpower traditional journalism and to play a pivotal role in „fostering diversity [and] intercultural dialogue” (Carpentier & Doudaki, 2013).

      Carpentier, N. & Doudaki, V. (2013) Community media for reconciliation: A Cypriot case study. Communication, Culture and Critique. 7; 415-434
      Search for Common Ground (2009) Communication for Peacebuilding: Practices, Chances and Challenges. Report commissioned by the United States Institute for Peace

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