Jun 11

People-knitting, Anglo-Polish style

Many are the ways in which well-intentioned social engineers have tried to knit together the similar-but-yet-different peoples of Europe.

Some misbegotten schemes try to make different nations more like eachother. The best allow and encourage people to enjoy and appreciate their neighbours. The German poet and author Hans Magnus Enzensberger once said that cheap tickets which allow young people to travel across the continent’s rail network had done more for European integration than anything ever decided by the European Union.

If you want to see a working, evolving example of eyes and minds being opened, take a look at these blogs written from Poland by British students who are on summer assignment for Gazeta Wyborca, checking out whether Poland is ready for the next year’s football championship, Euro 2012. (Declaration of interest: these are some of my students).

The Misja21 scheme, the brainchild of the inspired Greg Piechota of Gazeta, wasn’t designed as a “cultural exchange” or anything as eat-your-greens boring as that. Greg wanted to generate raw material which his paper could use to tell Poles how their policemen, railway officials and ticket sellers look and sound to the rest of the world. And football is a language spoken by almost everyone.

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Mar 10

The view from Gazeta Wyborcza

More comments on the lecture, this time from Gregory Piechota, the prolific speaker and commentator who is also in charge of special projects at the Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza. Greg thought that my definition of the core tasks of journalism needed an addition:
1) I agree de Tocqueville was right about a social role of a newspaper, or journalism in general. But I think this role is not successfully survived by online communities. I am watching how social movements rise and fall online, and I am seeing they just need traditional authority (like journalism) so much to make an impact on reality. They engage people quickly, but they disengage too. They just cannot achieve their goals if not supported, guided, or led by something or somebody that is less anonymous, less crowded, less fluid. They just need an institution (in a broad sense) and I think this role can be held by journalism, hovewer there are some others who would like to play it.
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