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Image blogging, the solution for the linguistically disabled

As I spend more and more time on the Global Voices project, I’m starting to realize that I’m grossly underqualified to work on this project on one critical axis: language skills. Like many Americans, I speak only one language with any degree of fluency. I can make myself understood in Spanish, and order breakfast in French, but I can’t hold a conversation in either of these languages.

As I realize the wealth of opinion, insight and perspective in Iranian, Polish, Brazilian and Chinese blogs, I find myself praying that someone will – quickly – figure out the technical miracle of machine translation. (I’m not optimistic – I spent far too much of my undergraduate years and early tech career beating my head against artifical intelligence projects to believe that good machine translation is right around the corner.)

So while we recruit bloggers from all corners of the globe to help us navigate unfamiliar languages, I’m finding myself spending more and more time looking at photos from countries where I don’t speak the language. I’m trying to find people doing interesting photoblogs from nations we don’t hear enough about in American/European media, perhaps for a feature on Global Voices.

Jad Madi got in touch with me a few weeks back, when he saw some of my Jordan photos on Flickr and asked to use some of them as part of a project he’s putting together for Jordan Planet, an amazing group blog put together by friend Isam Bayazidi. Jad has an excellent collection of photos of Jordan, titled “My Lovely Country”, which serve as a great visual introduction to this beautiful nation. (My last trip to Jordan had me in the country for less than three days, which is a crime. I’m looking forward to my next trip to the region and hope I have time to meet the whole circle of Jordanian bloggers…)

Pablo\'s self-portrait

I just discovered Cronicasmoviles yesterday, when Pablo Altclas posted a comment to Global Voices. Using his mobile phone, Pablo maintains an ongoing visual diary of his native Buenos Aires. His photos are extremely painterly – he manages to turn the disadvantages of his chosen medium into a distinctive style. Taken as a whole, the photos paint a compelling (though dark) portrait of his city.

Robin Elaine Taylor, on the other hand, I’ve been following for a long time. She’s living in Bamako and doing tons of work for Geekcorps Mali. Travelling around the region or just around her neighborhood, she’s got a great eye and a gift for capturing details that help explain the region to neophytes… and make old Africa hands like me heartsick…

My latest passtime is searching Flickr for photos of places I’m fascinated by, but have never been to. My visions of Chisinau, Moldova – shaped by Tony Hawks’s funny, but somewhat unsympathetic “Playing the Moldovans at Tennis” – have been transformed by “kapooosha”‘s photos of her family home. (Plus she got to see Revenge of the Sith in Moldova. How cool is that!)

Who should I be following in putting together a photo roundup like GV? (Aside from obvious choices, like Kevin Sites.) Help me out, people…

6 thoughts on “Image blogging, the solution for the linguistically disabled”

  1. Fred – I don’t know the Syrian photo sites – please enlighten me.

    Robin, thanks for the Cardeal link – looking forward to getting that into an aggregator. And yes, Flickr is very much a photoblog tool in my book…

  2. It’s a pleasure… Here are four from Syria, but new ones are showing up every day. There’s a real blog explosion going on in this closed society — which perhaps led President Assad to say the other day, “These many inputs, especially with the evolution of communication and information technology, made the society open, and this opened the door for some confusion and suspicion in the minds of Arab youth.” (http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/06/06/assad.syria/)

    Aleppo Post: http://aleppost.blogspot.com/

    The Damascene Blog: http://damascene.blogspot.com/

    Vivre en Syrie: http://dimashq.blogspot.com/

    Syria Looks: http://syrialooks.blogspot.com/

    Thanks for the good work. Fred

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