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The next billion talk back…

You may have already noticed that we’ve relaunched Global Voices with a new design, put together by the wonderful Boris Anthony of HelpPush. The heavy lifting was done by Boris and Rebecca, but the actual move, yesterday, gave me fond memories of my sysadmin days. (But not as fond as the memories I’m getting from learning that I can search old Usenet archives, using Google Groups…)

Our bright, shiny new look hides some of the most heated comments threads we’ve ever seen on the site. Rebecca’s roundup of Muslim blogger reactions to the 7/7 bombings in London was linked by Instapundit. A number of his readers – many of whom seem convinced that Islam is an inherently violent religion – have had a hard time accepting condolences and condemnations of the bombings from Muslim bloggers.

Some of our Muslim contributors have been participating in the conversation, either on comments threads or with posts. Ahmed of Saudi Jeans reacted to an editorial by Tom Friedman in the New York Times (and a subsequent blogpost by Jeff Jarvis) by asking the question: “Is [terrorism] a Muslim problem so Muslims have to solve it themselves, or is it a global problem and the whole world is responsible to find the solution?”

Thinking about the conversations (and, occasionally, shouting matches) taking place on Global Voices over the past month, I’m realizing that we’re starting to see genuine cross-cultural dialog both through GV and in the blogosphere as a whole. The Live 8 debates and an earlier conversation about the importance of brain drain in Africa involved bloggers from both sides of the continent, as well as Afrophiles and people who knew very little about Africa, but thought Live 8 was an important effort.

Both the Live 8 and 7/7 conversations reveal something very interesting: People in the US and Europe are talking about what people think in Africa or the Middle East… and bloggers in those parts of the world are talking back. And, honestly, folks in the North aren’t always happy with what they hear.

They – we – better get used to it. As the next billion users come online, they’re not just sending email and reading webpages. They’re bloggers, authors, commenters, and you can expect to see lots more conflicts like the US/Brazil war in Orkut.

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