A CLICK From Afar / Yoani Sánchez

The cups reflect the smiles on our faces
The CLICK festival cups reproduce our smiles

As I write this brief text the clothesline seems to be protesting under the weight of the laundry, the dog scratches at the door begging for his food, and my son asks me if there will be lunch today. After several days of neglecting the house the domestic routine calls me, pulling me away from the dream of kilobytes and returning me to everyday life. But it was worth it. Since last Thursday I have lived a preview of the future, a piece of tomorrow in the midst of this Havana trapped in the past. The CLICK Festival was just a foretaste of the topics that Cubans will discuss in the year 2020, and my restless grandkids in 2050. Three days to “think about technology, plan for it, and make it ours…” developing an inclusive and plural atmosphere. The issues addressed ranged from discussions about artistic production in the digital age to the outline of a possible bill of rights for Internet users.

It proved to be very difficult to organize this event through alternative channels, in a society where each action is surrounded by obstacles and impediments, much more so if it is undertaken independently. So, several times, someone invited to be on a panel was not able to arrive in time due to transportation problems, the rustic audio equipment deafened us with its feedback, and the frugal snack was delayed longer than our stomachs could bear. But that was just the stage, the improvised physical context where the transcendental took place. With material simplicity, the CLICK Festival managed to exceed our expectations. The frank and open debate, uncensored, the great participation by the audience, and the success in pulling off a technological and futuristic event, were some of the major achievements. More than 200 people passed through the doors during the three days of the meeting, and on Thursday, in the afternoon, 102 of us, interested in social networks and Web 2.0, gathered. All the planned workshops took place and even the heavy rains falling over the city didn’t manage to dim the enthusiasm, although several people came down with colds thanks to wet shoes and the damp.

We could not, however, achieve as diverse as representation of Internauts as we desired. And not because we imposed an ideological or group filter, but because many of those invited preferred not to come. Fear of exchanging opinions, fear of the embrace, continues to dominate the Island — including the virtual scene. An editorial in Cubadebate — threatening and extremist — must have scared off some who would have liked to join us. Thanks to us the Cuban government hastily organized a “Knowledge Festival” for the same days, to teach people how to create blogs and Twitter accounts. Which to me is one of the best outcomes of our little CLICK Festival. If pushing the wall forces them to move it a few inches… then… then we have achieved part of what we want.

Girls playing with an iPad for the first time at the CLICK Festival
Girls playing with an iPad for the first time at the CLICK Festival

Next year the CLICK Festival will have to improve the level of its panels, create a WiFi network for the participants to download event materials, shed a certain level of seriousness in favor of making it more interactive, and manage to attract those journalists, bloggers and Twitterers who, this time, preferred not to join us. We need to reach younger people for whom the cellphone, keyboard and mouse are like extensions of their own bodies. Although — and it makes me happy to say so — several of them gatecrashed this edition. As a brief tweet on the #festivalCLIC said, “We are not only an event. Today a community is born.” So we see again, with the collaboration of Spain Blogs Event (EBE), the clumsiness of the official editorials and the playful and rebellious spirit of our internauts.

24 June 2012