#Closed Societies is a civil society development project whose central enterprise is the utilization of online social networks (OSNs) as a platform to introduce new information habits into societies undergoing intense levels of social control and surveillance.
#Closed Societies started to operate in 2012 in Central Asia in Country X (due to the sensitive nature of the project, we cannot disclose a name of the country). Today it is the only one independent media in Country X which is broadcasting news and analytics in local language using OSNs. With a wide network or professional correspondents and citizen journalists inside Country X the project has achieved outstanding results and gained popularity among native population of Country X.
The audience of project is continuously growing, with 21,400 users in OSNs (as of the 1st January 2016) and usually publications reach 50-70,000 views.
The #Closed Societies project is extremely important for the Country X, because it is only one popular and independent platform in the web, which states views other than official government-backed media on different problems inside the country X, provokes discussions, disputes and promotes basic democratic values in Country X’s closed society.
The people of Kyrgyzstan have an ancient and truly unique musical tradition called the akyn, which can be roughly translated as “battle-lyricist”. Think of it as a Hip Hop battle rapper, except thousands of years older and instead of a mic, he's armed with a neat three-string acoustic called the komuz (“kō-múz”).
The akyns need help. The traditional social system that used to sustain them has fallen apart, and they're struggling to make ends meet and get their message out.
Centralasiengrupperna (Sweden) and CypherChaikhana want to select a Swedish band and music producers to work with the Kyrgyz akyns. Together they will create a smash hit album of songs, which will break music charts in Kyrgyzstan. We want Kyrgyz youth to hear the Akyn’s messages, and we will turn their critical songs about lack of democracy, rule of law and dominance of corruption into a pop-rock-hip-hop hit so their message will be heard by masses.
The Swedish-Kyrgyz band will perform few concerts in Kyrgyzstan and Sweden promoting their record.
With the help of this project, Kyrgyzstan’s show business sector will adopt the country’s first example of socially-oriented music. The ancient art of the Akyns will get a new life and will gain popularity among youth.
Citizen-Infrastructure @ CypherChaikhana
Citizen-infrastructure refers to the promotion and use of three key technologies (off-grid housing, permaculture, and mesh networking) as a community lifeboat for the ongoing turmoil caused by global warming and potential natural disasters. Off-grid housing can largely eliminate the need for centralized utilities and environmentally disastrous sewage treatment, and supplement permaculture, which ensures a stable food supply based on the ethical principles of care for the environment, care for the people in it, and reinvestment of surplus in the first two. Mesh networking (ex. Commotion Wireless) at the very least creates a decentralized community internet that is built for the needs of the locals rather than those of Silicon Valley. These three technologies give us social as well as technical options in the face of global warming rather than reliance on fossil-fuel based, centralized infrastructure.
Peter Bourgelais, our Chief Security Officer, has outlined a multi-year, three-phased project to demonstrate these three technologies together in Kyrgyzstan, and to found a school program that will teach them to the locals.
#ClosedSocieties and NewEurasia, as media outlets run by CypherChaikhana, provide a key opportunity to publicize the concept of citizen-infrastructure. Of these three technologies, we are currently focused on a permaculture demonstration project in collaboration with Centralasiengrupperna and local partners in Kyrgyzstan. With this project, CypherChaikhana hopes to contribute to the ongoing development in Kyrgyzstan of alternative distributed infrastructure.
NewEurasia.net is the first citizen journalism project in Central Asia, which was launched in 2005 and operated up to 2014. More than 50 citizen journalists from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan who started with NewEurasia.net have become professional journalists and make their input into developing of the region.
With an audience of more than 10.000 visitors per month at its peak of popularity, NewEurasia.net published in five local regional languages, as well as in Russian and English. It was a powerful tool that local societies used to highlight their problems. The mass popularity of NewEurasia.net rose in popularity to such a point that it garnered governmental attention from several regimes.
The NewEurasia.net team held many educational activities including workshops, seminars, competitions, online journalism seminars and also created study books to teach budding journalists writing skills in their native languages.
As of 2016, CypherChaikhana plans to relaunch NewEurasia.net and to promote the highest journalistic standards in Central Asia. As part of the NewEurasia.net relaunch, we plan to hire five to seven top journalists, videographers and photographers in the region and produce fresh, professional, investigative and attractive products (modeled on VICE documentaries and NYT features) in Central Asia’s seven main languages.
We believe that such an ambitious project will fill an empty space of professional journalist7ic products in Central Asia and, more importantly, will attract an audience of budding young journalists seeking guidance. Alongside the rebranded NewEurasia.net, CypherChaikhana will also re-launch its educational activities, to help to develop a new generation of Central Asian journalists.
Erecting the Inverted Pyramid in Central Asia
In Erecting the Inverted Pyramid in Central Asia, CypherChaikhana and the Central Eurasian Scholars and Media Initiative (CESMI) will create, expand, and/or refine Wikipedia's database of entries on journalistic theory and practice in English, Russian, and the Central Asian Turkic languages (Azeri, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Uighur, and Uzbek). This database is intended to serve as a kind of handbook on good journalism for the region. The project takes its name from the “Inverted Pyramid”, a famous mnemonic device in Anglophonic journalism education. It will also entail establishing a highly-trained team of experts in journalism theory and method with an emphasis upon global concepts, localized practice, and multilingualism. The expertise will involve knowledge of both modern and specifically Western news-writing style, and any relevant local traditional/pre-modern concepts.
To popularize this database and promote Western journalistic theory, this project will conduct open workshops in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. All data created during these workshops and over the course of the project will be uploaded onto Wikipedia as well as other systems such as EdX, and will be used to create online courses in the national languages of each country, which currently do not exist. In June 2014, CypherChaikhana (then still NewEurasia) conducted a successful pilot project in coordination with Transitions Online and created Uzbek and Tajik online coursed using the Moodle platform.
In the future, we aim to continue this project and use local EdX modules to create a wide number of different online courses in different disciplines, in cooperation with leading Central Asian universities and scientists and promote online education in Central Asia.
CypherChaikhana Interactive Media
CypherChaikhana Interactive Media is an initiative in the arts and culture aspect of our mission. In partnership with an independent games developer, we plan to develop interactive media with needed social commentary in Central Asia and nearby regions with engaging game mechanics and compelling storytelling. Our pilot project explores the systematic persecution of a minority in Country Y and related human rights issues. Due to the sensitive nature of the project, we cannot disclose additional information.