'Conference of the Americas' announced for 2008

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File:COTA Logo.jpg

Conference of The Americas logo.
Image: Mike Halterman.
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)
Georgia Tech's student center and the Kessler Campanile where the main conference will be held.
Image: Andrew Guyton.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Atlanta, Georgia — After losing their bid to host Wikimania 2008, Wikimedians from the Atlanta, Georgia bid proposal are now working to host a conference focusing on Wikimedia in the Americas.

Mike Halterman, a student at the University of South Florida and unpaid intern at the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) offices in St. Petersburg, Florida, is helping to plan the Conference of the Americas which will be held at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, Georgia on May 15-18, 2008. Several others who helped in the conference's creation include: Andrew Guyton, Dan Rosenthal, Geoff Swanstrom, Hillary Lipko, Jessica Gibson, Matt Britt, and Wikinews administrator and contributor Craig Spurrier.

"We went forward after Wikimania because we felt that we had a good idea on our hands, and all the organization and manpower should not go to waste. We can still make a difference here in our own hemisphere, which as far as Wikimedia goes, has been overlooked in favor of the world picture. We want to show the work done by people here, and how it impacts people here," said Halterman in an exclusive interview with Wikinews.

The conference is focused on "discussions of Wikimedia and the free culture movement and how they relate to communities (national/regional, social, linguistic); discussions about the impacts free culture movements have in these communities, and by the work done in said movements in everyday life," says the announcement. The discussion includes North America, specifically the United States and Canada, along with the countries of Latin America. Wikimedia Argentina and the WMF have also been given a proposal, but decisions on endorsement are still pending for both.

Map highlighting the location of Georgia (in red) in the United States.

There will also be a journalism segment that will be held inside the Turner Broadcasting building on Techwood Drive in Midtown Atlanta.

After the location of Wikimania 2008 was announced to be in Alexandria, Egypt, the LGBT community spoke out, wondering if the jury, a group of Wikimedians who selected the location, took into account LGBT rights, safety of all attending, human rights, or free speech in the country before making their decision. There has since been discussion and controversy over the location posted on several public mailing lists.

Despite that, Halterman, who was on the bidding team to have Wikimania 2008 in Atlanta, states that the Conference of the Americas was not formed in retaliation, revenge or to "out maneuver" Wikimania 2008 and that the discussion for the COTA was taking place long before the location of Wikimania was announced. He also states that the conference's purpose is not to compete with it, but to give those who are in the western hemisphere a chance to attend a Wikimedia event for the Americas.

"This was never something that was supposed to be 'the American solution.' We aren't trying to compete with Wikimania at all. We're not out to make a statement against Wikimania. This isn't done out of anger, it's done out of a drive to unite, not to divide. We have over 100 interested parties all over the United States who want to volunteer and/or attend in some fashion or another. Reaching out to the other communities is high on our list of priorities and we really do want to make this a hemispheric effort" as "it's more expensive for people to go to Egypt over something in their own country or something close enough to it," said Halterman to Wikinews.

The conference is sponsored by Georgia Tech, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Public Journalism Network (pjnet), Ibiblio.org and the Carolina Open Source Initiative.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.