[Video] Álvaro Ramírez at Ars Electronica 2009

HiperBarrio was represented at Ars Electronica by Álvaro Ramirez, Gabriel Jaime Vanegas, and Diego Gomez. Álvaro's presentation introduced the history and evolution of HiperBarrio and how the group of young bloggers and citizen journalists in San Javier La Loma have managed to maintain a sense of community while still introducing new members to remain open and inclusive. He stressed that HiperBarrio re-thinks the roles of libraries as more than just places to consume culture produced at the institutional level; but rather that they should serve as collective laboratories to produce and publish culture from the grassroots. HiperBarrio served as a model for Chile's national library network as it re-thought the role of its libraries for the digital era, and was also presented in the application by Fundación Empresas Públicas de Medellín which eventually led to a $1 million grant from the Gates Foundation. (Ramirez points out that none of the $1 million is currently budgeted for HiperBarrio or similar grassroots new media training programs.)

Álvaro referenced the story of Suso as an example of how citizen journalism is forming a process by which the young people discover more information about their own community and become invested in its future. He also pointed out media production is providing an appealing alternative to gangs and drugs for the community's young people. An article in Colombia's El Tiempo newspaper adds:

The project was presented to the public at Ars Electronica with a video which highlights the important role HiperBarrio plays to help young people find alternatives to crime, violence and drugs in a region that has been marked by the drug trafficking, guerrillas and paramilitaries.

“When people have no access to media, and are given the opportunity to tell their stories and show who there are, then they take that opportunity,” Ramirez said to the public.

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