Cadat is blogging for the neighbourhood again
21 March 2006 – Now that his period as a district council
member has ended, internet pioneer Mellouki Cadat is going to write
for two neighbourhood websites in Zeeburg. “Internet is also
a medium for social encounters, to stimulate social cohesion and
contacts within a neighbourhood”.
Cadat started his political weblog in 2001, when he was a candidate
for the Zeeburg district council. It was no coincidence that he
was the one to take this initiative. “I had a lot of experience
with the internet; I was one of the first members of De Digitale
Stad [an early internet community in Amsterdam – Ed]”.
That the initiative took root in Zeeburg was also no coincidence.
“This was one of the areas with the highest share of internet
users, also in the relatively poor Indische Buurt. The local government
made an effort to stimulate the use of the internet”.
“The idea was that you can boost a disadvantaged neighbourhood’s
economic development, by attracting small businesses and the creative
class with good internet connections. Perhaps it was no coincidence
that UPC also chose this as the first area to offer internet access
through the cable”.
Being a new council member, Cadat wanted to use the internet to
stay in touch with the neighbourhood. “I immediately equipped
my blog with all that was available at that time in the field of
interactivity. Responding to posts, chatting, people could even
see what I was doing by use of a webcam”.
In 2003, the Institute for Public and Politics awarded Cadat the
title of Digital Council Member of the Year. “First of all
because of my writing style. Being an immigrant, it is hard for
me to write correct Dutch. Therefore, I keep my postings short and
to the point. The jury appreciated this style”.
“A second consideration was that my website had the widest
range of interactive tools”. As a result of the publicity,
the number of unique site visitors rose from some tens per day to
hundreds per day.
Now that his membership of the district council has ended, Cadat
is going to write for the neighbourhood websites Indische Buurt.nl
and Zeeburg.nu. “I had been involved with Indische Buurt.nl
before, in fact I was something of a Founding Father. However, I
thought that it would be improper for me to write for these sites
as a neighbourhood resident, while I was also a member of the district
Zeeburg.nu was founded by former editors of Indische Buurt.nl,
after a disagreement about the publication of the Danish Mohammed
cartoons. Cadat has chosen deliberately to write for both websites.
“In my opinion, ICT is not just ICT. It is also a medium for
social encounters, to stimulate social cohesion and contacts within
a neighbourhood. It is important not to confine yourself to your
own group”, says Cadat.
“This also involves linking to each other, inviting visitors
of your website to look at other websites as well. I predict that
in a few years, it will be possible to measure a neighbourhood’s
social cohesion by the links on websites”.
According to Cadat, the active visitors of neighbourhood websites
still constitute a rather select group. Most are highly educated,
young, white people. “But I am also an active participant,
and I am foreign-born and nearly fifty”.
In addition, the weblogs are regularly visited by aldermen, council
members, active members of immigrants’ organisations, journalists,
and all kinds of people from the neighbourhood and from the rest
of the city. “For example, I know that the council aldermen
check the weblogs each morning to pick up signals from the neighbourhood”.
“If a subject is hotly debated on the weblogs, then this
may sometimes move council members to ask questions. Or aldermen
themselves ask their civil servants to find out what is going on”.
A recent issue that stirs up feelings in Zeeburg are postings about
the cutting of trees in the Javastraat.
When he was a council member, Cadat says, he did not mind using
his own website and other media for a bit of campaigning, whether
it concerned the location for a flower stand or the way in which
the district was managed. “This was not always appreciated,
not even by my fellow party members in the council. When you stand
out, you will be closely watched”.