29
Oct 12

3D: New Environment for Internet Activism

The new environment is evolved from 2D internet to 3D internet, as a result of development in computer games, computer hardware and increased broadband connection, is called as “virtual world ” which can be defined as a “synchronous, persistent, network of people, represented by avatars, facilitated by computers.” (Bell, 2008). As understood from the definition, “This environment frequently exists 24/7 and persists even when users are not within it. These worlds can have realistic representations of buildings and rooms and earth-like terrain with natural vegetation, animals, or animated objects” (Robbins & Butler, 2009)

The virtual world platform creates an opportunity to import real world activism to virtual world platforms. The first example was the action by the Second Life Liberation Army. The Second Life Liberation Army is a virtual group protesting the lack of democratic decision making in the running of Second Life because the users where creating all the content but have no rights regarding the direction the space takes (second life is managed by corporate entity Linden Labs – lindenlab.com).

The Second Life Liberation Army’s first second life “inworld” action was at virtual store of American Apparel store chain. The US clothing chain had previously opened the virtual store to sell virtual clothes that can be worn my Second avatars. During protests, several number of Second Life Liberation Army volunteers entered the American Apparel store and prevented avatars from making purchases. This led American Apparel and other corporate entities that were the target of SLLA attacks are closing their operations and moving out of Second Life.[1]

Here we can say that SLLA is asking for social change as a result, it could match with the description of Crosley (2002)  as a social movement



[1] http://slla.blogspot.se/ I could find this infro here but forbes link was not accessible at this blog post, yet it depicts an example of virtual world protests

 


28
Oct 12

What is Social movement ?

There are several movements on new media but we have to define what is social movement? In order to prevent either supplying a simple definition or a more complex, broad definition, Crossley (2002) did not offer any form of definition to the concept of social movements, instead, he adopted a more open approach of defining some common social groups and comparing their shared properties to see what make them social movements. Crossley admits that social movements are “collective ventures” but at the same time raise the question: “what makes a venture count as collective”? (Crossley, 2002, p.1&2).
To analytically examine movements, Crossley takes in to consideration of the definitions of four (4) sociologically notorious theorists, namely Blumer, Eyerman & Jamison, Tarrow, Della Porta & Diani. Blumer(1969: 99) taught that social movements could be viewed as collective enterprises seeking to establish a new order of life; having their foundation in a condition of unrest and deriving their motive power from wishes and hopes for a new system of life but are embarked into the dissatisfaction of the current form of life. (Crossley, 2002, p.3). Here it is very important to re-emphasize that as Crossley also agrees with and quoted from  Blumer, Crossley distinguish social movements from forms of collective action that are result of immediate reactions  due to collective discontent such as “panics or mass hysteria” and that are not aiming to rebuilt social life in order to  dig to the root of the problem and change the system. We can give several examples as reaction from social media crowd: such as anger to a new president election or new government but does not end up with real opposition group against the government. Anger of basketball fans at facebook groups or at twitter channel due to match. We can call these as collective online actions but these are not social movement until they seek a social change and become a social activity that seeks to have a “new form of life”

Even though, it can be said that the collective action of any group of social actors and the result they produce (whether through protests or dialogue, whether it is online or on the streets) must affect society at large or get reaction of wide audience of the society in order to qualify as a social movement, I would argue with this and also consider that, a group even that has little impact on the society, if continuously and collectively show reaction or resistance or aim to change the system and form of life should be accepted as social movement. For example, gay & lesbian movement, even though some countries could not get collective action, is indeed a social movement.


28
Oct 12

Citizen journalism and mainstream media

A matter of ethics and aesthetics

New media activism is also called tactical media for some scholars (for example, Garcia and Lovink). In their words “tactical media do not just report events, as they are never impartial they always participate and it is this that more than anything separates them from mainstream media”. (Garcia & Lovink)

This approach somehow challenges Lievrouw (2011), who says that participatory journalism projects employ the ethics and practices of professional new reporting and editorial opinion to cover communities, stories, and points of view that are neglected by the mainstream press. (Lievrouw, 2011, pp. 19-20)

One can say that impartiality and objectivity are values on the ground of journalism, in theory and practice. And obviously, when citizen journalists employ new media tools and channels to broadcast news and information on facts, situations, and points of views that are neglected from the mainstream media, they barely give voice to the spokespersons of the power it has been fight against. And, in my personal opinion, I do not think they should, as the representatives of power have enough space to express their ideology and discourses within traditional, mass media. I think media activists speaking on behalf of underprivileged, marginalized social groups have their own right to convey messages from their point of view. I just think this ought to be clear for everybody who is reading or watching it.

So, I tend to agree more with Garcia and Lovink, when they states that there is a distinctive tactical ethic and aesthetic. The tactical media ethic and aesthetic, in my opinion, are quite different from the ethic and aesthetic of professional mainstream journalism.
For instance, Jurrat in her article Mapping Digital Media: Citizen Journalism and the Internet, published on Media Development says that “citizen journalists have become regular contributors to mainstream new through digital advances, providing information and images. (…) On sites like CNN iReport, editorial gatekeeping is left to the audience: uploaded content will be published unedited as long as it is considered news (as distinct from advertising, for example) and respects principles of taste and decency.

However, take a video produced by Collective Mosireen, a non-profit Egyptian media centre born out of the explosion of citizen journalism and cultural activism in Egypt during the revolution, for example, the Maspero Massacre. Many of us will agree that its strong images are undeniable nasty, though, in my personal opinion the tragedy that it reports has to be broadcast, it is a story that needs to be told.

Nevertheless, one could say that this nastiness is part of their aesthetic in order to raise awareness among their people. They want to shock. It is a guerrilla strategy. So, would CNN use these images? I am skeptical about that given that I do not believe such images meet their principles of taste and decency. So, if they use it, they will probably edit it, and thus, the discourse constructed by the Mosireen media activists would lose power.

Concluding, I think there are constraints and issues on the relationship between citizen journalism and traditional media. In my opinion,  just like in some failed marriages, there are irreconcilable differences between them.

By Cristina Souza

References

Garcia, David & Lovink, Geert. The ABC of Tactical Media / The DEF of Tactical Media Retrieved October 17, 2012 from
http://www.tacticalmediafiles.net/article.jsp?objectnumber=37996

Jurrat, Nadine. Mapping Digital media: Citizen Journalism and the Internet Retrieved October 2, 2012 from http://www.comminit.com/media-development/content/mapping-digital-media-citizen-journalism-and-internet


28
Oct 12

Some words on new media activism

In a global context marked by globalization and neo-liberalism hegemony, social movements have found new media as a powerful mean of counter-discourse production and to ignite actions and interventions in society.

This is due to mainstream media is greatly connected with  those interests social movements fight against, thus the latter usually do not have their voice heard by mainstream media nor their viewpoints taken in account.

According to Cammaerts (2007) activism refers to the ability to act and make or change history. Thus, “agency and the makeability of society is central to any tentative definition of activism” in his words. He also quotes another definition of activism from Wikipedia stressing the “intentional action to bring about social or political change” (Cammaerts, 2007, p. 217).

In this regard, it is interesting to note that, while quoting Wikipedia might be criticized by orthodox scholars, when it comes to a literature on new media activism is highly appropriate as Wikipedia in its own right is an example of new media activism which promotes the acknowledge of commons knowledge employing new media.

If mass media have been employed by mainstream political institutions since the twentieth century, we can say that from the last decade of this century onwards, new media have been used mostly for citizen and activist’s initiatives in order to enhance social justice all around the world, in a mode of resistance, production of discourse, strengthening of identities of communities, among other aims.

Atton (2004) quoted by Lievrouw (2011, p. 18) states “that alternative media have sought to be participatory, emancipator, non-commercial, authentic (i.e., faithful to a community’s point of view or experience), and anti-institutional. They combine both ‘creative expression and social responsibility’ in a way that departs from most mainstream media.”

However, it is important to emphasize that using new media does not exclude the use of mass media by social movements and activists when they have means for it. Of course, the combination of both communications is the ideal strategy of intervention in order to pursue and achieve lasting social changes.

In fact, lately we have witnessed powerful mainstream mass media organizations broadcasting contents produced by alternative media or activists using new media.

In addition, we believe that when it comes to activism, it is also crucial the employment of both online and offline media, as both strategies combined can better enhance the public engagement with the social cause, because people are everywhere and choose different modes of communication according to their social context, interests, lifestyles, and needs.

Another fundamental shift on the understanding about communication and its uses by activists is that “the nature of media activism projects is actions in their own right, rather than communication about other “real” actions, as Lievrouw (2011, p. 18) points out.

Activist new media project are categorized in five genres by Lievrouw (2011, p. 19-20): culture jamming, alternative computing, participatory journalism, mediated mobilization, and commons knowledge.

For her, culture jamming borrows, comments on, and subvert elements from popular culture (entertainment, advertising, art, music, literature, cinema and so on).

Alternative computing critiques and reconfigures the infrastructure of information and communication technologies.

Participatory/citizen journalism projects employ the ethics and practices of professional news reporting and editorial opinion to cover communities, stories, and points of view that are neglected by the mainstream press.

Mediated mobilization extends and activates the power of “live”, local social relations and organizing.

Commons knowledge projects reorganize and categorize information in ways that can challenge or reframe established, expert knowledge classifications of mainstream cultural institutions and disciplines.

 

By Cristina F. Souza

References:

Lievrouw, Leah (2011) Alternative and Activist New Media. Oxford: Polity Press

Cammaerts, B. and Carpentier N. (eds) (2007) Reclaiming the media: communication rights and democratic media roles. Bristol: Intellect.


28
Oct 12

What’s new media, anyway?

Firstly, new media is new because they are continually improving in an ongoing process of innovation of devices, services, systems, and activities on account of human capacity and abilities, creativity and agency.

According to Lievrouw (2011, p. 7), new media can be defined as information and communication technologies and their social contexts formed by devices, practices, and social arrangements and organizational forms that people create and build around artifacts and practices.

There are also some features that distinguish new media from the “old” or so called mass media – networked architecture, ubiquity (presence ‘everywhere’), interactivity, and participation.

Websites, mobile telephones, digital technology – photography, video, and audio – blogs, wikis, file-sharing systems, social media, and open-source software are among what can be considered new media, including devices, systems, process and practices using all this.

With access to new media, this “all permit social groups with diverse interests to build and sustain communities, gain visibility and voice, present alternative or marginal views, produce and share their own do-it-yourself (DIY) information sources, and resist, talk back, or otherwise confront dominant media culture, politics, and power” (Lievrouw, 2011, p. 2).

Of course, we also have to consider the digital divide, i.e, the fact that the majority of population mostly in underdeveloped and developing countries has no access to internet to date, which is considered for many an overwhelming and contemporary mode of social exclusion. However, this is a highly controversial topic within development field. Some scholars as Nederveen Pieterse (in Lovink & Zehle, 2005, p. 11) criticize the emphasis on Internet to bridge social apartheid. He states that “less emphasis on Internet and more on telephone, radio and television would normalize and ground the discussion [ICT4D].”

Cristina F. Souza

References:

Lievrouw, Leah (2011) Alternative and Activist New Media. Oxford: Polity Press

Nederveen Pieterse, J. (2005). Digital Capitalism and Development: the Unbearable Lightness of ICT4D. Lovink, G. and Zehle, S. The Incommunicado Reader (pp. 11-29) Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.


28
Oct 12

The rise of new media

A Binary code is a way of representing text or computer processor instructions by the use of the binary number system’s two-binary digits 0 and 1.

To start with, we might briefly begin acknowledging that the field of communication (theory and practice) from mass media to networked media and information technologies, have been developing in a continuous process in a global history marked by progress in technology and changes in societies (economically, culturally and politically) throughout twentieth century, and its evolving process and changes brought several implications for social movements and citizen driven social changes.

“This changing landscape has created unprecedented opportunities for expressions and interaction, especially among activists, artists, and other political and cultural groups around the world who have found new media to be inexpensive, powerful tools for challenging the givens of mainstream or popular culture” (Lievrouw, 2011, p. 2).

Within the limits of this work, we might highlight one huge change in this communication landscape: media audiences and consumers are now also media users and participants.

In order to understand new media, it is useful to ground our thoughts on some theoretical frames. To start with, one crucial concept is mediation. Based on Lievrouw (2011, p. 4), mediation can be understood as the use of technological channels to extend or enhance communication, and the interpersonal process of participation or intervention in the creation and sharing of meaning. In this complex and ongoing mediation process, we have on one hand, reconfiguration of technologies, and on another hand, remediation of content.

In other words, when people employ technological channels and devices to communicate, they can modify and adapt media technologies to suit their various purposes and interests, and they also adapt and remix existing materials, expressions, and interactions to create new works and ideas.

To sum up, since the creation of internet and the rise of networked society, ordinary people are not only consumers of communication products, but also users and producers, and we can say that most of them are in fact using new media technologies to communicate and engage with each other.

By Cristina F. Souza

Reference:
Lievrouw, Leah (2011) Alternative and Activist New Media. Oxford: Polity Press


27
Oct 12

Internet has constructed new media

Media technology has transformed last century and before we talk about media activism, we think it is important to go back and discuss on knowledge of the development of media during last two decades. Last 2 decades shows us the dramatic changes in media and the way people engage with media. These changes are especially seen after the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989 and resulted in alteration of media in the world (Hemmer & Tufte).

First, new media technologies have been developing in such a way that have resulted in lowering cost of broadcasting. Currently, it is almost relatively no cost to have an online newspaper and online radio or online YouTube channel or even to create a Opensim open source based virtual world or to create avatar in SecondLife to spread to word to the virtual world residents. Second, new media tools removed barriers to produce content. Third, new technology increased the number of media organizations and media mediums: newspapers, radio stations, televisions, and internet (also we need to count online newspapers, online radios, online tvs here). Finally, new technologies provided a new type of interaction with the source of media, content providers as well as readers. Thus, because of new media has become more popular among people, we strongly believe that internet has constructed a new type of media.

/Serdar


21
Oct 12

Free at Last?

Something Wendy Hui Kyong Chun writes in the introduction to Control and Freedom Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics in an interesting way sums up the dichotomy between just the struggle for freedom (that one might argue Anonymous undertakes) on one hand and the struggle for control (let’s say the state wants control) on the other hand: “Although ideologies and practices of freedom and control are not new, the coupling of these term is uniquely tied to information technology and our current political situation” (2006, p.1). Some argue that the Internet have lead us into an era of freedom whereas others argue it has pushed us towards a greater control. “Control-freedom,” the two are terms clearly connected with each other and are both possible directions that the continued development of the Internet can take. “Paranoid narratives of total surveillance and total freedom are the poles of control-freedom, and are symptomatic of a larger shift in power relations from the rubric of discipline and liberty to that of control and freedom” (2006, p.6).

So the question is if there can be harmony? And if we even want to strive for harmony! As you might have noted I strongly believe in the freedom that Internet can provide one with. But is it even possible to break free from control? Well. “Yes,” Chun argues–Freedom cannot be controlled and new media provides us with “possibilities for a freedom beyond control” (2006, p.2).  She goes on to describe it by interpreting the ideas of Lawrence Lessig presented in the work Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace (1999) by claiming that freedom means free code, if code cannot be owned then it’s difficult to control, in other words: “to ensure democracy, code must not be owned” (Chun, 2006, p.67). This of course relates back to my previous post about hacktivism, hacktivism is a way to challenge power relations and power. It’s a way of using code to strike back at those who control it as a way to free cyberspace.

This of course leads us to the idea of governance. Can the Internet be governed? And if so, by whom? In the book Multi-Stakeholder Governance and the Internet Governance (2008) Jeremy Malcolm uses the Internet Governance Forum, established in 2005 to provide “a transparent, democratic, and multilateral process (…) for dialogue on Internet Governance policy” (Malcolm, 2008, p.2), as a basis for his reflection upon the topic. Malcolm notes, relating back to ideas of freedom that “modern-day hacker culture (…) in fact [is] largely coincident with open source culture” ( 2008, p.5) and that “all information should be free” (2008, p.216).  But to get back on track, Malcolm argues that governance is not the same as government but rather “management” (2008, p.19).  Which is something that I think most people can agree with, there needs to be some sort of management even in a free world. We are not, just like in real life, allowed to exercise our freedom in a way that infringes upon another individuals freedom.

In the end Malcolm lands in the idea of governance via networks including both state-actors and actors from the private sector as well as, and in my mind most importantly, actors from the civil society, which in Malcolm’s words “has a role in articulating and developing norms” (2008, p.26). Governing or managing the world wide web needs to be a multilateral project and relating back to the ideas of freedom and democracy–a multilateral OSS undertaking.

— Irina Bernebring Journiette


20
Oct 12

The Good the Bad and the Ugly? The many truths of Anonymous.


I haven’t yet decided what I think about Anonymous—the loosely associated hacking collective that randomly pops-up and then and then to oppose internet censorship, corporate domination and what it feels is unjust government. They have been praised as freedom fighters and they have been targeted for their lawless behavior. So, even though I know it’s been done before I’ve decided that I for my individual assignment will focus on the case of Anonymous and their use of hactivism to promote online liberty and independence.

— Irina Bernebring Journiette


20
Oct 12

Alternative Computing–When Hacking Meets Activism

A part of the assignment we have been given to work with during this course is to write a case study about what we find interesting within the theme of ”New Media Activism.” Being somewhat of a rebellious mind and interested in breaking boundaries and cracking social codes I’ve always found digital codes a fascinating enigma. I’ve hence decided to focus on the phenomenon that occurs when activism meets hacking and merge in to hactivism. The tools of new media have re-invented activism and terms like hactivism, electronic disobedience and the digital frontier are becoming important in the discourse surrounding the ongoing online debate about alternative computing. Hactivist are no longer fringe actors but often attack the digital heart of their opponents. But how do we as ComDev students understand hacktivism?

Well, you will have to return later to read my full essay to get the answer but I can tell you this.

In the words of Jennifer Earl and Katrina Kimport in their work Digitally Enabled Social Change: Activism in the Internet Age, hacktivism means “using hacking related techniques for political ends” (Earl and Kimport, 2011, p.225).  I my words, hacktivism is creative online political action and is an electronic way of intervening in politics. It is a direct way of disrupting power and hence a form of direct action. If, as I do, we believe what is written in Reclaiming the media: communication rights and democratic media roles  that: “direct action is at the core of processes of social change” (Cammaerts & Carpentier, 2007, p.217)—then hacktivism can be interpreted as a core process for social change.

“Bahumbug” you might say. Actually, No! Not really. Here is why. Hacktivism or cyber activism in many cases seem to fight the digital capitalism and monopoly on information. Beyond talking over a site to promote a political idea, hacking is a way of attacking digital gatekeepers—those who withhold, re-write or censor information. By attacking and hindering these gatekeepers the goal is to liberate information and make it accessible to all. By doing so the attackers or hackers also challenge the already predetermined ideas of knowledge that is provided by the government or corporation and communicate their own ideas of knowledge. This means that alternative computing can be a way to reconstruct knowledge and just like Lievrouw describes that common knowledge projects do in Alternative and Activist New Media. Namely to: “reorganize and categorize information in ways that can challenge or reframe the established, expert knowledge classifications of mainstream cultural institutions and disciplines” (Lievrouw, 2011, p.20).

Challenging knowledge is a way of challenging power and perhaps hacktivism can be seen in the light of online anarchy and a way to fight “the dangers of the rise of an information elite exercising absolutist control over a communications system” (Atton, 2002, p.135). Something Chris Atton reflects upon in his book Alternative Media and something I argue could be the outcome if uncensored access to information is denied. In that sense I guess I to some extend can label myself as what Loving and Soenke call “techno determinists”  the in The Incommunicado Reader (2005, p.17). I do believe that the spread of technology equals a spread of development since it provide individuals with the possibility to tap in to the endless stream of communication and information. At the same time I do of course acknowledge the idea that “the effective value of information depends on the user’s ability to interpret it. A higher level of education is fundamental to maximize the potential offered by the Internet” (Loving and Soenke, 2005, p.47).

 

— Irina Bernebring Journiette