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


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


20
Oct 12

Activism as support? An invitation to write letters to Gottfrid Svartholm.

Pirate Bay founder Gottfrid Svartholm was arrested in late August in Cambodia and later extradited to Sweden. Today his supporters are asked to show their support by writing him letters. The move is interesting to reflect upon in regards to the offline and online relation within new activism. By reaching out to the online community the intention is to have them act in the offline world. And relating to Pirate Bay it’s of course always fascinating to see how online mobilization can lead to offline momentum.

But when we talk about mobilization we need to do a short detour. Mobilization or “mobil(e)isation” is something Joss Hands reflcts upon in her work @ Is for Activism : Dissent, Resistance and Rebellion in a Digital Culture. Mobilization is the move “from gathering to acting” or from “demonstration to direct action” (Hands, 2010, p.124). This movement is something Hands, and other scholars on the topic, mean have changed radically with the growth of our digital culture. Today activists can use a myriad of different devices and networks to “coordinate, organize and disrupt at speed and in numbers” (ibid.) This means that mobilization today can be almost instant, but most important of all according to me–global. Which in turn leads us back to the global support of Svartholm and the Pirate Bay. A global online support that also lead to local offline support which lead to political policy impact.

During the Pirate Bay-trial and the demonstrations and protest that surrounded it several of the organizers of the offline protest, that was mobilized mainly online, were a part of the Swedish Pirate party, a political party founded in 2006, who among other issues is known for its fight for increased freedom in sharing online content. After the verdict in the TPB trial was announced the number of members among the Swedish Pirate Party increased rapidly–which can b interpreted as the online and offline activity leading to political mobilization. During the elections to the European Parliament the following year the Party managed to secure a seat and showed that it had become a part of the Swedish and European policy setting political sphere. The online and offline debate hence helped mobilize support to impact current policy.

 

— Irina Bernebring Journiette


10
Oct 12

Understanding New Media Activism

So the directive for this blog and assignment is to reflect upon the topic of New Media Activism. To do so , in my mind, you need to determine: What constitutes “New Media?” What constitutes “Activism?” And how are the two terms related? “Blah, blah, blah” some of you might say, “we already know that.” But just bear with me and let’s pretend that you don’t, so that we can settle on some vague definition that will be the basis for the rest of the material provided by me on this site.

The easiest way to define new media is to claim that new media is everything that is not traditional, or by other words, old media. New media then become media associated with post-millennial technology and communication. However, this definition feels very over-simplistic and perhaps it’s easier to define new media by the features that it embodies, the most important one for the reflections that are to follow–it’s possibilities to be interactive. New media, according to my definition, hence becomes something that turns the spectator into a spect-actor. This is something that Lievrouw in her book, Alternative and Activist New Media, also seem to land in. What she writes is that “New Media” is media that “provides conditions for participation” (Lievrouw, 2011, p.3). With, for example the expansion of and the wider use of, the world wide web, the distance between gaining information of something you find is wrong and acting/partaking to prevent the wrongdoing from continuing has lessened (Lievrouw, 2011, p.14). This idea of participation is in itself a key feature of activism in the form that it’s captured in Reclaiming the media: communication rights and democratic media roles:  “activism (…) represents the practice of struggling for change” (Cammaerts & Carpentier, 2007, p.217). At the same time, however, even though activism always indicates participation, participation does not always indicate activism. Instead it needs to be evaluated on a case-to-case basis to, in the words of Cammaerts and Carpentier, determine “when participation has taken on such a focused, critical mass of energy aimed at attaining specific changes that we would want to label it activism” (2007, p.ix).

So to conclude, my very brief theoretical framework is that: “New Media Activism” is based on focused participation with the goal of attaining specific changes and use media with interactive features to reach it’s goal.

— Irina Bernebring Journiette