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