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


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.

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


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.

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

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