The April 6th Youth Movement was created as a facebook page in April 2008 by Ahmed Maher and Israa Abdel Fattah. The purpose was to support the workers’ strike in Mahalla. In January 2011 the broad support to the group resulted in protests contributing to the downfall of the Mubarak regime. The effect of the movement is researched further by The Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington Information School.
IndyMedia was born during the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999, and here the strengths and potential of activist and alternative media first showed its potential for creating a new democratic space outside of the mass media.
-How to use media to get people on the streets.
Mediated mobilization is a theoretical framework explaining how different media support the creation and actions of social movements. Mobilization is a process supporting collaboration between like-minded people, building on feelings such as belonging, solidarity and a collective feeling of identity amongst the participants. (Lievrouw 2011: 154) Mobilization is centred around an agent/action perspective, trying to change the existing discourse to alter society into the direction, the outsiders consider a better society.
During the development and sharing of the movement’s values, the surrounding mass culture is challenged. This correlation between the larger culture and the subculture is also part of the mobilization. This is often referred to as the connection between agency and action (of participants). Social movements are primarily a response to an agency – an existing structure in society, which the social movement wants to change.
Role of the Media
”Media have the power to lead and shape public perceptions, opinions, and feelings.” (Lievrouw 2011: 156)
Social movements uses medias to support the establishments of communities and actions; especially network-media supports the gathering participants, creating a common platform and support the planning of real action. Medias used for mobilizing people is visual, audio, printed and digital. But especially ICT networks are interesting, as they are used as an enhancer of the prefigurative quality of movements – i.e. the new social movements uses digital network platforms as a space for shaping their values, ideals and lifestyles.
Not for Everybody
Cisler (2005) argues in the article “What’s the Matter with ICTs”, that the gap between the North and South in the field of access to digital media is large, and growing. ICT is mainly for huge companies and urban cities in the North. The internet represents an inequality towards the people in the South, because they do not have the same tools for access to the digital networks. Cisler argues that there lies a problem within capitalist companies, developing computers and phones, too expensive for the South.
Cisler, Steve (2005): “What’s the Matter with ICT’s” in Lovink, Geert & Zehle, Soenke (2005) the Incommunicado Reader. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.
The Need for New Theory
“Digital network education and research need to declare independence. We must leave behind the tired dialectic of old and new and the dull atmosphere of competition with print and broadcasting. Instead of negotiating to death over broad resemblances, we need to define the specificities of these emerging platforms”
(Lovink 2011: 81)
Geert Lovink argues that there is a need for a new theoretical framework regarding digital media – and that we need to discard the old media as printing and broadcasting. Furthermore, the internet and digital networking represents a massive source of information overload. Networks such as Facebook promotes the crisis of the public self and constitutes a threat to the way we use internet, because we are loosing the multiple self. Moving from acting through different identities on different platforms, everybody is now jolly, happy on Facebook. The most important message stated by Lovink is the lack of modern theoretical frameworks targeting digital networks. At this point the above referring to Cisler makes no sense. His article is from 2005. Nobody was thinking of Smartphones, tablets or iPad Mini.
Lievrouw, Leah A. (2011): Alternative and New Activist Media, Digital Media and Society Series, Polity Press, Malden.
Lovink, Geert. (2011): Networks without a Cause. Polity Press, Malden.
Participatory journalism and indymedia, a new “radical democracy?!”
Even though there has been a decline in the popularity of print newspapers, it does not mean that people are not seeking news anymore. In stead there has been an increase in what is called participatory journalism. Here anyone, anywhere can start a blog, or website of any sort, and carry out journalistic work on any subject they choose (Lievrouw 2011, p.120).
There are many pros and cons against this new trend. Participatory journalism and Indymedia has partly taken the role of “watchdog” out of the hands of trained journalist and news media that often work under critical editors and who has undergone several years of training, into the hands of the ordinary citizens who were formerly simply the audience. They can now report on grassroots issues, local issues, and can go in depth with reporting in ways that journalist working under a time line cannot always do. Also the “grassroots journalists” are often not working under an editor, or a guideline for what can be printed in their newspapers, which in turn allows for a totally different kind of freedom in reporting.
The role of journalism is to be the “fourth estate” within a democracy, however this has been questioned a lot lately, as mass media is being driven more and more by profit and popularity journalism, rather than in depth research journalism. One example where alternative media showed the force that it has the potential of carrying with it, was during the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999, where the mass media mostly reflected the view of the dominant order (Gillham 2000). The voices of the protestors were not nearly covered to the same extend, and during this protest is when Indymedia first was developed and gained strong grounds as being the true voice of the people, and a way for the protestors and masses to be heard and share their views (Gillham 2000, Lievrouw 2011, p.133). This begs the questions, who was really the watchdog in this instance, and who is to say that true democratic journalism can only come from people who hold the “right training” in the field?
However, some of the issues with this new form of participatory or “citizen journalism” is the credibility, reliability and accountability. Who is there to edit the self appointed journalists other than other self appointed journalists and other ordinary citizens? Do we need to think of journalism in a whole new way, where it is no longer the major newspapers with highly trained journalists that we can rely on for reliable and non-biased news, but rather forums of blogs, websites and IndyMedia sites, where authors can post their stories, edit each others´ stories, and participate in debates among each other and active participatory citizens? What will this trend mean for the developing world, and how will effect countries there once the internet gains even stronger grounds there? What will it mean for a future Rwanda, Guatemala, or Chile?
Gillham, Patrick F. : Complexity & Irony in Policing and Protesting: The World Trade Organization in Seattle in Social Justice, 2000, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 212-236
Lievrouw, Leah A. (2011): Alternative and New Activist Media, Digital Media and Society Series, Polity Press, Malden.
Cultural jamming can be described as artistic “terrorism”, it´s an anti-authoritarian form of underground art. By using creativity and a sense of humor it becomes an arena for action and expression that uses its space to fool around with corporate powers. Ways of doing that is for example by mocking or re-contexting powerful players on the market. Cultural jamming uses collective creativity for mobilization and mediation. An example of Cultural jamming is the adbusters. Check out http://www.adbusters.org/spoofads for more ads!
Commons knowledge is considered as one of a form of media activism, next to electronic advocacy, hacktivism and culture jamming (Bart Cammaerts, “Activism and Media”). It is defined as an alternative (complementary) to the expert-driven, institutionalized and authoritative process of knowledge creation and dissemination (Leah A. Lievrouw, “Alternative and activist new media. Digital media and society series), however most people (especially experts) see it as a contradiction.
It’s important to understand the context of commons knowledge, while the initial ‘computer revolution’ (Web 1.0) meant global information search and retrieval, hence Web 2.0 added also personal involvement, interaction and collective creativity to this existing power, what creates the commons knowledge.
I think it’s a great evolution of online communication, from the documentary, one-sided to interactive, participatory. Commons knowledge projects opened “new arenas for collaborative knowledge production” (Leah A. Lievrouw, p. 178), that can be very inspiring and productive, and offer the alternative for disciplinary and authoritative (traditional) knowledge. I fully support the assertion that “with enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow” (Raymond, 2001, p. 30). Nevertheless I also agree that there are many traps/dangers about it. The main defect of the collective knowledge is that its production don’t guarantee any quality and the online organization of information is usually radically incomplete, fragmented and in flux.
The most prominent example of commons knowledge is Wikipedia, that every on of us know and I bet also used/read. I remember when I was at school, writing some papers, teacher always repeated that Wikipedia is not a reliable source and it shouldn’t be quoted. That’s why surprising was the outcomes of a research described by L. Lievrouw in the book. The experiment in which Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica were compared and in result the reviewers reported both sources having equally low number of “serious errors”, while eventhough in Wikipedia there is a greater chance for a mistake, it also have important potential for quick amendment and corrections, which “would eventually bring it up to Britannica standards” writes L. Lievrouw (p. 207). I think the question of what constitutes legitimate knowledge and who decides about it remains unanswered and it’s up to individuals to use/create the Wikipedia or not.
I think the critics see the commons knowledge only in the opposition to the traditional. And this is not the point of it, it should stay complementary, and bring added-value, not replacing experts, institutionalized knowledge. On the other hand the internet users should also realize that there are things existing outside the network and use the commons knowledge consciously.
Although cultural jamming can be seen as political in its nature it´s not occupied with a political agenda. The aim is not to change the world, cultural jamming is satisfied with getting people to start thinking critically. Cultural jamming moves in the borders to civil disobedience. For example, some projects intervene or play around with surveillance cameras, selling votes or encourage to different sorts of actions and resistance.
There is a wide range on the different kind of projects that can be described as cultural jamming. As we have already seen there are the adbusters who transforms commercials and tries to raise awareness for the fact that we live in a consumer-oriented society. Then we have Robbie Conal and his assistants who portrait powerful people, for example the President, and add not so flattering comments. There are groups who have performed dances in front of surveillance cameras, and others who temporarily knock those cameras out or add stickers so that the cameras get more noticeable. The Rtmark is like an umbrella that tries to get focus on and funding to different art projects. One example is the Barbie Liberation Organization who changed voice boxes from Barbies to GI Joes and the other way around. Cultural jamming can be hands-on, practical stuff, posters, magazines or fundraising with a twist. The use of internet has opened up a lot of opportunities and now the local or small-scale projects can be seen by a lot of people.
Reverse jamming. Cultural jamming uses mainstream culture and then arrange it in ways to point at hypocrisy or absurdities in our society. Flows of expression can be described to move in circular ways. The cultural expressions that origins from outside the mainstream, are after a while sometimes being used by brands to strengthen their trademark. Examples of this are subcultures like graffiti or skateboarding that starts off as a subculture, but over time elements get adopted by the mainstream culture and corporate powers. Because of this circular process some critics claim that movements such as cultural jamming have a limited lifetime.
I find cultural jamming an interesting and important resistance to the market-forces that usually permeate a lot of social activity. Sometimes this resistance is being done by mocking, hacking or co-opting, and sometimes it is being done by using the language of the market but for non-profit projects. The last is the case of Rtmark.