1: Why Community Media? Defining the term

I would love this conversation to get started, but I do not have time to be as lengthy as I would like to be on this topic – therefore, I will start with a brief introduction to the first topic, and hope that my fellow classmates can help me flesh it out and set the tone for the next couple of weeks.

In order to discuss the role of New Media and ICT in community media, we must first try to define what it is, and how we are going to be using the term. In our required reading, we focus more on that second step – how is it being used, and altered, to fit with the new conditions under which it operates? Therefore, we must go back up a bit in order to make sure we are all on the same page.

In his 2005 book “Community Media: People, Places and Communication Technologies”, Kevin Howley points out that not a lot of research has been done on the topic. “Despite their keen appreciation for local cultural production and their affirmation of popular culture of resistance, cultural studies scholars likewise and inexplicably overlook community media. /…/ ¬†an important subtext of this book is, therefore, the contention that community media represents a significant, but largely untapped site of analysis into the dynamics of media culture.” (2005:4, 6)

We can delve even deeper into why it might be hard to define community media, if we turn to the field of anthropology. A culture, or a community, can be defined by their shared experiences, rules, languages or traditions-  sometimes loosely held together, sometimes so closely knit that others can have a hard time being accepted into the fold. Usually, however, people belong to many different communities and, in a world that is increasingly interconnected, where do we draw the line between community and alternative media, for example?

Howley’s definition of community media, therefore, involves a willingness within the group to sustain a “deep, horizontal community”, but at the same time he sees it as a local phenomena, place-bound – “properly viewed as a complex form of resistance and accommodation to transnational media flows” (ibid: 33) In many instances, the resistance seems to be key to a community media project: It must be, somehow working with a self-identified group with somewhat set boundaries, and reject at least part of the hegemonic structures in which the group operates.

As for the place argument, I am not sure that is as important as it once was. We see groups like Anonymous, but also others, who self-identify as a community and control their own media outlets from different parts of the world. The web might not be a physical space, but I would argue that these groups would still fall under the definition of community media.