2.Should new media replace the old?

Addressing the question of whether new media should replace the old evokes thoughts on what it is that is new about new media and if this calls for a radical replacement of the old or a middle path can be taken that seeks to accommodate both. Lievrouw and Livingstone (2002, 2006 cited in Lievrouw 2011:7) identified three key components of new media, namely its material artifacts (hard and software components), practices (e.g. texting, voicemail etc.) and social arrangements like ownership, regulations and so on. While these elements also characterise the old media, new media differs in four important ways which can also be taken as the major pros of new media. Its technologies are changing all the time and at times are combined with older technologies to create new ones. Added to the recombinant character of new media´s technological design is that it is highly networked. New media is also characterised by its seeming presence in almost every corner of the globe. Opportunities to interact blur lines between media producer and consumer.

Taking the design of new media technologies first, by resisting lockdown and changing all the time, there is the advantage that designs are suited to the ever changing needs of people. Instead of reading a story in the newspaper with a still photo of the event, the internet enables people to also view videos of the events and usually there is a link to related articles and so on. This networked architecture of new media gives users a wide selection of information and cultural resources. Equally important is that new media provides the opportunity to establish a democratic media culture through its feature of interactivity i.e. users can engage with the media by uploading their personal interactions and expressions within a few minutes of breaking news and these responses are also accessible to other users. Related to this is the possibility to use new media and information technologies in socio-political and cultural movements e.g. in culture jamming and other genres of alternative and activist media.

Given this rather positive account of what the new media is doing and its potential to enhance participation in socio-economic and cultural matters it is tempting to call for the old media to be discarded. However, the reliance of new media on ICTs make it difficult to replace the old media just yet because of the digital divide and the divide which Pieterse (2005:12) rather calls a socio-economic divide is not easy to bridge. Even where people have high access to computers and the internet, this can lead to cultural fragmentation and self-centredness. While new media provides conditions for participation it can be used by people with ulterior motives to destabilise society and thus raises questions of security.

Old media is cheaper for poorer countries whose infrastructure is not yet fully developed. The sort of political control with few players characteristic of mass media systems can be seen as necessary in certain polities to maintain social coherence and national unity e.g. in countries with secessionist problems community radios can be abused by rebels. On the other hand, the same control of the media can be abused by the state in misinforming citizens and suppressing genuine dissent.

It appears, the old media will not be replaced anytime soon. The question of whether the new should replace the old is also a question of contextual analysis i.e. where in the world are we talking about? If at all there is to be a replacement, research should be directed to what conditions are necessary for the complete cross-over.

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.