We will be presenting our blog on Thursday the 20th, 10:00 (Swedish Time).
You can also join the event on Google+.
See you then!
/Maria, Dawood and Elias
We will be presenting our blog on Thursday the 20th, 10:00 (Swedish Time).
You can also join the event on Google+.
See you then!
/Maria, Dawood and Elias
Relating to previous blog posts – especially Dawood’s “Community media – public sphere – storytelling” I want to share this link and some information on the international non-governmental organization CMFE which is working with illuminating community media as a fundamental part for democracy.
CMFE is also interesting in relation to Elias’ latest post “The struggle for independent radio”, especially in regard to Elias last paragraph where he cites Rennie “”governments should “ “endorse community as a sphere of activity outside of the state and economy” a statement which Elias is not totally agreeing upon and open to discuss.
Founded on 5 November 2004 in Germany, the CMFE aims to strengthen the participation of the “third media sector“ in European discussion and decision-making processes. The “third media sector”, or the community media sector, is the non-profit-making media serving local communities alongside the public media sector and the private commercial media sector.
CMFE is serving as a platform for networks, national federations and projects active within the sector. CMFE had in December 2013 110 members from 26 European countries, and within its 18 affiliate members it counts also individuals and organizations from Africa, Asia and North America. CMFE is an observer with the Steering Committee on the Media and Information Society of the Council of Europe and it represents the interest of the Community Media sector in various working groups at a Pan-European level, alongside other associations representing the public and the commercial media sectors, as well as media and civil society stakeholders.
”The CMFE stands for
On the CMFE website you can find information on members, relating documents and resources, events, a news archive and several community media links.
During this session we’ll discuss the role of policy, regulation and the government in relation to community media.
Is it better to have some media, even if it is not free and independent? To what degree can community media work outside of regulation and policy to stay independent? Is global community media, not tied to regulation of the nation-state, a way to go?
March 14th 19:00
In recent posts I have returned to the main concern of community media; the public sphere as a necessity for community communication. The public sphere is separate from the market place and its competition, built around the idea of serving the ‘whole of society’ according to Cammaerts. Now, moving from the macro level to the micro level of society, what is my own experience of community media and the public sphere?
I have for more than one year worked with digital storytelling as a technique for learning and for creating space and trust among people that I hope can be the soil to build new public spheres. There have been many lessons learned but one particular lesson has been to understand how important it is for communities in Sweden to make the creation of public spheres a main development objective. And not just any public sphere, but a public sphere where learning and sharing are valued as key principles.
In our latest google hangout Maria mentioned the coming election in Sweden and pointed out the possibility of ’parallel public spheres’, the mainstream media and other groups centered around different interests, usually taking place on the internet. I would like to elaborate further on this and bring in the research from Cammaerts into the discussion. Studies on media, civil action and participation show that 1) the definition of citizenship has turned into consumerism and cultural citizenship 2) the mainstream media is failing to voice the concerns of its citizens.
When talking to people in general I am usually struck by how unengaged people are in politics. Especially young people, seem to have completely lost their trust in mainstream media and instead finding alternative news channels on the internet. Others feel that the real issues are never really discussed in the public sphere, and therefore don’t act their right to express themselves. Since the commercialization of media, the political dimension of communication seems more and more absent pushing its citizens to find alternative spheres. However, whether public spheres are created on the internet or in mainstream media, ’real participation’ of the citizen must directly adress power, according to professor Jan Servaes. It suggests that, we can have diverse media channels and so called ’free choice’ among them without having real participation. Sociologist Zygmund Bauman argues that the freedom of choice for the European citizen is shrinking, since the the tool of power of participation that lied within the law and and legislation has been transfered to the markets.
Participation in democracy today, in my opinion, is not so much about ’real participation’ but about information, services and choice of entertainment content. The case of the postal service in Finland illustrates well how the citizen is not only caught between disfunctional media and a company but also how the municipalities constrain citizen participation. The background story is that the The Finish Postal Service wanted to rationalize their postal services and ordered the residents to move the local citizens mail boxes, the citizens opposed this and organized themselves.
The municipalites in Finland (like in Sweden) usually adress their citizens as ’clients’ offering services rather than including them into participatory processes of real decision- making. The local media also acted in opposition to the citizens, demonstrating the failure of media to politicize the concerns of the residents. Auli Harju argues that traditional journalism is molded in principles of autonomity and indepence that make the journalist want to take distance from the citizen, portraying the citizen as passive rather than as an actor in the civic society. In this case, the media posted the Postal Offices arguments as facts in the main news pages whereas the the residents voices was found in the local papers at the end. Secondly, media tends to focus on conflict and drama in stories, therefore making it even harder to create that public sphere for discussion among different groups and interests. Even though the local media covered the story, they did not follow up on questions regarding citizen participation, nor did they facilitate or maintain a public sphere for a dialogue to continue.
Returning to the idea of the parallel public spheres in the beginning of this post; If the citizen can’t rely on the media to politicize its concerns anymore and if the state and municipalities still define the citizen in the traditional way, as a receiver of information and services, where could the citizen have a real discussion on matters that concerns his/her life? How can community media challenge the commercial mass media and the old nation- state definition of citizenship?
What is meant by community? What is community media? Why is it important in terms of social change?
These questions are the starting point of the journey into exploring community media and in this post I will try to answer the questions from the perspective of Kevin Howley with reference to his book Community Media – People, Places, and Communication Technologies from 2005.
Regarding the first question, What is meant by community? – I have chosen three different but equally interesting definitions of community which Howley has applied. One definition, which originates from political scientist Benedict Anderson, refers to the nation-state and the ever so powerful print-capitalism. Howley cites Anderson who argues that the production and ritual consumption of daily newspapers creates simultaneity and a common symbolic space for inhabitants of the nation. However, it is not just the production of news papers but also e.g. record keeping, novels and bureaucratic prints which creates the imagined community of nationalism and sustains a deep, horizontal comradeship.
The second definition Howley apply is from anthropologist Anthony Cohen who means that borders and boundaries which construct communities are in large symbolically constructed and that they both contain and differentiate. Theses symbolic practices define whether you belong to a community or not and they can be simple things as how to dress and speak and how not to dress and speak. Therefore communities are “expressions of commonality as well as difference”.
Next, Howley brings up Stuart Hall’s Articulation theory which explores the connections of elements. The connection, or linkage, can be as simple as the truck and a trailer pulled by the truck but also more complicated as the alliance between social actors in politics. Hall also states that these connections are volatile and contingent. Howley concludes that “articulation offers a way to conceptualize community as a unity of differences; a unity forged through symbol, ritual, language and discursive practices”.
Hopefully we now have a fair idea of how Howley defines community and I will move on to the next question – What is community media? And Howley actually, has a very clear idea of what community media is and in just a few sentences states that it is grassroots or locally oriented media initiatives based on a dissatisfaction of mainstream media and the form this media takes. Moreover, community media is sprung out of the principles of free expression and participatory democracy and it strives to strengthen community relations and to encourage community solidarity. Howley also means that community media are popular and strategic interventions committed to democratization of media structures. Popular in the meaning that it takes care of the local needs of information and connectivity; strategic in the meaning that the purpose asserts collective identity and local autonomy in a time where media ownership is unusual on a local level. Howley gives examples on what community media encompasses by mentioning direct action campaigns, trade union and media work reforms, culture jamming, communication scholarship and other critical interventions struggling for communicative democracy.
The third question – Why is it important in terms of social change? – is partly answered on in the previous part of this post; Howley argues that community media is part of the process and a necessity for democracy. In four chapters he makes case studies of community media initiatives and analyses these from, among other perspectives, a social change perspective. Howley is interested in the technologies which are usable for community media and the case studies are related to radio, television, print and computer networks. One of the case studies are on a TV channel called DCTV and I will complete this post by citing Howley: “DCTV rearticulates a familiar technology and in so doing promotes progressive social change, enhance cross cultural communication and creates a more democratic media culture”.
Howley, K. 2005: Community Media – People, Places, and Communication Technologies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
In this blog post, I aim to answer the following questions based on this book:
What is meant by community?
Claiming to be a space that lies outside of politics – or being pre-political – community still requires politics to conceptualised or recognised. Community is formed through identification and a sense of affinity or of belonging, making it uncalculated, but made operational through the institution as a third sector. It is viewed as a type of governance, or a means of achieving political and/or social change in society and is placed within the concept of civil society. As the third sector in society, civil society consists of both formal and informal networks of associations, groups, clubs and cultural allegiances of everyday life that create social bonds, tying communities together.
How is community media defined?
The book is global in its scope and community media as definition is employed in a broad sense, including everything from local television in Denmark and newsletters by women in Bengal to web-based Indymedia that operates globally. Rennie has chosen to adopt a definition of community media by the International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR):
Community media “originates, circulates and resonates from the sphere of civil society…This is the field of media communication that exists outside of the state and the market (often non-gonvernmental and non-profit), yet which may interact with both.”
Participation, accessibility and being non-profit are a few key elements are central to community media. Equally important to the methods, structures and organisation of community media is its aspirations and motivations. Rennie makes the connection to civil society and that community media works as one of its communication platforms and serves as both maintenance and as an extension of civil society itself.
Why is it important in terms of social change?
In terms of social change, Rennie partly relates the inclusive nature of community media and its ability to bring skills to a community. This relates to the political trend known as the third way where emphasis is put on partnership between local governments and civil society. In its essence, community media offers an alternative way of doing things, both in terms of production and organisation which makes it better adapted for activist networks and social movements to employ it to achieve social and political change. Even though Rennie argues for the transformative potential through participatory communication, she calls for caution on the expectations on development and social change. The danger lies in assessment, measurability and priorities pushed by donors that in effect shape what community media is made and by whom. Rennie calls emphasis to be put on the empowerment aspects of community media, supporting the “on-the-ground” usefulness and not donor-expected development objectives.
One of the most important aspects are credited to the self-representation and self-expression that community media offers, which is an essential part for societies to foster democracy and free speech. Participatory acts of representing oneself, presenting ideas, expressing culture or politics through personal stories, local concerns and unhindered commentary, show us what is happening in civil society and ultimately has consequences for democracy.
What function does community media play on the macro level of society?
From the beginning of the study of the master inC4D I realized where my main interests lay. In cultural representation, or in other words, culture and development and in the dynamics of power relations in society. A well functioning society seem to have a healthy balance between state, market and the civil society. Today, unfortunately, direct and participatory civil action, that for many are at the base of the democratic process, is being undermined by a failed media system and an uncontrolled market expansion. In a collection of studies named “Reclaming the media” by Bart Cammaerts and Nico Carpentier, the underlying argument is how crucial media is for the participation of the citizen in the democratic process. However there is an ungoing debate of the width and definition of citizenship today.
Cammaerts points to the fact that citizenship constantly is changing. The global economy has weakened the nation- state and therefore the older definition of citizenship that was more or less linked to the nation state not longer as valid. Instead people identify themselves more and more with culture, ethnicity,sex, individual values, what has been called ’cultural citizenship’. Another word for this change has been called ’intimization” by professor Van Zoonen at Erasmus university. I believe it’s a good word for how the private sphere is becoming a part of citizenship. Here, community and alternative media may play a crucial role in communicating the new citizenship. This process is not unproblematic though since structures, institutions and muncipalities in society still are leaning towards the older definition of citizenship where agency is separated from private matters and where the citizen is active in its capacity of having rights and obligations towards the state. The shrinking of the public spaces, due to the markets increasing influence over politics and communication and media, calls for alternative and pluralistic channels for people to express and share ideas. As some of the researchers has argued, the result of not including the emerging identities and concerns of ordinary people into the public sphere can be dyer and further undermine the credibility of democracy in western societies.
This blog post will be discussed along with the posts by Dawood and Maria on the same subject (but other books) in a Google Hangout which you are welcome to watch live or retroactively.