Much of the research and literature on new media activism is aiming at defining and describing it as well as to analyse various political and social events around the world to further explore, illustrate and elaborate this phenomenon. An “Alternative and Activist New Media (2011)” is one such publication in which the author Leah A. Lievrouw attempted to define, conceptualize, analyse and theorise the new media practices.AANM
In an attempt to explore the meaning and concepts of new media, she discussed various approaches and scholars in defining media and communication technology. Lievrouw with her colleague Livingstone made an attempt to define a new media as the artifacts and practices that enable people to communication or share meaning in a large social and organizational arrangement. Moreover, to distinguish new media from traditional mass media, she illustrated the characteristics of new media: 1) Hybrid/recombinant technologies – resist stabilization and change continuously as a result of combining existing and new systems, 2) Networks of networks – systems are designed and developed by continuously reorganization, unfolding, organizations and users, 3) Ubiquity – seeming presence of new media everywhere at all the time, 4) Interactive – users enjoy freedom in selection and choice of information and culture resources as well as their personal interactions and expressions.
Furthermore, she discussed a strict theoretical framework in chapter 2. Later from Chapter 3 to 7, the framework is utilized to examine the study cases and examples to explore the 5 contemporary new media genres: alternative computing, culture jamming, participatory journalism, common knowledge and mediated mobilization. In last chapter, Lievrouw explored the concept of mediation and noted a cultural shift from mere broadcasting to mediation in the digital cultures context. She further noted mediation as an on-going process, mutually shaping relationship between reconfiguration and remediation – two models of communicative action across the genres. Reconfiguration model of communication allows the users to modify and adapt media technologies and systems as needed, whereas in remediation model, users borrow, adapt or remix existing materials, expressions and interactions to create a continuously expanding universe of innovation new work and ideas.
Finally, Lievrouw successfully managed to give an introduction of new media and a detailed illustration of genres of the alternative and activists media in a complex theoretical framework system. However, with growing political, social and cultural activism has somewhat outdated the discussed examples and study cases. Furthermore, the alternative genres and the mediation theoretical framework of social change have to room to bridge further theoretically.

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

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Evolution of New Media

by Naeem Iqbal on September 24, 2014

From the beginning of a new millennium and with widely acceptance of globalization, the connectedness increased between North and South which gave rise to the trans-nationalism. With the rise in trans-nationalism, transnational corporation increased between North and South and that led to spread, transfer and sharing of production, communication and technologies across the world.

Technology SharingThe general public in under-developed societies of North and South gained access to new and advanced information and communication devices and online platforms that offered the inclusive and open space for a conversation about dominant discourse to occur, outside of the hegemony of established institutions such as the government or the traditional media. And this was the beginning of New Media era.

Lievrouw, L (2001:7) along with her colleague Sonia Livingstone defined New Media as “information and communication technologies and their social contexts, which include three main components:

  1. the material artifacts or devices that enable and extend people’s abilities to communicate and share meaning;
  2. the communication activities or practices that people engage in as they develop and use those devices; and
  3. the larger social arrangements and organizational forms that people create and build around the artifacts and practices.”

Generally, New Media is referred to ‘digital media’ that encompasses a series of platforms including blogs, micro-blogging, Social media, video-sharing, online reporting and RSS feeds. In other words, New Media is a digital mass peer-to-peer communication forum that involves the usage of mobile devices such as cell phones, smart phones, laptops and computers.

Further more, New Media is not restricted to digital ‘online’ activity but encompasses a large array of activity offline, e.g. film making or live streaming of any event may not be digital activity but their reliance on digital technologies and platforms to create and distribute content to wider audience put themselves within the scope of New Media.

In New Media era, Mainstream Media including newspapers, magazines and television, traditionally held by the political and cultural elite, can no longer monopolize and control the communication and information. The big media corporations still exist but their dominance is no longer as assured as it was . Furthermore, New Media encourages mass engagement and creates unprecedented opportunities for expression and interaction which allows the members of society, especially among activists, artists, and other political and cultural groups around the world to disagree and challenge the dominant narratives set by mainstream or culture (Lievrouw, L. 2011: 1-2).

According to Habermas, J. (1989), the advent of New media provides new form of public sphere in which the provision of information, almost unlimited access to different voices and feedback is possible as contrast to traditional mass media where the information flow is predominantly vertical, thus limited access and discouraged participation. With the new inventions and advancements in New media devices and platforms, access to information and exchanges of ideas enhanced so did the political participation, civil society and democratic activism which introduced new dimension to the social movements (Cammaerts, B. and Carpentier, N. eds, 2007:219).

However, the benefits of New Media are limited to those societies where the internet and telecommunication technology have advanced. Most of the underdeveloped societies are yet to be benefited for the new public sphere provided by New media. Beside that Balding, T (2007) while addressing conference organized by the WRFC and UNESCO warned that ‘the internet has opened up extraordinary new possibilities for the widespread, damaging, and sometimes dangerous manipulation of information which is difficult if not impossible to stem.’ Therefore, despite many positives of new media, there are some gray aspects of new media that require further research to examine the magnitude of danger they may posed.

References: 

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

2). Habermas, J. (1989). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An inquiry into a category of Bourgeois Society, T. Burger and F. Lawrence (trans.), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

3). Cammaerts, B. and Carpentier, N. (eds) (2007) Reclaiming the media: communication rights and democratic media roles . Intellect: Bristol, UK.

4). Balding, T. (2007) New media increases freedom but hold dangers, conference told. Retrieved from <http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev.php-URL_ID=24121&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html> Sep 30th, 2014.

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