New media for emerging cultures – Freegan Kolektiva’s hub

Emergent cultures need their own media. While mainstream media are challenged, journalism is become a more decentralized public discourse that favours more individual writers than institutionalized news outlets. There is a growing space where media can empower people by presenting not only problems but also solutions and opportunities to act. It is about issues directly relevant to people – it is about people, groups, communities, initiatives…

Freegan Kolektiva’s main objective is to share our enthusiasm for exploration, knowledge and change. We are the new generation, we embody different values from the previous ones and we want to see the world different: more humane, compassionate and resilient.

In that direction, we have attempted so far to provide some pieces of news and articles. However, the way we do it reflects our values and it is fundamentally different from conventional media, which we want to challenge.

Do conventional media protract the rule of the privileged?

We see little potential for change through the mainstream media. Often they broadcast the views of established interests of advertisers, corporate executives, publishers or even political parties. Although we face massive global problems, they have been not critical enough to the system that has created these problems. Media can be manipulated in many ways by selecting stories, appointing staff, owning the sources of news etc. Additionally, self-censorship is also practiced when journalists avoid harsh criticism in order to maintain the access to or support from a regime.

The integrity of mass media, under the ownership of big corporations is widely contested. The concentration of the industry is striking [11]. For instance, News Corporation (owned by business mogul Rupert Murdoch) has acquired more than 800 companies in 50 countries and has a net worth of $5 billion [1]. News Corporation has been portrayed as an institution with unified opinion making on public policies, opinionated free market ideology and media bias, thereby thwarting the journalistic principles [2]. That provides an explanation why the palette of transmitted messages and worldviews is exceptionally narrow [11].

It is becoming clear that new ideas, new values and new movements need new media that are independent. It is not possible to struggle for a new world with the tools of the old, in this case dependent media. We need unconditional, uncompromising, independent sources of information.

Losing credibility: News as entertainment show

A lot of times issues in the press are treated as singular and disconnected without providing the needed depth. Are mounting waste and global hunger are different issues? Are the financial crisis and environmental collapse separate matters? We believe not. Moreover, news is often not coupled with sound scientific evidence or are one-sided. In few words, they are too superficial to provide in-depth understanding to the most significant processes that affect our lives. The result is confusion, which brings indecision and inaction.

At this point we should also mention that news are becoming more like an entertainment show, featuring gossip, celebrity lifestyle and other ‘soft news’. Serious journalism has lost credibility by presenting news and stories of the most decadent consumerist side of pop culture. We have witnessed a profound shift the last years to more commercial news broadcasting, where the distinction between hard and soft media has been blurred.

On the contrary we need understanding that will bring us forward to action. We need in-depth information that makes sense in our lives as presented by experts as well as everyday people. We also believe that our lives, my life and your life, are far more important and interesting than celebrities’ lives.

Tuned to alienation

Watching the news in Greece, especially now in times of deep crisis, gives you a bitter feeling of disappointment, desperation and insecurity. Not a single positive perspective is presented for the future; people see their work, earnings, properties slipping away by unemployment, austerity in a jeopardized ‘democracy’. It is no surprise that the Europeans have been sinking into depression, according to the polls, over the past years with only a small minority expecting better days in the future.

Well, the way we live plays a major role in that and we are spending most of our day connected to media. The media we watch have been disempowering us, presenting a host of problems with little or no reference to solutions, or links to positive initiatives that are really taking place. There are ways out of every crisis, but we need to find the opportunities to act. Conventional media have deprived us from our potential to act; in fact they want us to spend as much time as possible in front of the TV, instead of doing some creative work.

Gebner and Gross [3], scholars who had long inquired the impact of TV on people, argued that television demonstrates the inexorable power of authority and the impossibility of contesting social order. Violence-laden TV programmes are the main causes of the ‘mean world syndrome’, whereby people who are watching a lot of TV think of the world as a grim, unforgiving and frightening place. These people have less trust for their fellow citizens and are more afraid of the real world [3, 4]. They bluntly argued that, as outcomes of TV impact, the acceptance of violence and passivity is far more worrisome than the occasional acts of individual violence e.g. [4]. Gebner once argued:

“You know, who tells the stories of a culture really governs human behaviour,” he said. ‘It used to be the parent, the school, the church, the community. Now it’s a handful of global conglomerates that have nothing to tell, but a great deal to sell.” [5]

There is a culture of fear cultivated by the most powerful cultural media in order to legitimize authority. In fact, heavy TV viewers are more likely to demand protection and security by the established authority [4] as well as they are more susceptible to manipulation and control [3,4]. The culture of fear has been nourished also by politicians. The famous words of H.W. Göring, leading member of the Nazi party are revealing:

“The people don’t want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.” [6]

For example, the post 9/11 ‘War on Terror’ has been deemed by many as a deliberate effort to evoke fear and patriotism among Americans [7] as well as Europeans [8]. Politicians persistently depicted an ultimate but undefined danger that incited a “siege mentality” among the public, where Muslims in general became a threat to white people, which consequently resulted in xenophobia [7, 8]. According to Z. Brzezinski:

“Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue.” [7]

As K.L. De Boer noted earlier: “Fear is the ultimate source of all human violence.” [9] As N. Chomsky cited fear is silencing and is paralyzing oppressed groups, hence perpetuating a power status of sheer inequality and injustice [10]. Media is often the mouthpiece of regimes and vested interests as argued above.

TV and the news are not the real world; on the contrary they distort our perception of reality by overemphasizing some facets while under-representing others. The way we behave to each other in everyday life is affected by TV; our social roles are consolidated as well as our assumptions about love, family, institutions, success, power etc.

TV and the news disempower us, they have little relevance to the improvement of our lives that we seek. Even worse, we are alienated in separation, since our exposure to media has taken precious time from meeting others in our neighbourhoods, communities, much like our grandparents were doing.

We require empowering media that highlight both problems and solutions. Most of all, they should provide us opportunities to act, come together, build networks and expand our capacities.

Ongoing Trends – citizen-led reportage

What we want to highlight is the need for independent, uncompromised media that empower individuals and communities while they connect people and open up opportunities for constructive change. As 400 year old media, the newspapers, are collapsing and news bureaus are slashed, mainstream media in general seem to have lost their pace with the rapid changes in society while they bare little value in the real lives of ordinary people. Most importantly, conventional media seem not to be well equipped to facilitate social change; on the contrary they represent the establishment, which they seek to perpetuate.

The digital information age has changed the face of information sharing and subsequently the face of press and journalism. The amount of cross-cultural exchange has augmented exponentially with the advance of the internet, giving the space to many more individuals to share information through blogs, social networks and independent media platforms.

Inevitably, transmission of news/ideas and opinions has become a more horizontal, decentralized process even if corporate media has been trying to dominate the internet environment. From recipients of information, people have become active participants within information networks. In these new ‘info-scapes’, corporations can no longer claim to possess the sole legitimate journalistic authority. As D. Gillmor accurately pointed out: Journalism is evolving from a lecture to a conversation” [14].

Search engines have worked in favour of more targeted searches for specific topics and writers over more conglomerated content, as presented by conventional media. In the new ‘ecology of news’ [13], power is handed over from the news outlet t the individual journalist, who has become the reporter, writer, editor, gatekeeper, illustrator and publisher at once.

But who is that versatile journalist? M. Schudson points out that journalistic authority has become more individual-based and it can be done from anywhere as it requires only a laptop [13]. However, the quality of reported material has become more divergent as it lies solely on individual skills.

New media for emerging cultures

These new media are at the heart of everyday life of ordinary people; they are pulsating together with new initiatives as well as they propagate ethical values, much like participatory, civic journalism which attempts to see journalism as a platform of social discourse that enhances social capital. As D. Merritt has illustrated, public journalism can provide the bridges from disinterest to engagement in public life [12].

Some of us in Freegan Kolektiva, are not formally–trained journalists; nevertheless we are attempting to challenge the divides between amateurish and professional reporting as well as between narratives and academic writing. Seeking to provide understanding of issues, we want to be as sharp as possible, combining different sources (as much as time & energy allow) and our social commentary. We all spend time in the universities, so we want to  blend the academic perspective. We would like to dive in some serious investigations and we want to share the sources of information and provide links to further reading.

We have in mind to be as localized as possible, appealing to the interest of our own local communities while always connecting to global processes and the interest of the international community. We are inside the communities and movements, not outside observers.

These are exciting times. People have managed to run their own media centres in recent upheavals e.g. in Tahrir square during the occupation of the square. The tools to capture words and images are widely available and can propel peer-to-peer street journalism without the need of any institutions. Freegan Kolektiva is a group that sees itself as part of people-powered, open-source, non-profit and volunteer-based journalism. We did not reinvent the wheel; we just want to play our small part in grassroots media, which we see as ‘micro-institutions’ of change.

To finish with, we are committed in providing alternatives so that people can channel their energies to ongoing initiatives or form new ones. Linking problems to solutions, initiatives and opportunities to act is crucial. In the past, we have linked articles to petitions or other organizations; we believe that this brings a positive outlook in gloomy, perilous times.

Related to that, we want to share ideas about conscious lifestyle changes we can all do in our own daily lives. It is all about personal development, self-determination and group empowerment. We want to expose and advance a whole emerging culture, that is why next to ‘hard’ articles, we present music, documentaries, recipes etc. The power lies in the complementarity of the parts that form the whole.

We make an open call to individuals and groups to share information about events, initiatives, trainings etc. We want to keep it interactive, so are willing to publish apart from comments even whole articles from anyone interested.

Sources:

[1] Wikipedia (2012). Rupert Murdoch. Retrieved on the 16th of January from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Murdoch

[2] McKnight D (Sept 2010). Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation: A Media Institution with A Mission. Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television 30: pp. 303–16.

[3] Gerbner G and Gross A (1976). The scary world of TV’s heavy viewer. Psychology today magazine, Ziss-David Publishing Co.

[4] Peace, Earth & Justice news (2006). TV violence researcher dies. Retrieved on the 16th of January from: http://www.pej.org/html/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=4053&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

[5] Wikipedia (2012). Mean world syndrome. Retrieved on the 16th of January from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mean_world_syndrome

[6] Wikipedia (2012). Culture of fear. Retrieved on the 16th of January from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_fear

[7] Brzezinski Z (2007). Terrorized by ‘War on Terror’. Retrieved on the 16th of January from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/23/AR2007032301613.html

[8] Mithra P (2009). A culture of fear. Retrieved on the 16th of January from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/aug/15/eurabia-islamophobia-europe-colonised-muslims

[9] De Boer KL (2003). Beyond a Culture of Fear. Retrieved on the 16th of January from: http://www.earthlight.org/2002/essay47_deboer.html

[10] Chomsky N (1996). The culture of fear. In Javier Giraldo, Colombia: The Genocidal Democracy, Common Courage Press. Available at: http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199607–.htm

[11] Gerbner G and Gross A, Morgan M, Signorielli n, Shanahan J (2002). Growing up with television: cultivation processes. In ‘Media effects: Advances in theory and research.’ (Bryant and Zillmann eds.). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.

[12] Merritt D (1995). Public journalism and public life. National Civic Review 84:3: pp. 262–266.

[13] Wikipedia (2012). News. Retrieved on the 16th of January from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News

[14] Gillmor D (2011). Journalism is evolving from a lecture to a conversation. Retrieved on the 17th of January from: http://www.economist.com/ideasarena/news/by-invitation/guest-contributions/journalism-evolving-lecture-conversation

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