Understanding Community Media


Edited by: Kevin Howley

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part I: Theoretical Issues and Perspectives

    Part II: Civil Society and the Public Sphere

    Part III: Cultural Geographies

    Part IV: Community Development

    Part V: Community Media and Social Movements

    Part VI: Communication Politics

    Part VII: Local Media, Global Struggles

  • Dedication

    For Debora


    View Copyright Page

    List of Tables, Figures, and Photos



    When I first met Kevin Howley at a 2004 Symposium on Media Studies and the liberal arts, I was struck by the originality and significance of his research on community media. Howley had just completed his book Community Media: People, Places, and Communications Technologies, and as he spoke of his broader research agenda, I was reminded of some of the big questions that initially drew me to media studies two decades earlier, questions about media, representation, power, participation, and identity.

    On its publication, Community Media quickly jumped to the top of my reading list, and it has been required reading for my advanced media studies students ever since. Howley has a rare capacity to make connections between theory and practice: He can both see how particular cases illuminate broader processes and how social theory helps identify productive questions about specific media objects. At the same time, Howley has experience working with various community media projects, which gives him valuable practical knowledge that enhances his scholarly work on community media.

    All this makes Howley an ideal person to conceptualize and assemble a much-needed collection on the current state of community media. So I was not surprised by the richness and depth of this new reader, Understanding Community Media. As you will see, this edited collection is a rare gem, one that will stand out among bookshelves of edited volumes in media studies for its clarity and coherence, the depth of the questions it explores, and the range of the cases it considers.

    Perhaps most important, though, is the sheer significance of the subject matter this collection treats; Understanding Community Media shines a light on nagging issues that we, in media studies, have neglected far too long.

    We've known for a very long time that mainstream, commercial media, while relentlessly visible, are only part of media culture. A whole range of media objects, practices, and experiences exist alongside, often in critical relation to, commercial media. While media studies scholarship has long nodded in the direction of these alternative media forms—with some outstanding studies that have helped nurture the field, including Ron Jacobs's Race, Media, and the Crisis of Civil Society, Deirdre Boyle's Subject to Change, and Howley's Community Media—the study of community media (or alternative, independent, underground, radical media—our inability to name these media is a sign of our general inattention) has remained marginal. This persistent marginality has real costs. With new forms of digital media emerging—media that may have some capacity to challenge, if not replace, traditional forms of media—the lack of a well-developed body of critical research and theory has the unfortunate consequence of limiting our collective understanding of what's at stake and what's possible.

    The agenda for media studies is quite clear at this point: We need to move beyond the simple platitudes that appear in so much of the buzz about new media and look carefully and critically at the structure and forms of community media, how people create and use such media, and how community media interact with major corporate media. In other words, we need a theoretically informed and empirically rich media studies of community media. Anything less, at this historical moment, would be more than simply a missed opportunity but would challenge the fundamental relevance of media studies in the 21st century.

    Understanding Community Media is more than a productive starting point. It is an investment in our field's commitment to the study of the wide range of objects and practices, experiences and identities that are part of the community media landscape. Throughout this volume, Howley and the contributors take seriously the complexity of what it means to understand their object of study. As a result, there are no simple narratives or easy answers here; instead, the contributors challenge us to think with them about how and why community media might matter, and what it means to put community media at the center of our scholarly inquiry.

    It is also worth noting that several specific strengths of this collection set it apart from many other edited collections. The thematic organization of Understanding Community Media is, itself, an important contribution, as it helpfully articulates key dimensions of the field. Even more important, Howley has written a series of substantive introductions to the seven parts, identifying the key questions and how each specific contribution fits in to the broader picture. I found the introductory essays for the parts most closely aligned with my own work—“Civil Society and the Public Sphere” and “Community Media and Social Movements” —to be refreshingly clear and challenging. These part introductions will provide a treasure trove of ideas and questions for seasoned scholars and graduate students alike. In addition, this collection is genuinely global, with chapters that focus on media in a stunning range of settings. This diverse collection of case studies is organized so effectively that each part remains coherent, with each set of chapters reflecting on a core set of questions. As a result, the global dimension on display here help open up a productive cross-national dialogue about the meanings and possibilities of community media.

    The variety of community media out there—some long standing, others still emerging—should be a central focus for media studies. Understanding Community Media moves us a significant step forward by giving us a series of valuable theoretical frameworks and rich case studies that help map the contours of a field that will only become more significant in the years ahead. This collection deserves our attention and Howley our gratitude, both for the work contained here and for the new questions and projects it will undoubtedly inspire.

    WilliamHoynes, Vassar College, March 2009


    I want to express my sincere gratitude to all the contributors for their efforts. It has been a rare privilege to work with such a talented and committed group of scholars and writers. And at the risk of being presumptuous, I believe we are all indebted to the community media workers and organizations who inspired and supported our research efforts. On behalf of myself and my contributors, I'd also like to thank the following reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions: Rosemary Day, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick; Carlos Fontes, Worcester State College; Eric Freedman, Florida Atlantic University; Josh Greenberg, Carleton University;

    William Hoynes, Vassar College; Robert Huesca, Trinity University; Fred Johnson, University of Massachusetts, Boston; Peter M. Lewis, London School of Economics & Political Science; Rashmi Luthre, University of Michigan, Dearborn; Vicki Mayer, Tulane University; Clemencia Rodriguez, The University of Oklahoma; and Susan Ryan, The College of New Jersey. Finally, to my editor, Todd Armstrong; his assistants, Aja Baker and Katie Grim; production manager, Sarah Quesenberry; and all their colleagues at SAGE, I offer my heartfelt thanks for your encouragement, professionalism, and skill in bringing this work to fruition.

  • About the Editor

    Kevin Howley is an associate professor of media studies at DePauw University, Indiana. His research and teaching interests include the political economy of communication, cultural politics, and the relationship between media and social movements. He is author of Community Media: People, Places, and Communication Technologies (2005). His work has appeared in the Journal of Radio Studies, Journalism: Theory, Practice, and Criticism, Television and New Media, the International Journal of Cultural Studies, and Social Movement Studies. A contributing writer for The Bloomington Alternative, he continues to produce program material for community radio and public access television. His latest project, Hard Times Come Again No More: A Tribute to Russell J. Compton (2007), was featured on Sprouts, Pacifica Radio's weekly news magazine. He received his PhD from the Indiana University in 1997.

    About the Contributors

    Bernadette Barker-Plummer is an associate professor of media studies at the University of San Francisco, where she also directs the interdisciplinary minor in gender and sexualities studies. Her research interests are in media, social movements, and social change. Some of her work can be found in Critical Studies in Mass Communication, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Feminist Media Studies, and Peace Review. Her current research projects include a book-length study of the mediation of transgender politics through popular culture and (with Dorothy Kidd) a book project investigating social movement communication strategies in the context of transforming public spheres. She received her PhD in 1997 from the Annenberg School, University of Pennsylvania.

    Rosalind Bresnahan is a coordinating editor of the journal Latin American Perspectives, for which she edited a special edition on Chile in 2003. She is retired from the Department of Communication Studies at California State University San Bernardino. Her interest in Chilean media began when she lived in Chile during the first 2 years of the Allende government and observed the key role of media in the political conflict preceding the 1973 military coup. In 1998, she began research on alternative media during the struggle to end the dictatorship and in the post-1990 transition to democracy. She has interviewed more than 100 alternative media producers and distributors from both periods as well as current policy makers. She received her MA in Latin American studies from Stanford University and her PhD in mass media and communication from Temple University.

    Lynette Bondarchuk is a professional illustrator and designer and a founding member of the Edmonton Small Press Association (ESPA). She has freelanced in the commercial arts and the nonprofit, community-based arts sectors for many years and is the production editor for On Spec, an award-winning speculative fiction magazine. She has several years production, project management, and curatorial experience in both her freelance capacity and as the ESPA's artistic director and programming coordinator. As a community cultural development activist, she believes the arts to be vital tools for positive social change and argues that work initiated through the ESPA is historically vital to Canadian arts and culture. For 3 years, she was a jury member of the Community Investment Grant Review Subcommittee of the City of Edmonton Community Services Advisory Board (CSAB), and she remains an advocate for increased appreciation and funding toward all genres of social and community-based arts.

    Philip Denning is one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Education (HMIE) in Scotland. Prior to joining HMIE 5 years ago, he was CEO of the U.K. national training organization for community learning and development. He has extensive experience of both the strategic development and the practical delivery of education and regeneration programs. He is qualified at the master's level in education and cultural planning and is a director of community organizations and six social enterprises across the United Kingdom.

    Tanja Dreher is an ARC (Australian Research Council) postdoctoral fellow in the Transforming Cultures Research Centre at University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. Her research explores news media and community conflict resolution with an emphasis on debates around whiteness, multiculturalismi, and listening and around media, gender, and violence. Her previous research has focused on news and cultural diversity, community media interventions in western Sydney, experiences of racism, and the development of community antiracism strategies after September 11, 2001.

    Charles Fairchild is a lecturer in popular music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. He has written widely on the possibilities and realities of democratic media in Media Culture and Society, Journal of Popular Music Studies, Southern Review, Canadian Journal of Communication, and Transformations. He is the author of Community Radio and Public Culture (2001) and Pop Idols and Pirates (2008). He received his PhD from the Department of American Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

    Carlos Fontes is a professor of communication at Worcester State College, where he founded and now directs its Center for Global Studies. He has published and presented in the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Portugal on the general topic of alternative media. He worked for 3 years as a community media organizer in a social service agency in Western Massachusetts with at risk youth groups and mothers of sexually abused children. He is a longtime member of Western Massachusetts Indymedia and the original organizer of Worcester Indymedia. He is currently working on a documentary with the Sarayacu-a kichwa–speaking people from the Ecuadorian Amazon. He received his PhD from the Department of Communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was a Fulbright Scholar in Portugal in 2003.

    Ian Goodwin is currently a lecturer in the School of English and Media Studies, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand. His research interests include new media studies, media and politics, media policy analysis, and media and community development. He is particularly interested in exploring the social shaping of new media technologies and in examining how virtual spaces interact with “real” places. He completed a PhD in cultural studies at the University of Birmingham, the United Kingdom, in 2003.

    Gergely Gosztonyi, is a lawyer and media researcher. He teaches at the Faculty of Law, Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Budapest. He studied sociology and political science for 1 year in Finland and media law for a half a year in Denmark. His research field is alternative media and nonprofit broadcasting. Between 2000 and 2004, he was the office coordinator of the Hungarian Federation of Free Radios, and between 2005 and 2006, he was the managing director of Civil Radio. He graduated in 2003 at the Faculty of Law, ELTE Budapest.

    Maria Victoria Guglietti is a part-time lecturer on social research methodologies and communication theory at Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She is also a PhD candidate in cultural mediations at the Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture (ICSLAC), Carleton University. She is currently finalizing her dissertation on community imagination within the field of Canada-based Aboriginal new media art, a project for which she developed an interdisciplinary methodology that combines historical and discursive analysis of artists’ works and curators’ writings and interviews with Aboriginal new media artists, curators, and Canadian funding bodies. Her areas of interest are visual culture, community media practices, and the interdisciplinary study of cultural production.

    Fiona Jeffries's research focuses on contemporary antienclosure movements and the circulation of dissident cultural practices. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Place, Culture and Politics at the City University of New York, where she is researching social movement practices of antifear amid the neoliberal enclosures. She completed her PhD in communication studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.

    Dorothy Kidd is Associate Professor of media studies at the University of San Francisco. Her research interests are in media and social change, political economy of media, and community and alternative media. She has also worked extensively in community radio and video production. Some of her recent research can be found in the International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, Development in Practice, and the Media Research Hub of the Social Science Research Council.

    Aku Kwamie is a health researcher with the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa, Canada. She has worked in community health settings in Ghana, Nigeria, Lesotho, and Toronto, Canada. She has also worked with the World Health Organization's Department of Chronic Disease and Health Promotion in Geneva, Switzerland. She holds an MSc in Biomedical Science Research from King's College, London.

    Dandan Liu is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP), where she teaches public relations courses in the Department of Mass Communication. She served as a volunteer for the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) for more than 3 years, helping with the publication of organizational media and planning community activities. Her research interests include news media and social movements, ethnic media, crisis communication, and instructional communication. She holds a PhD from Temple University.

    Claudia Magallanes-Blanco is a professor and full-time researcher at the Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla in Mexico. She is the author of The Use of Video for Political Consciousness-Raising in Mexico: An Analysis of Independent Videos About the Zapatistas (2008). She received her PhD from the University of Western Sydney, Australia, where she worked at the Centre for Cultural Research.

    George McKay is a professor of cultural studies at the University of Salford, United Kingdom. He is currently working on popular music and cultures of disability. His books include Circular Breathing: The Cultural Politics of Jazz in Britain (2005), Glastonbury: A Very English Fair (2000), and Senseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance Since the Sixties (1996). His edited collections include Community Music: A Handbook (with Pete Moser; 2005), Issues in Americanisation and Culture (with Neil Campbell and Jude Davies; 2004), and DiY Culture: Party & Protest in Nineties Britain (1998). He also coedits Social Movement Studies: A Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest.

    Sascha D. Meinrath is the Director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative and Research Director of the Foundation's Wireless Future Program. He has been described as a “community Internet pioneer” and an “entrepreneurial visionary” and is a well-known expert on community wireless networks (CWNs), municipal broadband, and telecommunications policy. In 2009, he was named one of Ars Technica's Tech Policy “People to Watch.” He is a cofounder of Measurement Lab, a distributed server platform for researchers around the world to deploy Internet measurement tools, advance network research, and empower the public with useful information about their broadband connections. He also coordinates the Open Source Wireless Coalition, a global partnership of open source wireless integrators, researchers, implementers, and companies dedicated to the development of open source, interoperable, and low-cost wireless technologies. He is a regular contributor to Government Technology's Digital Communities, the online portal and comprehensive information resource for the public sector. He has worked with Free Press, the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), the Acorn Active Media Foundation, the Ethos Group, and the CUWiN Foundation. He serves on the Leadership Committee of the CompTIA Education Foundation as well as the Advisory Councils for both the Knight Center of Digital Excellence and the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. He blogs regularly at http://www.saschameinrath.com.

    Stefania Milan is a researcher at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. She wrote her PhD dissertation on emancipatory communication practices seen through the lens of social movement studies. Her research interests include social movements, participatory approaches to public policy and governance, theory and practice of community/alternative/citizens’ media, media and communication policy, communication, and information and communication technologies (ICTs) for development and social change. She teaches at the University of Luzern, Switzerland. She is an associate of the London-based Stanhope Centre for Communications Policy Research and a member of the Civil Society Media Policy Research Consortium. As a journalist, she has been working for print and Web-based media.

    Sourayan Mookerjea, PhD, teaches sociology at the University of Alberta, Canada. His research addresses contradictions of Canadian cultural politics, immigration, multiculturalism, media and subaltern social movements, and the class politics of globalization. His current projects include Canadian Cultural Studies: A Reader (coedited with I. Szeman and G. Faurschou, 2009), Our Multicultural Times (forthcoming), and Kolkata Wonderland: Urban-scapes of Outsourcing (with G. Faurschou).

    Mario Alfonso Murillo is an associate professor in the School of Communication at Hofstra University. An award-winning radio journalist and feature documentary producer, he has worked as a correspondent and producer in commercial, public, and community radio for the past 25 years. Throughout his professional career, he has focused considerable attention on Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the Latino immigrant experience in the United States. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Colombia in 2008.

    Nkosi Martin Ndlela is an associate professor of media studies at Hedmark University College in Norway. He has taught media and communication studies at universities in Zimbabwe and Norway. He has undertaken research on a number of themes relating to the media in Africa, including media and democracy, globalization, popular culture, development, and new technologies. He received his PhD from the University of Oslo, Norway.

    Ondine Park is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta. She is interested in urban and cultural studies and is currently writing a dissertation on representations, desire, and the promise of the suburban good life. She is actively involved in community organizations, including having volunteered with and served on the boards of directors of the Edmonton Small Press Association and of Our Voice: Edmonton's Street Magazine. She also continues to be an active volunteer with the Edmonton chapter of Oxfam Canada and a contributing editor of Take Zine (a graduate students’ zine, based out of the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta), of both of which she was one of the founding members.

    Vanessa Parlette is a doctoral candidate in geography and planning at the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Her research and activism are focused on community mobilization for spatial and social justice in marginalized spaces and populations of the city, with particular emphasis on the suburbanization and racialization of poverty in Toronto's postwar suburbs. She is interested in exploring the potential for grassroots movements to confront negative media stigmatization of “at-risk” populations and to develop participatory democratic practices that facilitate citizen engagement and influence in the decision-making processes of urban planning in response to local and global influences of neoliberal governance.

    Victor W. Pickard works on telecommunications policy in Washington, D.C., as a research fellow at the New America Foundation, a public policy think tank. His scholarship explores the intersections of United States and global media activism and politics, media history, democratic theory, and communications policy and has been published in a number of journals, including the Journal of Communication; Global Media and

    Communication; Media, Culture & Society; New Media and Society; Journal of Communication Inquiry; International Journal of Communication Law and Policy; and Critical Studies in Media Communication. Currently he is working on a book on 1940s media policy and media reform. He holds a PhD from the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois.

    Mojca Plansak is an assistant director at Maska Institution in Ljubljana, Slovenia. She is also an assistant lecturer on media topics/radio at the University of Maribor, Media and Communication Studies. She is a journalist, media researcher, and received her MA in the area of comparative studies of ideas and cultures in Ljubljana, Slovenia, at the University of Nova Gorica. She is also a foundress and board member of the Community Media Forum Europe (http://www.cmfe.eu) and a foundress and member of the So0gledi group (http://www.soogledi.blogspot.com/).

    Shayna Plaut has worked with human rights issues domestically and internationally for more than 10 years as an educator and activist. She designs and teaches human rights and media courses at Columbia College, Chicago; in addition, she currently serves as the Assistant Director of Employer Relations (focusing on careers in the nonprofit and public sector) at the University of Chicago. In 2003, she received a Fulbright Scholarship to Macedonia, where she focused on Romani media and social change. Most recently, she participated in an Amnesty International research mission (and drafting of the report) to document the human rights abuses and activism regarding Romani women in Macedonia. She has served as AIUSA's Macedonia country specialist since 2004. She received her BA from Antioch College and her MA from the University of Chicago and, in 2009, will begin a doctoral program at the University of British Columbia.

    Rita L. Rahoi-Gilchrest started her career in public and commercial broadcasting. She has been a corporate communications consultant and manager, also teaching at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Winona State University, Bergen University in Norway and the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. She has published book chapters and journal articles in the areas of organizational communication, image restoration, viral marketing, and entertainment-education, earning numerous teaching awards for her classroom work. She received her PhD from Ohio University.

    Matt Sienkiewicz is a graduate student in communication arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on independent media in Palestine, community media in the United States, and the representation of religion and ethnicity in popular culture. In addition to his scholarly work, he also works as a screenwriter and documentary producer. He was nominated for an Emmy Award for program writing for his work with Vermont Public Television.

    Shawn Sobers is currently undertaking PhD research into community media education at the University of the West of England, Bristol, where he is also a senior lecturer in photography and media. He is a board member of the Community Media Association. He has worked in community media extensively since 1995. His roles have included Media & Community Education Officer for At-Bristol and Production Workshop Leader for ITV West. He cofounded Firstborn Creatives (FbC) in 1999 with Rob Mitchell. He has also directed for television, including Unfinished Business (2007, BBC1, FbC), Under the Bridge(2000, ITV West, FbC), and Footsteps of the Emperor (1999, ITV West) and assistant producer of Eazy Riders (1997, Channel 4, Black Pyramid Films). He has a first class BA (Honors) in film and photography from the University of Wales, Newport, and studied for an MA in anthropology of media at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He writes about his experiences of working in community media at his blog—http://www.beyondproject.wordpress.com.

    Anne Marie Todd is an associate professor of public communication in the Department of Communication Studies at San Jose State University. Her published research on activists’ use of new media includes articles on technological organization of global justice movements, anticorporate protest tactics, and http://MoveOn.org's political mobilization. She has also published in the area of environmental communication, including articles on green consumerism and environmental rhetoric in popular culture. She is currently researching climate change and conservation movements’ mobilization. She received her PhD from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California in 2002.

    Otto Leopold Tremetzberger is cofounder and managing director of Free Radio Freistadt, a community radio station in Austria. He cocurated conferences at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria, on the topics of freedom of information and communication, with a focus on the question of technology and media development. Currently, he is also a doctoral student at the Arts University of Linz and is working on the creation of a community TV channel together with Matrix e.V., a collective of researchers and media artists. He has published articles and essays on media policy and prose texts in literary journals. He graduated with a degree in theater studies, philosophy, and international arts and media management from the Universities of Vienna and Salzburg.

    Elvira Truglia is a journalist and consultant in communication and development. For the past 4 years, she has been Project Director for “A Different World”, a print- and Web-based multimedia educational resource on global issues developed for the Social Justice Committee, Montreal, Canada. She worked for the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) as Public Education Programme Director from 1996 to 2002. She was the international coordinator of Radio Voix Sans Frontières (Radio Voices Without Frontiers) during 2000 to 2004. As a broadcaster, her sound stories have been heard on CBC Radio (Canada's national public broadcaster) as well as various community and independent media networks. As a print and radio journalist, she has covered global social justice movements in Mexico, Italy, South Africa, and Brazil. She holds an MA in media studies from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.

    Pantelis Vatikiotis is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences in Athens, Greece. His teaching and research interests are in social theory and media, political communication and culture, sociology of cyberculture, new media, social movements, and alternative, grassroots media practices. He received his PhD in sociology of alternative media from the University of Westminster, London, in 2004.

    Zala Volčič is a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia. She is interested in the cultural consequences of nationalism, capitalism, and globalization. She is currently working on a project titled “Mapping Commercial Nationalism.” She has published numerous books and articles, including “Yugo-nostalgia: Cultural Memory and Media in the former Yugoslavia”, in Critical Studies of Mass Communication (2007), “Technological developments in Central-Eastern Europe: A Case-Study of a Computer Literacy Project in Slovenia” (with Karmen Erjavec), in Information, Communication & Society (2008), and “Former Yugoslavia on the World Wide Web: Commercialization and Branding of Nation-States”, in International Communication Gazette (2008).

    Brian J. Woodman is currently working as an archivist for the Western Historical Manuscript Collection at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and he is a collections consultant for the Kinsey Institute Library and Special Collections. He has previously published in the Journal of Film and Video and The Journal of Popular Culture. He received his PhD in film/media from the Department of Theatre and Film at the University of Kansas.

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