Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Why fight against social injustices and disparities using civic engagement media?/ ¿Porque combatir contra las injusticias y disparidades sociales usando medios de participacion civica?

First Blog (English): Why fight against social injustices and disparities using civic engagement media?

During my first semester as a student of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, a masters program that takes a comparative approach to studying different forms of media and their impact on society, among many other things, I have had the opportunity to participate in the discussion regarding civic engagement and social justice media, and how to effectively widen the reach of these topics.

To start off, since this is my first blog post, I’ll dedicate a small part to talking about my past, and how I came to be a researcher of civic engagement and social justice media. (If these terms don’t make sense, please bear with me and we’ll try to examine them together. Also, this blog will probably be a bit longer than normal).

Networked Counterpublics, Access to Broadband Internet, and Public Libraries in the U.S.

I think a “networked counterpublic” is a networked space where marginalized or minority members of a society can create discourse. I think the concept of networked counterpublics is a useful concept and important to understand. By putting information on the web marginalized or minority groups or individuals can make their views and discourses available to countless people.

I think the primary purpose of these networked spaces is discourse, but the counterpublic does create the opportunity to attempt to reform the dominant public sphere. A counterpublic does not have to be well organized or create political change, like Catherine Squires argues. Yochai Benkler defines “tools of networked communication” in his work The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom as E-mail, the World Wide Web, Blogs, and “larger-scale, collaborative-content production systems” such as Wikipedia and MoveOn.org.

The [Inevitably Networked] Counterpublic

The concept of a networked counterpublic is certainly useful in the arc of history—it helps us gain an appreciation for the means by which counterpublics fought for mass-media attention in the past. As a contemporary concept, however, it is significantly less so. It is hard to imagine a group, marginalized by the dominant narrative, fighting for attention by the greater publics, that is not doing so with the help of any of the technologies called out by Benkler.

Instead, I think it’s more important to consider a number of factors that contribute to or detract from a cause’s effectiveness as a networked counterpublic. The extent to which a marginalized sphere is connected via networked technologies, the speed with which its cause spreads into and throughout the main-stream or dominant media sphere, and the cause’s ability to keep a dominant’s public attention via an intriguing narrative all dictate whether or not a networked counterpublic will gain mass-media attention towards its cause.

Can the Public Sphere exist in the Internet Era?

So far in our class on Civic Media, we have tried to define Civic Media and to consider the role of digital inequality in shaping participation in society. Our discussions have mostly featured ideas from researchers, foundations, and American government agencies. This week, we're going to re-examine civic media in terms of critical theory and philosophy.

Here's the executive summary: Democratic governments are expected to incorporate the people's will into their decisions. Can this really happen? The public interest is hard to find among broad disagreements between groups, the emergence of global politics, the growth of multinational organisations, and the birth of Internet-based political movements. Just what kind of democracy might the Internet make possible? Should we discard the public sphere altogether for a more realistic, confrontational approach to democracy?

Public Reason and the Public Sphere

Luca de Biase describes the Italian media landscape at Civic lunch

In the Cambridge area? Join us for future lunches, like next week, where we’ll speak with Nathaniel Raymond on the human rights community and technology development.

Update: This post has been translated into Italian by Bernardo Parrella on ahref's website.

Ethan introduces Luca as an innovator at the junction between traditional and professional journalism in Italy. He was one of the first in the country to have a blog and solicit ideas on the journalism he performs. He’s also a commentator on Italy's place in Europe and world as a whole.

Ethan Zuckerman and Luca de Biase

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