As an average consumer of media in general we tend to think that media consists largely of popular TV and radio channels, respectable newspapers, even songs and movies that are advertised and repeated numerous times either through tv advertising, ads and jumbo posters.
But are we really always limited to only these chosen few options (again chosen by whom and with what intention?)? Alternative media argues that this is not the case, that we average media consumers have a choice to look further and explore different spheres of media, namely alternative media. Now the questions arise: How to recognize that a certain product of media is and can be categorized as an ‘alternative media’? What are the criterias that classify certain media products as alternative media? And is there really always a strict line that separates and files one media as a mainstream and the other as an alternative media? Lastly, once we have determined what the alternative media is, what can we expect from it; how can it add to our political, social, environmental etc. views and opinions?
Laclau and Mouffe argue that only one approach to define alternative media doesn’t give an overview of the components that construct the identity of alternative media, “ There is no single underlying principle fixing – and hence constituting- the whole field of differences (quoted in ) Understanding Alternative Media p. 5 Laclau and Mouffee 1985: 111). Therefore a new multi-theoretical approach model was proposed, classified in four sections: 1. Serving a community 2. An alternative to mainstream 3. Part of civil society 4. Rhizome.
If we take for example blogging, and try to test it against this four approaches to see if blogging can be categorized as an alternative media. Firstly, although blogging doesn’t acquire any specific geographical area, it exists in the virtual world, and can be said to be an online community, where people with similar interests, desires, similar mentalities join together without any restrictions. You can be poor, bald; a teacher with interests in fashion, a teenager with identification crisis… no one can prevent you to join the online community you are interested in. And as a participant in the media, even though it may be mico-media and your opinion may never be a cause of a great social or economic changes, as a participant of a certain blog, such as very popular Facebook or tweeter, you can express yourself, give a comment, entertain yourself and others and so in a way you shape the blog together with other participants.
Secondly, blogging can be against or in a conflict with mainstream media, since blogging is a small-scale and has usually a specific interest, more importantly it is not corrupted or bought by wealth advertising and economy companies, and therefore it is not responsible or restricted in its content. However, not all blogs match the above description; many are created by commercial owned companies and therefore serve the purpose of people with different interests.
Thirdly, blogging can be a part of civil society working against the hegemony, talking or reacting against the power elite. It certainly applies the bottom-up process, voices of people from lower classes can be raised, and an ordinary person can express his or her opinion, comment with other blogging members , contributing to the build up of civil society in general.
Lastly, in the fourth approach offered by Deleuz and Guattari with metaphor of rhizome, blogging is not hierarchical, everyone is equal, user becomes a producer. Therefore we can say it’s heterogeneous, there is no big center around which the production would be circling, on the contrary, every member of blogging can raise a new topic, question or open a discussion.
In conclusion, alternative media offers a choice to oppressed, suppressed, or simple to an ordinary people who would like to express themselves through media no matter how small the impact of their voices may be. However, I believe we should be cautious when defining what an alternative and what mainstream media is, or at least we should see them as processes rather than a complete, unchangeable. As stated in the Bailey (2008; p.18) “what is considered ‘alternative; at a certain point in time could be defined as mainstream at another point in time.”