Alternative Media – Grassroots (case study)

Previous week Izmir Economy University department of Media and Communication organized a seminar (SMNP), where various guests both from Turkey and abroad with Mr. John Downing as an honored guest and main speaker, had a chance to introduce their work media related.

Many of the topics were relevant to the alternative media, and as MA students of media and communication we had a great chance to participate in the seminar. Personally I was impressed by many speakers and their work, such as Resistanbul, a group of activists who try to expose and fight against injustices happening to local as well as immigrant people in Istanbul.  Mister Erdinc Erdenc, an ex-mainstream media journalist who has abandoned the mainstream media and is now highly active journalist of the alternative media in Turkey, and many others.

I decided to take Marco Kuhne one of the producers of a graswurzel.tv, translated in English as grassroots.tv, as a study case of an alternative media in action. Marco Kuhne considers himself and his colleagues work as a video activists part of an alternative journalism. The reason being that they try to make video of different activist groups mostly in Germany and also in other countries throughout the Europe. They claim that mainstream media often shows the violent images of protesters and by doing that they are shown as hooligans, criminals in a way that police is trying to handle them and their behavior even by force if necessary. In this picture police becomes the hero and defender and stabilizer of national peace and security. The other approach of mainstream media towards the activist groups is that they completely or nearly completely ignore them; large peaceful demonstrations become just a side note in the newspapers or are not mentioned at all.

That is where Graswurzel or Grassroots enter in the scene. They try to show both sides of the activist movements and what activists have to say for themselves, they give them the space and chance to express their views and intentions. Grassroots follow the activists with cameras and try not to get involved in a sense by adding additional comments or notes to the videos, although sometimes it is necessary since activists are not always willing to give comments. Grassroots also don’t add any additional side effects to the videos, music and so forth, they try to be as close to reality as possible, in a way they try to be a clear medium through which the audience will get better understanding of the activists and their intentions. Mainstream media on the contrary is mostly all about commenting, censoring, even adding musical and video side effects to make the news more attractive lift the adrenaline in the audience and heavily representing as well as supporting one side of the argument strongly and therefore not creating the objectivity.

Since grassroots are not a mainstream media they don’t have a powerful, TV channel such as BBC News, CNN they have to rely on technology such as internet, and upload their videos on Web sites, YouTube, and ITunes etc. That doesn’t stop the audience, the number of views on YouTube for example show that many of the videos published by grassroots have been viewed by thousands of people. They also don’t work with sponsors and are not commercially supported, which of course limits the financial income, but on the other hand if they did so, they would no longer represent the alternative journalism which is mainly supported by donations and volunteer work.

Audience attending the SMNP seminar last week in Izmir was impressed and even humored by the video presented by Grassroots showing the rather unorthodox protest of hundreds of clowns against nuclear factory. Giving us the images and inspiring idea how protest can be a creative process, in which we are all invited, once we realize that we have a power to say no to environmental dangers, government/political decisions etc.

The small critique that I would add here would be the website of graswurzel.org, since the producers are all Germans and most of the protests are happening in Germany, the website as well is in a German language, I am sure that if English version on the website was available as well, they would attract wider, international audience hungry to see more.

Finally, it is important to have alternative media such as grassroots in every country, it is important to show both sides of the story and give the opportunity not just to the powerful, rich corporations and institutions but also to us – an ordinary people who make the majority of society, who question and criticize the government and environmental threatening decisions taken without the consensus and knowledge of majority of society. This kind of media and this videos may be seen as small attempts to break into society’s consciousness, but in a long run some of the videos and attempts may turn into historical events.

Alternative Media, Alternative Weapon

Thinking about Alternative Media, and making a research about it, each second I am more sure that should be called Alternative Weapon, because in my opinion, Alternative Media are all the creative media that are created in order to fight against the agenda setting, are this media where you can find the voice of the minority.
One of the best things of Alternative Media, is that always have to be creative, and show us the development of the communications, and how can you say what you want even if you are the only person that think this, and probably you find more people with your thoughts in the world, breaking like this the Spiral of Silence.

FOUR APPROACHES OF ALTERNATIVE MEDIA AND SOME EXAMPLES

ALTERNATIVE MEDIA

 

I firstly take hand ‘Four Approaches To Alternative Media’. In this chapter, alternative media which are divided into four categories which are called ‘Alternative media, Community media, Civil society media, and Rhizomatic media.’ These four approaches of alternative media which is grasped under two categories. These are media centered and society centered. First approach is the community media . Tönnies (1969)  underlines that community is defined by the presence of close and concrete human ties and by  collective relations but there are some questions to our mind and about geograpy and ethnicity of communities. Actually, it isn’t necessary to  ive in same geograpy and have same ethnicites. because Popple (1995:4) thinks that people sharing a common condition or problem can also be seen as a community of interest.(These are taken from chapter.) Actually, I think that one of the most important reconceptualization about community is Anderson’s Imagined Community because people who don’t see or don’t talk or don’t communicate with each other because media reach them and facilitates their communication processes and they interact with this and their distance isn’t crucial. For example; I live in İzmir and everyday I read newspaper Yeniasır which is local newspaper in an Aegean Era and I read people who live Manisa and there is important societal problems happen even if I don’t see and I don’t talk them, I have an idea people, people live condition, their problems and so media which faciliates that reach news without limitations, space, time, distance. In addition to this, one of the important issue about community media is geograpy and ethnicity . On the other hand, access and participation is penetrated in this chapter. Participation is easy for every people to participate , represent themselves and I think that the most crucial thing is that people shouldn’t become professional writer  to promulgate their voice, to write their opinions without any limitations. Participation, following Pateman (1970:71) can thus be seen as a process in which the individual members have a certain degree of power to influence or determine the outcome of that process and full participation is seen as a process where each individual member of a decision making body has equal power to determine the outcome of decisions so these show that what community media is about. Actually, communities are hold a place in our lifes because people gather around some place in terms of their opinions, their political perspectives, their identities, their jobs of course there are many reasons.For example; political parties in Turkey like CHP, AKP, DSP etc, for example associations like Kardelenler, Toplum Gönüllüleri , Haytap etc. They live all time, they aren’t occur with media but the most crucial thing and different characteristic is that alternative media facilitate and provide active actions between people , establish huge networks between them and gather around through alternative media without meeting same place, without face to face communication with each other.

The other approach is that Alternative media as an alternative to a mainstream media which is introduced in this chapter as distinction between mainstream and alternative media. In this approach, alternative media associates with ideology, domination and Gramscian notion of hegemony and mainstream media which is ideological and it is conducted by the state, politicians, and private sector. As I look these two types of media, there are binary oppositons between them. One of them is free but other is controllable, on the one hand there is an hegemony which relates with hierarchical relations but on the one hand there is non hierarchic relations so there is two different picture as I think. Undoubtedly, many people who defend alternative media because it includes democratic environment, every people have right to talk with each other but I think that it isn’t possible to say that alternative media is dominant than mainstream media especially in Turkey. Yes it is totally relate with political and economy but ruling party which captures Turkish media, sell channels and manipulates their ideologies, their ideas to masses without taking their consent or overrating what public think. For example, SamanYolu, Kanal 7, TRT some best known examples of what ruler party do in Turkey. Even if they don’t have other private channels, they set their agendas and effect their news content about which one is available their interest or not and formulate discourses according to their ideologies in these channels so I think that alternative media is big area which includes networks between people who lives differents parts of the society, or country and they aren’t prevented and they are so free to express their opinions in alternative media if it isn’t adequate power toward mainstream media but I think that war between alternative media and mainstream media won’t finish in terms of politic, economic issues.

Mainstream vs. Alternative Media  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2g0FFlbjj2o: in this link a man who start to talk about Prof. James. Terry,who is Professor of Media, and he takes hand lack of crackle journalism , role of journalists, mainstream media to conspiracy theories. He says that  sixty three of American people believe a conspiracy and he continue with characteristic of traditional media which is unquestionable, untouch, and not personal and not care about people according to him. He shows that International Heralb Newspaper which is an International version of New York Times. He shows some stories and articles. Stories that he show associates with Obama, his plans, his administration, his expectations and his unsuccessfulness about elaboration for the first time. What he says about this issue is there isn’t any discussion about crime, justice, constitution between people , professors, speakers. The most crucial thing which he underlines that an article which is about  Marxism. He say again there isn’t discussion between American people who are in a street. The only thing is that promote Marxism. What I learn or observe something from this video is that yes there is an alternative media which surrounds our lifes with more access but on the other hand, there is real thing which we can’t prevent powerful people who are in mainstream media because they set their agendas and manipulate people opinion about what they should be think and without any rebellion to them.

The other approach which hold a place in this chapter is Civil Society Media. It is explained very ideas of citizenship and examined under two conceptions. One of them generalist conception of Hegel and Marx and other is minimalist conception of Gramsci and Habermas. The best thing to describe civil society is that it is third voice and its place between state media and private commercial media. Girard’s who gives example community radio and he says that community radio listeners are producers, managers, directors an deven owners of the stations. So one question to come my mind. If I look this example, Is it possible to say that community media relate with civil society media? Are they depend to each other? Undoubtedly, there are differences but which characteristic of them discriminate with another so I give example about civil society media. I think that BIANET (Independent Communication Network) is  available example for this type of media. What it means that it is a project  is one of the hubs formed in Turkey in the last decade within the framework of the struggle for freedom of expression and communication. It coming into existence is simultaneous with the huge collapse of the Turkish mainstream media in the 1990s. With 2000, it started to Internet publishing. Why I write this network because people who are Turk or not, or live in Turkey or another country they have chance to write about political, economic , social issues. (These informations are taken from article of Ertuğrul Kürkçü about BIANET) his network neither depend to private hands nor to the state. Their audiences, visitors are publishers and they are independent. They aren’t any restriction on them to write something so this is my example about this type of media. Unfortunately, today it isn’t possible to talk about variety types of and example of Civil Society Media because there are some economic reason behind them but I think in todays capitalist life it isn’t easy to gather people around one space or find volunteer people to write their opinions without paying money and encourage them to write their reactions in todays life condition.

The last approach of the alternative media is Rhizome Media in this chapter. Deleuze and Guattari (1987) enumerate a series of characteristics of the rhizome – the principles of connection and heterogenity, multiplicity asignifying rupture, cartograpy, and decalcomania. Connection and heterogenity imply that any point of the network can be connected to any other point. I think that if we talk about about rhizomic media , it occur with technology. Why I think that if I take hand televisions, for example as I watch Tv, I see people who live distance part of the world, have an idea about what is going thorough the world and have chance to connect, I think that it is firstly realize by TV but after then Internet which networks establish and people who connect with them, they have chance to see each other like Skype. We have communicate and talk with e mail, send photos, send something and reach which people that person live distance part or not so also if I take hand social media, I have chance to contanct with friend who lives Chinese so for my opinion before technology networks didn’t establish between people, country, companies, associations or other thing. Maybe there is limited opportunity, there need to be much time but with technology there is time space compression especially under the rhizomic media and because of all of these one question come to my mind Is Rhizomic media is examined under Network Society?

In conclusion, I talk about the kinds of alternative media which is penetrared in chapter. Undoubtedly, there are different versions of alternative media which have different characteristic one another but mutual characteristic of them is unfolding new world for people because in this world not only people don’t hold a place in this media but also their communication process is more active. As they communicate  with each other, they have right to represent themselves in terms of their opinions, beliefs ,lifes, ideologies etc. In addition to this, they react about any issue in a rapidly way like political, economic, social issues about their countries. I think that the big and most important difference of alternative media is that includes mass participation and there isn’t any elimination between people . I think that this is modern public sphere of Habermas terms. Also, it enlarges, strenght day by day, I think that it will become second world of people and I believe that it ceases to mainstream media and another forces may be in ten years.

ALTERNATIVE MEDIA – HOW TO RECOGNIZE IT AND DEAL WITH IT

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.”

Diversifying the Media

One of the best thing about Alternative Media is, it is not racist, not political, not corporate base, not nationalistic etc. and at the same time it is. There is absolute uncertanity about the Alternative Media’s background as it is not directing by any kind of dominant actor.This condition help us to observe the daily life not only with the help of traditional media but with multi-dimensional news source.

Alternative Media is also can be seen as little earthquakes as they prevent the bigger earthquake to happen. Alternative Media helps marginalized identities(gays,lesbians, women,youth,handicup people etc.) and minorities to express their needs and expectations as well as their perpectives for current issues. These groups have almost no representation in legislation levels in order to adress their needs and solve their problems. As a result, with the help of critical media they can predicate themselves in public arenas. One should add here that there can be and are situations in society, where the consciousness of the dominated class is manipulated and one only finds a weakly developed multitude. In such situations, critical media that express the experiences of these masses, although they are not politically conscious of their being, are still necessary and will take on different organizational forms from situations of heavy class struggles or revolutions.(Fuchs)

In some extend dominant actors are using alternative media in order to implement their interests and get feedback from their target communities.However, they do not have full control to direct it. On the contrary, we are aware of the link between Agenda-Setting Media/Elite Media and major powers like political,business,doctoral managers and journalists. Maybe this is one of the reason why people start chucking out their televisions and stop watching it.

Alternative Media

First of all, in order to discuss about alternative media, it is needed to indicate why this type of media are categorized as “alternative”. Name on it, alternative media are the ones which do not belong to mainstream. In this sense we may ask, what is mainstream media and why people need this alternative media concept?

Mainstream media are accepted as they serve to general interests of a society, mainly. However, mainstream media can be used as a manipulative instrument to direct people accordingly to the purposes and intentions of those who have the media tools. Fuchs (2010) points out that “Content and form of traditional media are ideological. Content is strictly defined by what is considered as popular and sellable. The drive for profit can result in a lack of quality, complexity, and sophistication (as e.g. yellow journalism that simplifies reality and is focused on singular examples, emotionalism, and sensationalism)” (p:179).
This shows us that media owners can pick up the news or arrange and edit them accordingly to their intentions and change people’s mind as they want. At this stage, audience could be considered as passive, because they do not take place in choosing their agendas actively; they just take what is given to. On the contrary, alternative media provide space for people to express their ideas in an active way. Not only to express but also to choose what they wish to hear and be informed about.

In my opinion, mainstream media have started to lose importance; correspondingly, alternative media have started to become a major tool to keep up with the latest events. As indicated above, thanks to alternative media tools, people are now able to discuss about the latest events and trends free from mainstream control mechanism. Certainly, developing communication technologies play an important role in this stage; thanks to these technologies, people are now able to contact with each other no matter how far they are (time and space compression). That brings us to the “Global village” concept which was conceptualized by McLuhan. As we know, there is a huge transformation in communication technology. Almost everyone has a smartphone, and these devices provide people chance to stay in contact with each other. These technologies goes hand in hand with software technologies. The last decade, social media become so popular that there are 1 billion of social media users estimated; in other words, there is a huge network of users has been established around the world. Thus, there are no more spatial distance between people. These people share their ideas and opinions for a particular issue with the others just in a second. I can say that, communication technologies allowed Habermas’s “public sphere” concept worldwide. The reason for this, people are so connected to each other that they can discuss about the events without leaving their homes; they are no longer have to meet phisically like it was used to be so in the past.