Sunday, October 27, 2013

Alternative Media: Response, Identity, and Roles (Presentation: Group 6)

     Alternative media provide alternative information to the mainstream media, whether commercially or government-owned. It is found in any and all traditional media outlets, such as radio, TV, movies, and, of course, the news. The biggest criteria to establish whether an institution is alternative or not is self-identification.

     Alternative media challenges prevailing ideologies, represents the under-represented, and connects people within communities of interest. It is different from the mainstream media in terms of content, internal structure, distribution, and production, which is especially important in the digital age.

     The way we consume media has obviously changed over the years, so digital alternative media will be the focus of our discussion. 

     Digital Platforms provide an ideal environment for alternative media, in which consumers can easily become producers bypassing the traditional gate-keepers. User-created media is not profit-driven (at least yet) and for that, we love it. In fact, "the Internet runs on love", as Clay Shirky puts it in his writings on the social impact of Internet.

     Recognizing the growing popularity and trust, which digital media receives from its audience, businesses as well as individuals spend more and more money on it and that is a sure sign of its relevance.
     Structurally independent media organization can be close to the vertical hierarchies found in its mainstream counterpart (for example, the Village Voice) or very far from them, such as the social media where production comes built-in with the program, so very little actual staff is required to maintain it.
     Curiously, popularity of same institutions is inversely related to the previous statistic. Social media sites are by far the most popular alternative media outlets.

     Producing alternative media for many people means having the opportunity to create one's own images of self and environment as opposed to those imposed on us by the mainstream media.  
     Jezebel magazine is one example of an alternative news source that is structurally very similar to a traditional publication but is very different content-wise. It is a feminist blog aimed at women's interests under the tagline "Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing". Established in 2007, it now has more than 200,000 visitors each day (to compare with New York Post's daily circulation of 500,000 - so it is getting there!).

      Another example of an alternative online publication is the Rookie Magazine. Started in 2010 by Tavi Gevinson, who is still in high school by the way, it targets teenage girls and features posts by staff members as well as readers. Subject matter ranges from pop culture and fashion to adolescent social issues. Here is a short clip from Tavi Gevinson's TedTalk explaining why she created her blog:

     When we were discussing the idea of alternative media, we came up with the metaphor of a media funnel, where you have these traditional media sources like major newspapers and magazines, being funneled through and collected in micro blogging platforms like twitter and tumblr. 
     Tumblr was founded in 2007 by David Karp, and since then has amassed 143.3 million individual blogs, and 65.1 billions posts. It allows you to customize everything, from the interface of your page to the content in your posts. You can post your own work, and then people have the ability to spread it by “rebloging.” The content is completely user derived, and what is more alternative than that? The site averages around 84 million posts a day. 

    Tumblr is where niches come to live and thrive; it lets people from all over the world find others who have similar interests, and connect with each other. For instance, the Riot Grrrl movement, which was very active in the 90’s experienced somewhat of a resurgence through tumblr. Search the tag and you will find flyers that girl most likely passed around high school hallway in the 90’s scanned and reblogged thousands of times for a whole new generation of girls to see and feel empowered by.  

     The platform can be educational too, with info-graphics floating around that make you pay attention to facts you might have otherwise overlooked. 

      As far as gender, females take the majority, but not by much. Female users are at 52% while males are 48%, so this kind of information has a chance of reaching both genders equally. The majority of users are young adult 18-24, which means they are of legal voting age. With important information being disseminated through these platforms, it can make young adults more informed and perhaps influence their political decisions. 

     Ok, so sure the freedom of speech in a global platform is great and all, what does it do for us, and how does it effect our culture? Tumblr can be used for many things. One of things being criticized are self harm blogs.  These have been a recent trouble for tumblr, so much so that tumblr had to implement a new policy on the matter.

     Tumblr states:

"Our Content Policy has not, until now, prohibited blogs that actively promote self-harm. These typically take the form of blogs that glorify or promote anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders; self-mutilation; or suicide. These are messages and points of view that we strongly oppose, and don’t want to be hosting... For example, joking that you need to starve yourself after Thanksgiving or that you wanted to kill yourself after a humiliating date is fine, but recommending techniques for self-starvation or self-mutilation is not."

     As a result of this tumblr started banning all content related to "thinsparation" for promoting communities known as proana (anorexia nervosa and pro-Mia bulimia)

     However these negative communities are a minority on tumblr. Tumblr is full of its little communities. As Paula stated there are numerous other blogs that are used to spread activism and informative messages. 

     Such as femblr which informs its subscribers on feminist news, or fitblr which provides people with tips on how to live a healthy lifestyles through diet and excerise and not starvation, and even blogs that inform people how to live a chemical free lifestyle by giving them recipes for homemade soaps and cleaners. 

     Lastly as we all know yahoo just recently acquired tumblr, and last week we discussed ownership and how it effects content. Our question to he class is: Do you think that the content can remain alternative even with the acquisition of a mainstream media conglomerate. Like yahoo and tumblr and Facebook and Instagram.

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