Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Independent media and citizen journalism

The Independent Media Centre (IMC) is not a new concept - empowering citizens to share their own news, as they see it, in real time. The IMC has gained attention and fostered partnerships around the world  based on their coverage of the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings and citizen protests.

In her article The Independent Media Centre: A new model, Dorothy Kidd examines the circumstances around the birth of IMC, the ongoing events that IMC has been involved with and the components (technological and human) that keep the organization running and thriving.

Kidd acknowledges in the article that the IMC was not the first independent media network to stand up in the face of big corporations or to support neo-liberalism. What makes IMC unique is the breadth of their reach, the diversity of the volunteers that participate, the countries and organizations that are involved and the open source technology that is used.

The central premise of Kidd's article and the modus operandi of the IMC is for the public to not just fight the media - become the media. The hope behind this comment is that maybe citizen journalists can interrupt and change the patterns and behaviours between producers of media and the audiences who consume it.

Unfortunately when you take on big corporate on a global stage, it also opens you up to criticism and hostility from exactly those people. Big corporate and governments have interests to protect and their own security measures that have been employed in attempts to scare and/or shut IMC down.

Being a provider of open access and openly sourced media for people has it's pitfalls - the IMC has had their system hacked and had it populated with hate messages. As such the IMC has had to begun to monitor their networks to reduce the number of trolls. Monitoring networks has met with resistance from within the movement because they don't like gate-keeping tactics being used.

So the two questions I leave everyone with from this brief lesson on the Independent Media Centre are these:
  1. This article was written in 2003. How would you see the advancements in today's technology helping or hindering the IMC cause?
  2. Kidd mentions the resistance to network monitoring and gate-keeping of information within the IMC. Do you see the IMC being editors or librarians of the information they share with their networks?


  1. Just wanted to respond to your second question as I thought more about that this evening. I think the IMC started out as librarians, sharing and archiving any media contributions from independent sources. This might work when people know what they are looking for, but if they don't and they want to learn or engage in a chronological, narrated fashion, it has to be curated that way. On the Vancouver Media Coop site now, there is an information hierarchy (features, highlights, lists), which is a form of editing. You rocked the presentation today! Great job!

  2. Thank you Kate! I really wrestled and thought a lot about the second question myself and again I felt like it maybe begged more thought, especially after Dr. Curry has shared so much of her experiences as a librarian and dealing sometimes with contentious or inflammatory content. While having an information hierarchy helps weed out some of the less important content that gets posted does that form of editing qualify as censorship?