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An evaluation of the empirical basis for the often disparate claims made about the potential of computer mediated communication CMC to enhance or revive "democracy". The projects evaluated in it, relates to the recent establishment of civic networks in a number of US and European cities. The book not only shows how different understandings of "democracy" has led to different approaches in bringing about an electronic incarnation of the concept. But also that where many of these projects did have broadly similar objectives and used the same technology, the outcomes differed significantly.

It thus provides evidence that the social outcomes of information technologies is not inherent in the technologies themselves, but in the way they are utilised. Important issues, such as universal service, and the role of the public sphere, that were previously addressed mainly in debates around ownership of telecommunications and broadcasting, resurfaces in Cyberdemocracy. However, in the context of this book, the issue is not only about the economic efficiencies of monopolies and consumer rights.

It is rather whether the provision of democracy itself, through new technology, could be left to the market.

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Can the provision of democracy be used to stake a claim for a new public sphere? Interestingly, although universal service would seem as a logical precursor to electronic democracy, only one of the projects examined in the book, Bologna's IperBolE, tried to found their civic network on the idea of universal access and attempted to make this a reality Chapter 5. Questions pertaining to Freedom of Speech are inevitably raised.

Cyberdemocracy shows that often the impersonal character of CMC may make users less inclined to abide by "normal" rules of civility. Different approaches are presented, such as the City of Santa Monica's experiments with moderation. Chapter 7. Log In Sign Up. Communication Theory and Alternative Media Pantelis Vatikiotis. Communication Theory and Alternative Media. By probing specifically into various small-scale, decentralised media projects, issues concerning the social as well as the cultural context of their implementation; their creation, production and dissemination; the employment of new technologies; and, instances of the very mediation process itself, across both the production and reception process, are addressed.

Beyond mass communication Various theoretical approaches on the media of communication, and their diverse applications, have evaluated their emancipatory role in terms of either promoting participatory communication, or advancing the democratization of communication, or even encompassing modes of subversive action. From this perspective, Brecht supported the view that radio technology does not presuppose a certain form of broadcasting, but allows for its exploitation in various cultural forms. Moreover, Brecht conceptualised the exploitation of the two-way practice of radio broadcasting in pedagogic terms, through the interface between radio and art.

In this context, Brecht evaluated the full realization of participatory communication. Along these lines, Benjamin introduces the idea of the author as producer that questions the very distinction between producer and consumer. Enzensberger distinguished between the repressive use of media — centrally controlled, with one-way flow of messages, produced by specialists for isolated individuals, and promoting passive consumption; and an emancipatory use of media — decentralised, linking many to many, fostering interactivity, collectively produced and actively used, promoting collective mobilization Ibid, Such a proposal raises relevant issues in the contexts of both developed and developing societies.

In this context, the democratic-participant paradigm points out the failure of the mass media to meet the needs that arise from the daily experience of citizens, to offer space to individual and minority expressions. The empirical manifestations of such a model are many and varied, including the underground or alternative press, pirate radio, community cable television, samizdat publication, micro-media in rural settings, neighbourhood media, wall posters, and media for women and ethnic minorities McQuail , In an overall approach of the developmental issue Servaes addresses the necessary content and the normative components of development in terms of a participatory communication model.

Therefore, the communication process is not conceptualized here exclusively along the lines of transmission and reception, but also within a specific social setting, in relation to its own structure — the structures of relevance both in community and individual level , and the interplay between mediated and non-mediated forms of communication.

In this regard, community communication is conceptualized in terms of small-scale forms of public communication implemented by various media practices within a specific social context, promoting communicative exchange and social action. In addition, the new communications technology has fostered new spaces for access and participation. Certain technological developments and their implications — one platform for different types of communication through the digitalisation of data; time-space compression; two-way, interactive communication — have provided the infrastructure for the support and encouragement of political action.

From this perspective, new forms of communication create public spaces, arenas for the free engagement of citizens in deliberation and public debate.

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In addition, these new forms of communication can facilitate communication which is more horizontal than vertical. Accordingly, Williams identified the problems of addressing the role of the institutions of communication itself. In addition, Williams , addresses the organization of mass media and its structural implications — professionalization skills , capitalization, and institutionalisation controls — as the main barriers preventing wider social participation in their creation, production and dissemination.

Drawing on these lines, Hamilton cited in Atton , 25 conceptualises the distinction between alternative and mass media in terms of deprofessionalization, decapitalization and deinstitutionalization.


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Besides, Hamilton grounds the communication process at the level of experience. In this context, the communication process encompasses further social processes that invariably change through it.


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  8. Probing into communication strategies that advance democratic interaction, horizontal communication and solidarity Freire proposed a model of communication for liberation, for the empowerment of the disenfranchised. From this perspective, radical media can offer a space for alternative discourses in public debate as well as a locus of oppositional power to the agency of domination. In his early work Downing conceptualises media alternatives in principle.

    From a point of view that claims the realization of media democracy in practice, Downing critically assesses both capitalist mass media and revolutionary socialist Soviet media.


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    The revolutionary socialist media, despite its rhetoric against the monopolies of capitalist mass media, actually provide no alternative for a democratic media communication at all. Both of these aspects, engagement and organization of radical media have been articulated through a discourse that has social change at its core. In this regard, examples of radical media have been drawn here in terms of oppositional politics, in different contexts, across the world. On his updated theoretical perspective, Downing enriches the terrain of radical media by paying attention to ephemeral media forms as well by focusing, from a socialist anarchist angle, on social movements and their media practices.

    Effective communication within and by social movements is, therefore, a vital necessity for self-mobilization to emerge and prosper.

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    His study on the anti-nuclear media press movement in West Germany and Britain addressed the radical media in relation to the constitution of an alternative public realm. In addition, he expands the spectrum of radical media along the lines of alternative communication that encompasses fluid communication practices and instances employed by social movements.

    However, it is exclusively concerned with the formation of political consciousness. For this reason Downing draws exclusively on the social movements. However, the process of the democratization of communication has been mainly addressed in terms of counterbalancing the trend toward transnational communication. The potential of these alternative media to establish their own communication and information systems on the basis of a bottom-up horizontal mode of communication was conceived as the means to overcome the inequalities in communication power that mass media produce along the lines of the division between North and South.

    Besides, it is the actual practice of these projects that could promote any changes. As a result, alternative media were conceived as the terrain for a new communication order to emerge. Moreover, alternative media have been conceptualized as a potential locus of resistance to cultural imperialism. A wide range of such media practices have been developed across different contexts. In addition, Servaes evaluates participatory communication projects in terms of contributing to the development of the communities they serve in a progressive manner.

    Overall, Servaes points out the self-evaluative nature of participatory projects, where people become conscious of their own situation and its possibilities for change. In this context, participatory media have been evaluated as agents of developmental power, in terms of social and cultural empowerment. Moreover, community media distinguish themselves from the state and commercial ones, which has as a result the implementation of diverse relevant practices.

    Idea(l)s on e-democracy and direct online citizenship

    The implementation of community media promoted in practice the realization of the very principles of diversity and pluralism, generating a call for more access and more participation. Moreover, the technical possibilities of broadcasting in localities enabled the local context to become the battlefield of rejecting the top-down, uniformistic system of mass communication. Through this prism, community media have advanced the principle of public communication within the small-scale form of a neighbourhood, a village, a town, as well as within the realm of a community of interest.

    The diversification of public radio was also galvanised by the creation of regional stations with some degree of autonomy, and the application of new technologies. Electronic initiatives figure prominently within the context of community media. Radio has been evaluated as the most important vehicle for promoting the ideal of democratic communication in this regard. Nonetheless, diverse experiments on community television have taken place — community television that involves community members in the production of an overall programming package Lewis ; citizen television, as a local dimension to public service broadcasting Rushton ; local television, which involves strong cultural and social organizations and supports decentralizing practices in linguistic, demographic and cultural terms Moragas Spa and Corominas ; and public access television that creates a discourse arena for diverse grassroots citizens groups Stein As a result, most approaches on community media have put emphasis on the institutional and structural implications of their implementation for the democratisation of communication, along the lines of the different contexts that diverse communities set.

    In terms of these electronically facilitated public spaces, citizens can freely engage in deliberation and public debate. As a result, their preferences and interests can be more directly represented.

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    Accordingly, the character of the projects local government-led — civil society-led defines their objectives and aims. A number of questions have been raised concerning the potential of the new media to cement the principle of democracy itself. Different approaches on alternative media have highlighted diverse issues, putting emphasis on instances of media operation — creation, production, distribution — as well as on the process of the communication practice itself and its manifestations of empowerment, in symbolic Couldry ; a; b , and reflexive terms Atton ; On the one hand, alternative media have been evaluated in terms of incorporating decentralised, non-mainstream, non-commercial practices in their operation.