localism

Public Library

Pattern ID: 
464
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
59
Stewart Dutfield
Marist College
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Obstacles to diversity of ideas and freedom of thought are obstacles to human development, whether in wealthy countries, rich in Internet connections, or in rural regions of Peru short of roads and electricity. Not all people have access to information and ideas from which they might benefit, and the proliferation of ideas does not guarantee that people will encounter them. Information does not always want to be free.

Context: 

Public libraries have a history of successful struggle against the obstacles to the access to information and ideas. Among the findings of a recent research report in the US, they remain trusted and valued by the public, even though funding is becoming increasingly difficult. Public libraries are increasingly becoming a community space; while demand for traditional library services remains strong, public libraries are widely perceived as offering solutions to community problems and they have the potential to do more in future (Public Agenda, 2006).

Discussion: 

More than 150 years ago, public libraries started to provide people with information and knowledge that would otherwise have been out of reach. Through a publicly-funded lender, ordinary people such as Samuel Johnson’s “common reader” could discover more and better books. At a library open to all, any ambitious working-class youth could seek self-improvement; Andrew Carnegie, future benefactor of public libraries around the world, educated himself as a young immigrant only through the kindness of the owner of a private library.

Broad public support for the sober and egalitarian institution of the public library allows citizens to encounter difficult, provocative and unpopular ideas. Public libraries embody both the characteristics of their communities and the principles of intellectual freedom. More of one may lead to less of the other. The challenge of liberating libraries is to benefit from the justified pride that communities take in their public libraries while encouraging greater efforts toward intellectual freedom.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares the right of intellectual freedom: “to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” This freedom of opinion and expression for all citizens underlies a society’s capacity to recognize and realize new possibilities. Civic participation requires access to information and life-long education. Prosperity in a free society depends upon the creativity which comes from diverse and challenging ideas. Democracy's survival over time calls for adaptability and critical thought in the face of change.

Through professional associations such as the American Libraries Association (ALA) and the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), librarians advocate the principles of intellectual freedom. The pressures that they experience tell us about the obstacles to these principles. Among these obstacles are money, location, coercion, private interests, lack of privacy, and pressure toward conformity.

Public libraries provide services regardless of the ability to pay; they serve everyone equally, including those for whom money would otherwise present an obstacle. Though the public library may enjoy broad public approval, funding for this free and open source of information is seldom easily come by.

Public libraries provide services regardless of location. Whether in inner cities or remote rural outposts, they reach people who might otherwise not encounter the information and ideas that libraries offer.

Public libraries provide services regardless of coercion and censorship. They exist to bring people and ideas together, not to separate them. Public libraries operate at arm’s length from their sponsors, whether government, taxpayers, volunteer fundraisers (such as Friends groups) or private donors. Despite this, they often struggle with the restriction of information by governments, by self-censorship among librarians, and by those who seek to impose their standards or tastes on others.

Public libraries provide services independently of private interests. While respecting intellectual property, public libraries give priority to their patrons over commercial concerns, advocates of particular views, and any other interests which may distort the free flow of information and ideas.

Public libraries protect the privacy of their patrons. They encourage people to access information and ideas by maintaining the confidentiality of what they look for, look at, and communicate.

Public libraries resist pressures toward conformity which arise even where the diversity of information and ideas is growing. They take pride in providing ideas and information which are “unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority” (American Library Association, 2004).

As an “information commons” (Kranich, 2004, p. 281), the public library provides a forum for information and ideas, it offers new ways to access information, and it recognizes freedom of opinion and expression as the basis of democratic society. Though its strategies and services go beyond the printed word and beyond the walls of the library building, the public library also offers those who love “that magical hinged object, the book” (Holroyd, 1999, p. 143) a refuge from the possibly less subversive distractions of technology and contemporary media.

Public libraries develop access to information in many ways. Individual libraries provide computer access and guidance to patrons, including those who have no other means of using the Internet. Regional aggregation of library catalogs and databases offers patrons a collection much richer than any one library could maintain. Libraries are active in making government information more available, and they work to influence legislation to prevent intellectual property rights from adding new obstacles to access.

Public libraries have long worked to develop skills, most often needed by their underserved constituents, in language, literacy, and technology. As more information of increasingly variable quality becomes available, it becomes more and more necessary to evaluate its integrity and independence. With their staff and their patrons, public libraries are beginning to cultivate information literacy: the skills necessary to find, use, and critically evaluate information from many sources.

Side by side with public libraries' broad mission for an informed and active citizenry is a focus on the local community and civic dialog. The typical public library offers a public gathering space, available to all regardless of opinion or creed. It may provide a network connection to the local school so that youngsters can use library computers to perform their homework assignments. It may maintain an archive of local history and records, and care for cultural artifacts (such as paintings, for example) of local significance. This local focus can lead to collaborations with other local stakeholders; for example, in the case of a major local environmental issue such as industrial river pollution, the library may work with a government agency to host community meetings and include copies of the agency’s reports in a collection of documents related to the issue.

Public libraries have a special mission to serve their underserved or “information poor” (Kranich, 2004, p. 287) constituents. Groups such as urban minorities and rural communities have special difficulty in surmounting the obstacles to accessing and using information and ideas. In some parts of the world, such as the rural north of Peru served by the Rural Library Network (Medcalf, 1999), library services develop literacy through books and storytelling. In situations such as this, public libraries transport books on foot or by pack animal—camels in Kenya, donkeys in Zimbabwe.

The public library is an established institution which offers a model for building new institutions and services. It enjoys broad public respect and support, and promotes principles central to democracy and development: (a) intellectual freedom, (b) access to information and to ideas both fashionable and unfashionable, and (c) serving the needs of the underrepresented. If the Navajo call the library a “house of papers,” it can be much more; through new technologies, new partnerships, and new services it offers what Josh Cohen, director of the Mid-Hudson Library System (www.midhudson.org), calls “one of the cornerstones of democracy and one of the building blocks of a strong community.”

Solution: 

To create access to information, civic participation, and life-long education, use what public libraries already offer and work with them to implement new services. Support public libraries by volunteering, forming Friends groups, and establishing collaboration with other community institutions. Where there is no library, use the power of books to build public support. Wherever there is a public library, work with it to further the principles of intellectual freedom for all.

Categories: 
orientation
Categories: 
organization
Categories: 
engagement
Categories: 
social
Categories: 
products
Categories: 
resources
Themes: 
Digital Divide
Themes: 
Research for Action
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Policy
Themes: 
Community Action
Themes: 
Case Studies
Verbiage for pattern card: 

Obstacles to diversity of ideas and freedom of thought are obstacles to human development, whether in wealthy countries, rich in Internet connections, or in rural regions, lacking roads and electricity. The Public Library enjoys broad respect and support, promotes democratic principles including intellectual freedom and access to popular and unpopular information ideas, and serves the needs of the under represented.

Pattern status: 
Released
Pattern annotations: 

Durable Assets

Pattern ID: 
754
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
58
Justin Smith
The Public Sphere Project & St. Mary's University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Poor peoples dependent upon day labor and other forms of hourly employment can find it difficult to ensure livability for themselves and their families. They have little to support themselves in the event that employment becomes scarce or food prices skyrocket undermining their capacity to feed their families. Similarly, the assetless peoples often find it impossible to acquire credit for the creation of small businesses becuase they are dependent upon fluctuating levels of income.

Context: 

Development that purses an emphasis towards building the durable assets people have such as land, machinery, or livestock can empower peoples to be self-sufficient even in times of hardship, as they posses the materials necessary for ensuring their livelihood regardless of the larger economic climate.

Discussion: 

Durable assets in sustainable development can be summarized within four sections: natural capital (natural resource assets), reproducible capital (durable structures or equipment produced by human beings), human capital (the productive potential of human beings), and social capital (norms and institutions that influence the interactions among humans). The idea of durable assets is that they are capable of generating flows of goods and services (Rust, 1985).

Here is a simple list of some concrete examples of Durable Assets in which peoples can acquire to support their overall economic security:

  • Automobiles
  • Land for cultivation
  • Computers
  • Sewing Machines
  • Tools
  • Livestock

This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive but rather meant to illuminate the types of durable assets that can be acquired to provide peoples and families greater means of supporting their livelihoods, both in times of relative prosperity, as well as in those times that prove to be not so prosperous.

Overall, this pattern emphasizes both a focus (and approach) and concrete goal of engendering livelihood development for peoples left without the means to ensure their own survival. The foundation of a durable assets approach follows from the understandings that fully relying upon one's own labor can be problematic in regions in which the economy is vulnerable to dramatic transitions. By giving peoples the power of ownership over their own lives in the good times as well as the bad yet another layer of protection can be added to avoid situations of furthered "hardcore poverty".

For example, throughout South Asia there is a movement of development driven by the creation of women's Self-Help Groups. In these groups people collectively save in order to acquire loans or assets to acquire the tools to initiate income generating activities. Many start-up shops as seamstresses, or begin poultry farming, some go on to open small stores and others as in the case of the Graemeen Bank's cell phone program, provide cell service to local people. In each of these examples, a common thread is the tools used. The seamstress must posses a sewing machine to pursue her business, just as the poultry farmer needs the livestock and the land. The cell phone ladies in Bangladesh would not be if it weren't for their ownership of the cell phones they use to run their businesses; just as the fisher would go hungry without his tools, so too would farmer without his land, and taxi driver without her taxi.

This isn't meant to negate the role of creativity of individual or group creativity to generate income, but it the pattern highlights a useful view on how to facilitate the inherent creativity of people for pursuing livelihoods for themselves and their families.

However, as long as there exists any durable asset, it is capable of possessing monetary attributes and, therefore, of giving rise to the characteristic problems of a monetary economy (Keynes, 1936). Therefore this pattern could be perceived to reinforce oppressive or unfair economic systems. Yet, despite this issue the reality remains that over a billion people live in extreme poverty without the means to feed or protect their families in times of greater economic hardship; to ignore this fact based upon arguments against the current economic system is perhaps to make a bad situation worse, and only perpetuate socio-economic inequalities.

Solution: 

Development practitioners, community members and individuals can participate in ways to consciously pursue the acquisition and sustainability of durable assets to promote income generation activities and support a greater level of economic security to the most vulnerable populations. Such approaches could conceivable be achieved through the linkage of other patterns such as self-help groups, co-operatives and collectives or a variety of other relevant patterns. Ultimately as a policy, officials in government could, through pressure from social change advocates, develop initiatives to enable individuals and communities to both acquire durable goods, and assist in protecting those assets that they do possess, such as land from external threats.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Durable Assets can empower people and communities to be self-sufficient even in times of hardship. Development practitioners, community members, and individuals can consciously pursue the acquisition and sustainability of Durable Assets. Government should develop initiatives to enable individuals and communities to acquire Durable Assets and to protect those they already own.

Pattern status: 
Released

Peace Education

Pattern ID: 
584
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
56
Helena Meyer-Knapp
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

People seem always to have studied war more than peace. Whether in school history classes or in the allocation of government research and university budgets, the energy devoted to peace studies is commonly so small as to be virtually invisible. Furthermore, an interest in peace-making is often taken as a sign of weakness. Hence peace education is unattractive to people with power. On the largest historical scale there is a strong correlation between the acquisition of the full rights of citizenship and warrior status. Furthermore, the right to command violence and wage war is a core prerogative of governments and political leaders. So peace education is easily defined as anti-government and in many places there is constant pressure to sustain the commitment to patriotic sentiment.

Discussion: 

Young people are encountering peace education in a variety of modes: Volunteer lawyers in Washington and other states teach mediation in the public schools. Community groups working with teenagers in trouble teach “straight talk,” a system for engaging directly with potential critics. Families too, have a choice between authoritarian parental powers and developing their members' negotiation skills, although if children are to learn to negotiate, parents must really be willing to change in response to their child’s arguments.

Since peace and justice are intertwined, peace education requires also that the younger generations learn also about achieving justice. Addressing topics relating to economic, ethnic, class, religious and other injustices remains controversial in US public education, but many schools and colleges have begun to open discussion of these issues.

Japan makes a significant investment in peace education for the young, through a large network of museums and peace sites. Most school programs are focused in on peace as it relates to World War II and indeed some of the facilities Japan describes as peace museums, others might label war museums or memorials. Nonetheless, through the cities and citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan has been a world leader in reminding people of the urgent perils of nuclear weaponry.

Peace education and peace research are linked and in 1981, under the leadership of Sen. Matsunaga of Hawaii, the US government set up an Institute of Peace. Since the ending of the Cold War, when it became legitimate once again think more about peace, US universities have founded significant programs, including undergraduate studies at Hampshire College, and graduate programs at George Mason University and Antioch. Europe, too, has seen considerable investment in university level education in peace studies and Europeans seem more willing than Americans to take an assertive stance in favor of peace. One outstanding program in Britain is at Bradford University, another at Lancaster. Among international institutions, Vienna is host to the UNESCO supported European University Center for Peace Studies and the United Nations Peace University is centered in Costa Rica with affiliated institutions in Geneva and Toronto among other places.

Large scale, institutionalized settings for peace education are complemented by dozens of of smaller venues in temples and shrines, churches and mosques, in peace camps for youngsters from war zones, in anger management courses and other therapist communities, in contemplative practices and even in martial arts training. The right environment for peace education can be found to match almost any age, mood, and orientation.

Still, the agressive, competitive and vengeful energies in most societies are given precedence over the peaceful in the media, in business and commerce, in sports, in law and even in education.

This pattern links to Teaching to Transgress, Education and Values, Citizenship School,

Solution: 

Parents on behalf of their children and adults on their own behalf will find they must make an explicit and continuous effort to get enough access to peace education and also to hold back the strong militaristic energies in most contemporary societies. Control gun play of course, but also teach peaceful negotiation and challenge the notion that the good citizen must be ready to go into combat.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The energy devoted to Peace Education, whether in history classes or through the allocation of government or university funds, is miniscule. Since peace and justice are intertwined, Peace Education requires that people also learn about achieving justice. Schools can teach negotiation skills and empathic respect for different perspectives, using in-class simulations, theater, and other action-learning methods.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
From Hiroshima to Peace, Seattle, August 6, 2012. Photograph by Douglas Schuler. CC BY-SA 3.0

Indigenous Media

Pattern ID: 
446
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
55
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Miguel Angel Pérez Alvarez
Colegio de Pedagogía, UNAM
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Lack of representation in media production results in reduced diversity of ideas and perspectives in the media. This often results in manipulation, lack of political participation and knowledge about rights. It lessens opportunities to engage in politics or to assume responsibilities in government. Indigenous people who are denied their voice will find it difficult to fight oppression, work with allies, or maintain their culture. Without the means to make their voices heard, communities become atomized within themselves and invisible to the outside world.

Context: 

Indigenous people in rural and urban areas in developing and developed countries around the world need to create

Discussion: 

This pattern could be applied in urban areas and in rural areas where communities have suffered years of economic and social stagnation. Indigenous media is different from media that is produced by and for other underserved groups such as ethnic and sexual minorities, women, and youth. For one thing, indigenous people often don’t know how to engage the media from their village far from electricity, telephones, press, or radio or television stations. For another thing, the knowledge that is intrinsic to their culture may be localized. It may be centuries old, embodied in stories or other non-written forms and endangered.

Information is essential for development and it is now urgent to empower indigenous people with media technologies and knowledge. There are many activities which indigenous farmers could undertake to help improve their lives with better access to media. If, for example, the farmers of Chiapas in Southeast Mexico could sell their products directly to the companies they could improve their economic situation. Currently intermediaries buy coffee in poor villages for a few coins which is then sold to big companies at great profit. Access to the market depends on knowledge and the technological means to capitalize on it.

We know that this is not only a problem for the poor. Many people around the world have problems related to lack of media access. The fact that large corporations control the media becomes a matter of life and death because the media is the de facto gatekeeper of important information related to health and safety. Indigenous people often lack the power, knowledge and technology to produce their own information and their own media. The Internet could provide a new way to communicate. For example, in the south and south-east areas of México, there are new Internet access centers but these are only for people who already know how to use computers and the Internet, knowledge that many indigenous people don’t have.

Indigenous Media simultaneously addresses many needs of marginalized indigenous groups. Thus embracing this pattern entails education and training, policy, resources (time, money, people, for example) in addition to access to the technology itself. An e-mail campaign or a panel discussion on a radio show can help organize a campaign against a group of intermediaries or to denounce bad legislators. In Mexico's rural communities such as Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca radio stations managed by indigenous farmers and satellite gateways to the Internet can make the difference between intimidation and free speech. Some notable examples from around the world include Radio Tambuli Radio Network in the Philippines, the Deadly Mob aboriginal organization of Alice Springs, Australia, and the Koahnic Broadcast Corporation in Alaska.

Non-indigenous people can play a role in support of this pattern. They can organize training programs in the 3,100 new access points are installed in the municipalities around Mexico and/or in Internet cafes. Many institutions and international agencies whose programs include technology in rural areas can donate equipment, access to the Internet (maybe via satellite gateways), and Internet streaming. NGOs with training and learning programs can work with indigenous farmers and others to learn how to apply media access technology. Mino of the Ashaninka native people in Peru who was instrumental in establishing Internet access for his people stresses that indigenous people must not allow non-indigenous people to monopolize information. For that reason, he and others in his group carefully observed every technical installation that was carried out in his village.

Unfortunately the pattern language and other educational tools are not available in native languages and are useless to most indigenous people. Many of these stakeholders have experience with ICT who can share their stories of success and failure, but they can't express their thoughts in English.

Radio, print media, television, all have potential to help shape public opinion. When rural farmers acquire Internet skills and can access media, they can apply this knowledge to create their own information and communication systems. Ultimately, indigenous people can promote success by communicating with other indigenous people around the world about their experiences.

Arts of Resistance, Alternative Media, Roles in Media, Influencing the Design of Information Technologies, Mobile ICT Learning Facilities for 3rd World Communities, International Networks of Alternative Media, Control of One's Representation, Solidarity Networks, Ordinary Protagonists and Everyday Life

Solution: 

Encourage the development of indigenous media that is controlled by indigenous people themselves. People outside the indigenous community can become involved — but only in consultation with the indigenous community.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The lack of participation and influence by indigenous communities in media production results in reduced diversity of ideas and perspectives. This can result in lack of political participation and knowledge about rights. It lessens opportunities to engage in politics or to assume responsibilities in government. Indigenous people who are denied their voice will find it difficult to fight oppression, work with allies, or maintain their culture.

Pattern status: 
Released

Alternative Media in Hostile Environments

Pattern ID: 
433
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
53
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Despots despise the visibility that a truly free press can provide. It is their unchallengeable iniquity that would receive the most intense airing. Under oppressive regimes, the circulation of information, literature, and other art forms can be dangerous. People can be harassed, beaten-up, imprisoned or even executed for possession of forbidden information — or the means to create, reproduce or distribute it. Journalists face even greater challenges and require an extensive collection of techniques to get the news out to all who need it.

Context: 

This pattern focuses on journalism during hostile conditions in which citizens have a greater need to engage with the forbidden knowledge and share it with members of their community. The future of reform often depends on the success of this collaboration between journalists and citizens. The ideas in this pattern (including new distribution practices, for example) also can be used in the US or other countries that have a nominally free press yet one that is dominated by a few strong voices with deep pockets.

Discussion: 

The world can be very hostile to independent and alternative journalists and to people who read and think. Even countries where there are no legal restrictions to a "free" press have major problems. The journal Index on Censorship and the organization Reporters without Borders regularly report on the barbarities visited upon journalists worldwide. Despots know that the truth can damage their reputations and ultimately their regime. Although the truth is difficult to hide forever, postponing its arrival, limiting its exposure, and casting aspersions on its accuracy may be adequate for their purposes.

A hostile environment is one in which coercion or force — either formally through laws and police — or informally through thugs or contract killers is employed to stifle the free flow of ideas. The most common form of choking off the flow of information that could be damaging to the government, corporations or wealthy individuals is distraction. Serbian media during the Milosevic years with its breezy lightweight confections of schmaltzy pop as well as nationalist songs and slapstick served up in many cases by scantily clad women, provides a good example of this.

One appendage of the unfree press (at least as conceptualized in the U.S.) is a ruthlessly efficient secret police that stomps out every aspect of alternative point-of-view the instant that it surfaces. This modus operandi seems to be uncommon in practice (and would no doubt be the envy of all the despots). The defenders of the status quo, though loutish and dangerous, are often capricious and incompetent, and they are generally stymied by insufficient resources. The ambiguity of the laws and the ambiguity of the presumed offenses also can work in favor of the journalist.

The former Soviet Union and its satellites provided the fertile soil for an independent press that operated on the margins of the law for several decades. This is the classic "samizdat" distribution in which readers painstakingly and secretly copied by hand or via typewriter and carbon paper, multiple copies of entire books which were then passed on to others who would do the same.

In the "developed world" journalists and other media workers are specialized: one person intones the news of the day, using video clips that another person edited which was shot by another person during an interview conducted by another person as ordered by another person. When the political climate turns nasty and journalists are beaten-up, threatened or killed by government soldiers, paramilitary troops or thugs, when resources dry up or when disaster or wartime situations erupt, journalists habituated to the strict division of labor may be unable to adopt the more flexible and improvisational mode of news production when that becomes necessary. Journalists with overspecialized, deep but narrow, skills will find that they are unable to respond quickly and flexibly when their tried-and-true practices fail due to unexpected circumstances.

Alternative news distribution involves a canny cat and mouse game between those who believe in the free distribution of information and those who don't. Living within an actively hostile environment, it will be necessary to keep changing the way that business is done to meet new challenges. Unlike journalists in the US or other developed countries, journalists must adept in many modes of reporting, many approaches to distribution, a variety of tactics and strategies and the inventive use of what's available to get the job done, as befits what B92 journalist Veran Matic calls a "universal journalist, not an encyclopedic polymath who is informed in different fields, but a professional familiar with print journalism, radio and television, online journalism and information distribution mechanisms." This is what I call a bricoleur-journalist who sends the sounds that accompany the scene at voting station in Africa can go directly over the air via a cell phone with an open line to the radio station. Audio cassettes, printed broadsides or, more commonly today, DVDs can be distributed when the plug is pulled on a radio station (as it was three times during B92's early years of confronting Milosevic). And bricoleur-journalists in different cultures and settings, such as Chinese pro-democracy or environmental activists, will assume any number of local variants.

An interesting, unexpected issue seems to surface from time-to-time by the underground media (and society in general) after the fall of an oppressive regime. (fate of art and literature) Ironically, many people who worked closely with clandestine media over the years now feel unsettled in the post-soviet environment. After communism fell the former trickle of information became a tsunami of mostly commercial offerings. When information was scarce and in danger of extinction possessed an almost sacred allure. Now the same type of information is lost in the flood, just more anonymous flotsam and jetsam in a torrent of images and sounds.

Samizdat or clandestine journalism doesn't always succeed of course. Translating the success of the samizdat or underground press to other regions under oppressive regimes is far from automatic. A potential audience that is interested in the material must exist — as with the media in any situation — and there must be some way to get the material to them. Some of these people earnestly want social change and believe there is some degree, however small, of hope that this outcome is achievable. Interestingly, and somewhat contrary to conventional wisdom, some people in the potential audience are motivated by their desire to know the truth whether it helps to actually change the situation or not. At any rate, the larger and more active and supportive the audience is, the more likely that the alternative press will succeed. On the other side of the equation are the journalists — potential and actually — and the absence of either audience or journalists can prevent the enterprise from being successful.

Although precarious, alternative media production actually builds civic capacity. According to Anna Husarka who worked for Poland's Solidarity Information Bureau in 1989, the journalism they practiced "was a political blueprint for the democratic struggles that dismantled communism." It is also important to note that traditional "news" is not the only "product" of an alternative media project. The B92 enterprise (which started as a college radio station in Belgrade) now includes Radio B92, Television B92, B92.net (Web site), B92 publishing (books and magazines), B92 music label, B92.Rex cultural centre, B92.concert agency, and B92.communications (Internet provision and satellite links) amply illustrates the rich potential of a "media" that chooses to embrace the widest range of outlets. One of their biggest and most successful projects was "Rock for Vote," the biggest rock tour in Serbia's history, "a traveling festival with 6 to 8 bands playing in 25 cities and towns throughout the country." The tour was organized while organizers and activists "were being molested, harassed and detained by the police on a daily basis." In spite of that 150,000 citizens attended the concerts. Most importantly the results of the 2000 elections demonstrated that their main objective was attained: "80% of first-time voters did go to the polls after all ... casting their ballots to bring about fundamental changes in the country."

As mentioned above, some media operations that developed during a period of hostility have had a difficult time making the transition from a post-war or post-oppressive regime. On the other hand, Gazeta Wyborcza, one of Poland's leading underground newspapers in the 1980s, which was started in a kindergarten classroom became one of the most influential and commercially viable dailies in Poland [Smillie, 1999].) B92, in least in the immediate aftermath of the troubles in Serbia, continued innovative programming that reflected their terrifying past. For example, they launched a Truth and Reconciliation process that included radio shows and a series of books about the wars (including the Srebrenica crimes) and disintegration of former Yugoslavia. They also convened a conference "In Search for Truth and Reconciliation" in 2000 that was attended by journalists, intellectuals and representatives of NGOs from all former Yugoslav republics took part and another conference "Truth, Responsibility and Reconciliation" the following year that featured experiences of other countries in similar processes. Radio B92 also set up a special documentation archive on the wars which included testimonies, documentaries, video footage, books and other documents. They also arranged "exhibitions, screenings of documentaries and public discussions on these topics are being organized throughout Serbia" (Matic, 2004).

Solution: 

Producing — and consuming — or other types of cultural or journalistic media with hostile societies can be hazardous to emotional as well as physical health. It is often a unrewarding enterprise at the same time it can be absolutely critical.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People in oppressive regimes can be harassed, beaten-up, imprisoned or even executed for possession or circulation of forbidden information, literature, or drawings. Journalists face grave challenges and require an extensive collection of techniques to get the news out. Alternative Media in Hostile Environments focuses on journalism during hostile conditions in which citizens have a greater need to engage with forbidden knowledge and share it with members of their community.

Pattern status: 
Released

Online Deliberation

Pattern ID: 
430
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
52
Matt Powell
The Evergreen State College
Douglas Schuler
Version: 
2
Problem: 

People working together are often plagued by the clash of personalities and shifting rivalries of factions and subgroups. Also, without structure, a discussion can become random and rambling. It can be dominated by powerful individuals or other factors. The emergence of these negative group dynamics can adversely impact the ability of the group to achieve it's shared objectives. Other factors, such as distance to the meeting, inconvenient scheduling, or costs of getting to the meeting can obstruct effective and inclusive participation. Current online systems don't provide the structure that groups of people engaging in deliberative meetings or discussions need to help them efficiently move through a decision making process that is accessible and ensures equal participation by all.

Context: 

Board meetings, committee meetings, administrative panels, review boards, volunteer organizations, non-profit community groups.

Discussion: 

Everyday conversation, though often purposeful, is informal; it doesn't rely on an agenda, defined roles, or precisely delineated rules of interacton. To overcome the unpredictabilty of this type of human interaction, systematic rules have been created to facilitate purposeful group meetings whose objective is to produce collective decisions. One of the earliest set of "parliamentary procedures" was formulated in 1876 by Henry Robert in a treatise entitled "Roberts Rules of Order". "Roberts Rules", as they have come to be known, have been widely adopted as a means to fairly and equitably conduct the business of group meetings and provide a method to ensure that all parties within the group have the opportunity to participate in the decision making process. At the same time Roberts Rules ensure that no minority interest can exert undue influence on the process.

The advent of the Internet has provided an opportunity to combine the democratic principles (such as Roberts Rules of Order), with modern interactive communication technologies, to provide new web-based meeting facilitation systems. Ideally, online deliberations systems would allow people to come together as peers in an "on-line" environment and conduct "official" business meetings without being present in the same physical location. The plethora of online discussion systems, especially when contrasted to the scarcity of deliberative systems suggests the difficulty of this enterprise.

While working in and with a team of students at The Evergreen State College the authors of this pattern were involved in the development of eLiberate a working prototype developed using Linux, MySql, Apache, and PHP. The application provides facilities to create groups and to create and schedule meetings. Then, using written (typed) rather than spoken input, the system facilitates meeting by coordinating user interactions (such as making motions), conducting and tallying votes, and providing an archive facility for official minutes.

Online deliberation substitutes one set of advantages and disadvantages for the set that face-to-face deliberation offers. In general the broad criteria of either approach include access to the process, efficacy of the process (including individual involvement and process as a whole, and the context (including legal requirements, etc.). Of course these criteria overlap to some degree and influence each other.

Although face-to-face deliberation is basically "low-tech," physically getting to meetings may involve costly, "high-tech" travel. Then, once physically present at a face-to-face meeting, effective participation depends on the skills (including, for example, how to use Roberts Rules of Order), intentions and knowledge of the individuals. It also depends (of course!) on the skills, intentions and knowledge of the other participants in the meeting — including the chair.

By making access to a computer (connected to the Internet) a prerequisite to participation online deliberation adds an access hurdle comprised of cost, geography, and computer fluency. Depending on the characteristics of the potential attendees this barrier may be more than offset by the advantages that online deliberations could provide. If, for example, the meeting attendees are drawn from western Europe and the United States, it is likely the case that costs associated with computer communication will be less than transportation costs. As a matter of fact, online deliberation makes the prospect of more-or-less synchronous discussions / deliberations among people around the world possible, although here the tyranny of time zones and humankind's intrinsic circadian rhythms (which encourage us to sleep at night and stay awake in the daylight hours) become a mitigating factor: making decisions while many of the attendees are sleeping is one formula for dysfunctional meetings. The very fact that worldwide meetings become possible however provides an enormously fertile ground for civil society opportunities. (See, for example, the World Citizen Parliament pattern.)

Knowledge of the topics under discussion, knowledge of the process (Roberts Rules of Order, for example) and command of the language(s) being used in the discussion can also be obstacles to effective and equitable face-to-face as well online deliberation. Online environments, however, have the potential of alleviating, at least to some degree, some of the disadvantages that seem to be intrinsic to face-to-face settings. In the eLiberate example mentioned above attendees can select a "language pack" so that the appropriate Roberts Rules process word or phrase (such as "I second the motion") will be presented in the attendee's own language. Note that this is not machine ("on-the-fly") translation. Moreover it has no bearing whatsoever on the content of the meeting — what the participants actually contributed — it determines only which of several equivalent language sets of the Roberts Rules "meta-language" is displayed to each user. The possibility for automatic "machine translation" to be put to work on all attendee input so that attendee only saw input to the meeting in their own language. Of course machine translation is imperfect at best — and may always remain so. Try, for example, transforming some verbiage into another language and back again via a machine translation system on the web. The result generally bears no resemblance to the original. On the other hand, translation by humans is not perfect either; relying as it does on the skills of the human translator. For those reasons it may be well-advised for reasons of transparency and integrity of the process to make both (or all) original and machine-translated language versions available for inspection with the other meeting contributions in the database. (Today as I write this a transcript of an interview with me appeared in a Sao Paulo newspaper: my utterance "couldn't" was transcribed as "could" — an easy mistake that totally inverts the meaning!) So, while free and reliable electronic translation is desirable, high-quality human translation could be inserted into the process as appropriate. This could only be as "simultaneous" and as accurate as the skills and availability of the human translator interposed within the process would allow. The needs discussed above for multiple versions and for long-term storage are appropriate in the case of human translation as well.

The online environment offers other potential advantages. One obvious benefit is that only the actions that are allowable within the deliberation process at that time are displayed to the individual participants. This, in theory, can help reduce problems that are commonplace with meeting attendees who are not thoroughly familiar with the Roberts Rules conventions). Online systems can also provide online "help systems." Within eLiberate, for example, users can view descriptions of how and when specific actions are used. Also, as previously mentioned, a meeting transcript can be automatically created and votes can automatically be tabulated as well.

Solution: 

Development of a network-based application that will provide non-profit, community based organizations with the technology they need to conduct effective deliberative meetings when members can't easily get together in face-to-face meetings. Ideally the tools would increase their effectiveness in addressing their mission while requiring less time and money to conduct deliberative meetings.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Group discussions are often plagued by personality clashes and rivalries. Also, without structure, discussions can become random and rambling, or dominated by powerful individuals. To overcome these problems, systematic rules have been created to facilitate meetings that encourage fair decisions. Now is the time to develop Online Deliberation systems that support effective deliberative meetings when getting together in-person is difficult or costly. 

Pattern status: 
Released
Preface: 
People working together to conduct business as a group are often plagued by the clash of personalities and shifting rivalries within the group. Also, without structure, a discussion can become random and rambling. And it can be dominated by powerful individuals. Other factors, such as distance to the meeting, inconvenient scheduling, or costs of getting to the meeting can obstruct effective and inclusive participation. To overcome the unpredictability of informal human interaction, systematic rules have been created to facilitate purposeful group meetings and encourage collective decisions. It's time to develop Online Deliberation applications that provide organizations with the technology they need to conduct effective deliberative meetings when members can't easily get together in-person. Ideally the tools would increase their effectiveness while requiring less time and money to conduct the meetings.
Information about introductory graphic: 
Photograph: Fiorella De Cindio
Information about summary graphic: 

e-Liberate online deliberation tool; Public Sphere Project

Citizen Access to Simulations

Pattern ID: 
744
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
48
Alan Borning
University of Washington
Version: 
2
Problem: 

It can be difficult to understand and bring into public deliberation the long-term consequences of major public decisions, for example, the consequences of building a new rail system or a freeway in an urban area. Simulations can help illuminate these consequences (for example, a simulation of the long-term effects on land use, transportation, and environmental impacts of different choices). To be compelling and useful, the simulation results should presented in a way that they can be understood and used by a range of interested citizens. Further, ideally not just the results, but access to running the simulation, should be available to the public, to allow experimentation with alternatives. To aid in understanding and credibility, the simulation should be constructed in a transparent fashion, so that its operation is open to inspection and discussion.

Context: 

This pattern is potentially useful to advocacy groups, other community organizations, business associations, and local and regional governments. Using this pattern depends on a suitable simulation and data being available. Another factor (less important but useful) would be the existence of a community indicators program that tracks current trends using indicators, so that the *same* indicators can be used to both track current trends and to present the simulation results. (Doing this is particularly useful in applying the Reality Check pattern [link to Reality Check pattern], in which simulation results are compared with observed, real-world data.

Discussion: 

Community Indicators [link to Community and Civic Indicators pattern] can provide an important tool for monitoring current trends in a community. However, we will usually be interested in the values of these indicators in the future, not just the present - and which actions will result in more desirable outcomes as measured by the community indicators. Simulation and modeling can provide a powerful tool for informing such discussions, particularly if the results from the simulation can be presented using the same indicators as selected in a participatory Community and Civic Indicators project. For example, the summary graphic for this pattern shows the population densities in the Puget Sound region in Washington State in 2025 given the current land use and transportation plans, as projected by the UrbanSim simulation system. The results of the work should be made available using the web or printed reports. Using the web has the advantage that definitions of indicators, documentation, and related information can be conveniently linked together. Supporting public access to running the simulation, as well as the results, might be provided in several different ways, depending on the complexity and size of the simulation and input data. Particularly for complex simulations, with substantial data requirements, accessing a simulation hosted on a server via a web interface is a good technique. Smaller simulations might be downloaded and run on individual's computers. This is in general not an easy pattern to use. In addition to developing the set of indicators (including careful definitions and documentation), a simulation of the phenomenon of interest must exist or be developed, including the necessary data and calibration to apply it in the given community. For the example used here (land use and transportation), this typically requires that the local or regional government agency in charge of land use and transportation planning either undertake the simulation work itself, or be willing to work closely with another organization that does so. The game SimCity demonstrates that many people -- including grade school children -- can be highly engaged by what might have been thought to be a dry topic, namely urban planning. While games such as SimCity can provide valuable inspiration and interaction ideas, there are key differences between such games and the simulations suggested in this pattern. First, this pattern is concerned with producing simulations of actual phenomena, for example, simulating a specific, real, urban area, with the intent of producing useful forecasts of its long-term development to inform public deliberation and debate. Second, the interaction techniques available to its users should expose only the actions and "policy levers" available to real citizens and governments (for the urban simulation example, such as building light rail systems or changing zoning). Users of these simulations can't simply declare that an area will be redeveloped (or bring in Godzilla); rather, all they can do is change relevant policies in a scenario in hopes of influencing people in the simulated environment to redevelop the area and residents to move there. Potential challenges to the result include challenges to the accuracy and reliability of the simulation.

Solution: 

Develop a simulation of the system of interest (for example, of urban land use and transportation), and make the results of the simulation accessible to interested stakeholders using indicators. When possible, make running the simulation accessible to the public as well.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Simulations can help illuminate long-term consequences of major public decisions on land use, transportation, and the environment. Citizen Access to Simulations can provide powerful capabilities for informing community discussions, particularly if the results are presented using the same indicators that were used in a participatory community and civic indicators project.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
UrbanSim

Alternative Progress Indices

Pattern ID: 
777
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
46
Burl Humana
Richard Reiss
one-country.com
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Economic indexes of various kinds attempt to measure the well being of nations, markets, corporations, individual people, and society. Most of these economic indexes express return only in monetary format and risk is calculated on the standard deviation of this monetary expression. These economic indexes need to also include information that makes life worth living, natural and social capital (living capital), so non-monetary rewards are also included in the standard deviation and risks to human well being can be indicated more accurately.

Context: 

Trading on the benchmark of indices has become increasingly popular over the last few years. As indexes become more widely used than ever before they become easy indicators, for those they benefit, in measuring how our world is doing, according to them, and skew the honest reality for mankind that we hope to protect. It is imperative to accurately measure the well being of nations, corporations, individual people, and societies through indexes that adequately reflect the true costs and benefits contributing to the well being of our world.

Discussion: 

Indexes take on a market theory notion that the “efficient frontier” has all the information needed to calculate an accurate return (reward) versus risk (cost) index. Following this notion is the idea that filtering the market for certain criteria of a specialized index lowers the amount of return received for risk taken, because filtered information is inefficient. This raises questions about the “efficiency” of markets because active managers filter economic information everyday to create specialized portfolios to increase return. On this, it would theoretically stand that an index measuring the well being of society could filter for criteria rewarding the common good with little to no ill effect from lack of the so called “efficiency” imbibed by the market.

Around the globe, there is an increase in the number of sustainability and social responsibility indexes (SRI). These indexes came out of first generation socially conscious investing that excluded corporate stock from investment portfolios on the basis of particular activities deemed to be unethical. From this, a second generation has emerged and the focus of SRI has changed primarily to identifying social and environmental issues that are “material” to business performance. This is an increased attempt by companies to assess the materiality of sustainability issues on (stock) value creation. These indices paint a picture that socially responsibility is only important when a financial gain is made by corporations or stockholders. This is not exactly what we are looking for when we hope to use indexes to help measure the well being of our world. When individual investors purchase SRI traded securities/indexes they still have to deal with the reality that the costs to living capital are making life less valuable even while their portfolios grow.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)/Gross National Product (GNP) per capita has most lately been used as an index of standard of living in an economy. GDP/GNP only measures the populations ease in satisfying their material wants (an index of reward for risk taken) and all else that contributes to the sustainability of people and the environment is lost. "Adding up the monetary transactions in an economy and calling this prosperity obscures an honest account of the well being of nations." (Anielski, 2000)

Quality of life and standard of living should not be separate measurements in an index "A more complex index of standard of living than GDP must be employed to take into account not only the material standard of living but also other factors that contribute to human well-being such as leisure, safety, cultural resources, social life, mental health, and enironmental quality issues, to name a few." (Anielski, 2000)

Simon Kuznets' idea “…[in] favour of more inclusive measures, less dependent on markets..." (Anielski, 2000) rings true as a more realistic approach to well-being. "The eventual solution would obviously lie in devising a single yardstick of both economies [virtual wealth – money,debt, stock markets; and real wealth – human, natural and social capital]…that would perhaps lie outside the different economic and social institutions and be grounded in experimental science (of nutrition, warmth, health, shelter, etc.)." (Anielski, 2000) The business for this millennium is to take up this empirical economic challenge for a single bottom line index for national well-being.

“The U.S. Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) and its predecessor, the Index for Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) provide the basis for developing a new accountancy to address Kuznets’ challenge. The U.S. GPI released in 1995 and since updated…is one of the most ambitious attempts at calculating the total benefits and costs related to [economics for community] for the US. First developed by Clifford W. Cobb, GPI/ISEW remains one of the most important attempts to measure sustainable current welfare." (Anielski, 2000)

"The GPI adds a cost side to the growth ledger, begins to account for the aspects of the economy that lie outside the realm of monetary exchange, acknowledges that the economy exists for future generations as well as for the present one and adjusts for income disparities. The GPI begins with personal consumption expenditures as a baseline, the way the GDP does. Personal spending by households makes up roughly 65 percent of the US GDP. The GPI then make a series of 24 adjustments for unaccounted benefits, depreciation costs (for social and natural capital) and deducts regrettable social and environmental expenditures. Specific elements of the GPI include personal consumer expenditures, income, value and cost of consumer spending on durable goods and household capital, cost of household pollution abatement, cost of commuting, cost of crime, cost of automobile accidents, cost of family breakdown, value of housework and parenting, value of voluntary work, loss of leisure time, services of streets and highways, cost of underemployment, air pollution, ozone depletion, water pollution, noise pollution, cost of depletion of non renewable, loss of forests, long term environmental damage, loss of wetlands, net capital investment, net foreign lending/borrowing." (Anielski, 2000) The GPI has also set goals for itself "to improve its framework in the areas of human capital, technology, government spending, social infrastructure, natural capital and environmental accounts, ecological carrying capacity, genetic diversity, water projects, workplace environment, underground economy, and pollution and lifestyle induced disease." (Anielski, 2000)

The results of the GPI reveal that "…well being has declined while virtual wealth (debt, stock markets) have grown exponentially. One could say that while we are making more money we are effectively eroding the living capital which makes our lives worthwhile. “The primary benefit of the GPI is to provide decision makers with a more holistic account of the economic well-being of their community…." (Anielski, 2000)

"Any accounting system of well-being must be aligned with the values, experiences, and physical realities of the citizens of a community. The challenge in future GPI/ISEW accounting will be the ability of constructing accounts that are consistent with the held values, principles, and ethical foundation of a community or society." (Anielski, 2000)

Solution: 

Alternative indexes like the Genuine Progress Indicator that include natural and human capital can illuminate our world on the real picture of human well being that can be obfuscated by traditional economic indexes. "The ultimate utility of such measurement efforts is that the information provides evidence of trends in the welfare of society." (Aneilski, 2000)

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Economic indexes that measure the well-being of nations, markets, corporations, individual people, and society as a whole are expressed only in monetary terms and miss several important factors; they need to factor in information on positive factors such as volunteering and housework and negative factors such as pollution and crime.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Wiki Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schoolgirls_in_Bamozai.JPG

Design Stance

Pattern ID: 
807
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
44
Rob Knapp
Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Conscientious social or environmental activists try to understand the issues or problems they confront, and not just act blindly. However, significant issues are typically intricate, ill-defined,, and conceptually complicated, to the point where whole careers are devoted to sorting out small portions of them, and action is delayed indefinitely or activist energy dissipated. But the alternative of rushing to action, substituting passion or outrage for understanding is counterproductive in its own well-documented ways.

Context: 

This pattern is for people, on their own or within organizations, who are ready to initiate meaningful action. They have done enough analysis of whatever issue or problem they are concerned with, and have developed enough conviction to be sure that action is needed. Their question is, What action? or perhaps, How can I focus the notions, wishes, and urges that surround this issue into specific, meaningful steps? This pattern does not give detailed answers

Discussion: 

The complexity of significant issues in the present time is overwhelming. This is obvious for national issues such as health care, outsourcing of jobs, or energy policy. But small scale problems, such as a derelict lot, are often equally complex (think of drug dealing, vandalism, invasive plants, liability, and city departmental turf battles) in relation to the energy and good will available to deal with them. Seemingly obvious moves ("Let's all clean it up!") get blocked in unexpected ways ("Who are you to order us around?") or generate further issues (the lot becomes a better place to play hooky). The activist has to escape the "paralysis of analysis," but also must be accurate about the effects and costs of actions, which can radiate far beyond the immediate zone in which they occur.

Large and small scale social and environmental problems in the U.S. have come under concerted assault before, most notably in the Progressive era of the early 20th century. The great successes of that time, in clean water, safe housing, conservation of natural areas and much more, also established dispassionate expertise as the preferred approach to such issues (at least by liberals). Gather enough data, include enough considerations, weigh it objectively, and sensible, legally defensible decisions will emerge—or so goes the argument. However, as the complexity of issues has increased, and as affluence has permitted many more parties to mobilize their own experts, the ideal of dispassionate expertise is becoming unreachable. Technicalities breed sub-technicalities, and the latter sub-sub-technicalities, in a fractal process of escalating delay and cost. And it turns out that many of the actors have more uses for the delays than for smooth functioning.

There is a way forward, embodied in the long tradition of physical design. Buildings, ships, bridges and dams, water systems and waste disposal are objects of transcendent complexity, if one tries to assemble in advance all the knowledge and technique that might be required to make them, but yet do come into existence, and serve their very diverse tasks effectively.

The process which generates buildings and bridges, namely "design," is quite different from expert-based decision-making, even though expertise plays an enormous role in it. Instead of assuming that the answer can be deduced definitively from the evidence, the designer takes a different stance: The designer constructs, in imagination, an intervention in the world, and then uses powerful representations of the world, such as drawings, mathematical models, or simulations, to assess the ways in which the contemplated intervention would change the world. Usually, modifications are indicated, and the process goes round again, often numerous times, before the design settles into final form.

This design stance can be used for many different kinds of problems, from housebuilding to social activism. Houses are a straightforward example to start with. The early stages of designing a house are typically to have some very general ideas about its features and character, to choose a location, and to make some rough sketches or diagrams about how the features might be physically embodied. (By the way, many houses are not designed. They are copied or cut-and-pasted together from previous buildings and unexamined assumptions. Such houses are not under discussion here.) Already at this point, constraints and limitations begin to show themselves, such as high cost or the difficulty of all rooms having the same dramatic ocean view. Client(s) and designer(s) re-imagine the house in ways that address these challenges somehow, and may also reveal opportunities, for example a convenient location for storage. New drawings emerge, often with labels as to sizes, materials, and the like.There may be several rounds of imagining and drawing. Eventually the drawings have become detailed and definite enough to guide construction. The dream has evolved into a reality.

Social activists often use much the same process to establish a program or campaign for a reform. The locus of action is societal, say a budget decision, rather than physical; the constraints may have more to do with politics or social history than with drainage or carpeting; the number of people affected may be much larger than a household; there may be spreadsheets or maps or organizational charts rather than sketches or blueprints. But the same cycle of construction an intervention in the world, using imagination aided by concrete representation, is there.

Solution: 

Therefore, approach issues with the stance of the designer: construct, in imagination assisted by concrete representation, ways to intervene in the world for the better. More specifically, choose a client, a locus of action and a form of intervention; use static or dynamic simulations to indicate how the setting will react to your intervention; gather information and make analyses (but limit the scale to the smallest allowed by your setting) to shape the details of your contemplated intervention; modify, adjust, and refine repeatedly, evaluating effects at each round. Assume few limits at the start, and use the iterative process of modifying and evaluating to teach you which real limits exist and how to cope with them. When the right balance of timeliness and effectiveness presents itself, follow Samuel Mockbee's advice: "Proceed and be bold."

Verbiage for pattern card: 

How can people or organizations focus notions, and wishes into meaningful steps? Adopt a productive mode of thinking using the stance of the designer: construct, in imagination assisted by concrete representations, ways to intervene in the world for the better. Assume few limits at the start, and iteratively modify and evaluate. When the right balance of timeliness and effectiveness presents itself, follow Samuel Mockbee's advice: Proceed and be bold.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Rob Knapp
Information about summary graphic: 

Rob Knapp

International Networks of Alternative Media

Pattern ID: 
810
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
43
Dorothy Kidd
Dept. of Media Studies, University of San Francisc
Version: 
2
Problem: 

A key challenge facing movements for social change is the global commercial media. A handful of western-based trans-national media corporations, working in tandem with regional companies, control most programming, emphasising entertainment to recruit urban consumers, and circulating news primarily framed by the interests of corporate business and western foreign policy. Public programming to encourage dialogue and debate of public issues has withered. Stark inequalities are increasing, in both poor and rich countries, between those with the full means to produce communications and those without, especially if we factor in the violence of poverty, illiteracy, and patriarchal, racial, and caste oppression.

Context: 

A global network of communications activists, advocates and researchers is emerging to address these problems. This network of networks operates simultaneously on at least three planes, the construction of alternative communications media, the reform of the mainstream corporate and state media, and the support of trans-national communications networks for social change movements. Alternative media projects (zines, radio, video, television and internet sites and blogs) not only serve people seldom represented in the corporate media; they also demonstrate what democratic media might look like in their alternative content, modes of operation and overall philosophy. Communication reformers campaign to make existing local, national and global communications systems more accessible, representative, accountable and participatory.

Finally, media activists work in support of social change movements whose transnational communications networks also provide additional links for the movements to democratize media.

Why now? This is due to at least three inter-related global trends. First, the global shift to neo-liberalism presents people all over the world with a complicated, but very clear set of common problems. Secondly, the communications networks first emerged as links among social justice movements to address these common problems. Finally, the network of communications networks began to take its own shape, as groups everywhere inventively adapted the glut of consumer hardware and software from the transnational corporate market.

Discussion: 

A New World Information Communications Order (NWICO)
The trans-national movement to transform communications predates the shift to global neo-liberalism. During the 1970s, led by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a coalition of national governments of the global south, mobilized to challenge the old imperial status quo in which news, information and entertainment media were controlled by western governments and corporate powers. They called within the UN System for a New World Information and Communications Order (NWICO), for an end to the dominance of the western colonial powers, the equitable distribution of the world’s information resources, the right to communicate, and the support of alternative and community based media in democratizing communications. Rejecting this multilateral consensus, the US and UK Governments withdrew from the Commission, arguing with the commercial media industry that any measures to limit western media corporations or journalists represented state censorship of the “free flow of information.”

The US instead shifted to what we now call neo-liberalism, or the Washington agenda. They called for market rules (privatization of public resources and deregulation of government oversight of corporations) at home and abroad. The Reagan Government successfully gutted anti-trust and public interest rules, as well as public support programs at home, and pushed for the implementation of similar policies in other countries through their powerful voice in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Bank (WB). However, the US Government was still unable to win in the multilateral arena, failing to get culture (AV services) onto the trade block in the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs (GATT), the precursor to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Instead, they decided to work on the less powerful countries one or two at a time, and began unilateral free trade talks with Taiwan, Canada and Mexico.

During the same decade, the number and sophistication of alternative media projects and networks grew around the world. These networks emerged both from the confluence of links between social movements, primarily from the countries of the south, mobilizing against the Washington agenda; and alternative media groups inventively seizing the newly available consumer production media. Primarily based in local geographic communities, media activists began to link across their own countries, national and regional boundaries to share resources, and campaign for greater access to radio, cable and satellite, and the newly emerging computer-linked systems. They also began to support one another on common issues, including the massive cuts in public spending and state-run services, the growth in global media conglomeration, and the US, Japanese and European calls for global standards in digital systems and copyright rules.

The trans-national networks begun in this era include the World Association of Community Radio (AMARC) , and the Association of Progressive Communicators (APC ). AMARC now operates via regional organizations, programme sharing through special theme-connected collaborations (against, for example, discrimination against women, and racism) and global media reform coalitions. Formed to support the global network of women, labour, ecologists, indigenous peoples, and of activists organizing against free trade and corporate globalization, APC continues to build on the idea of communication rights, prioritizing the capacity building of women, rural and poor people, and the media reform efforts of member groups.

During the 1990s, a new set of activists demonstrated the more tactical use of the technologies and networks in political change. In 1989, the pro-democracy activists of Tienanmen Square in Beijing China used fax machines to get their message out to the world . In 1994, the Zapatista National Liberation Army built on what Harry Cleaver called the emerging trans-national “electronic fabric of struggle,” employing old and new media, and global media networks, to challenge the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Then, in 1997, the Korean labor and social movement activists use highly sophisticated broadband media to demonstrate against the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and also opened Jinbonet, the first Web-based interactive peoples’ news service. This alternative vision of communications took another leap forward in 1999 when the first Independent Media Center (IMC) formed in Seattle to support the protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO). Drawing from the Zapatistas, the IMCistas created a global news network. Building on the existing networks opposed to corporate globalization, and providing easy-to-use open-publishing software, the global IMC quickly grew to over 150 centers around the world.

International Network for Communications Reform
In the last five years, the network of networks has begun to flex its collective muscles to reform the dominant global media system. Coalitions of activists, often in tandem with progressive government representatives, are calling for more democratic communications at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) (); against the US push for the free trade of culture, with a Convention on Cultural Diversity, adopted by UNESCO in 2005 (http://www.cdc-ccd.org>); and for the protection of the global knowledge commons with a Development Agenda and a Treaty on Access to Knowledge and Technology at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Solution: 

More than a coalition of “Nos,” this new network of networks demonstrates that another communications is possible and already happening. Its strength is based in cooperation via social movement organizing, media reform campaigns and the adaptation of information and communications for the greater use of all. Almost all are severely challenged by their lack of sustainable funds and technical resources, and continuing inequities between members of racialized and gendered class differences and of cultural capital. However, faced with the stark realities of neo-liberal immiseration, the network continues to build, creating a complex lattice of local-local, regional (especially south-south), and trans-national links that circumvent the old colonial north-south linkages and power dynamics. If there is one glaring structural vacuum, it is the lack of involvement of US activists, and particularly those based in US communities and social justice movements. In the next five years, one of the key challenges will be for US activists to bring together efforts for media justice in the US, recognize the leadership of the rest of the world, and assist in mobilizing against the Washington agenda at home.

What can people do to help build this network? In their own area, they can help support or produce programming for their local alternative communications media. They can also find and support the existing local, national and global campaigns to reform the mainstream corporate and state media. This is especially crucial in the US, whose media and media policy affect so much of the world. Finally they can educate themselves about what’s going on in their own communities, national and especially internationally, and then help link the work of the local and global justice networks.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

A handful of Western-based transnational corporations control most media programming. They emphasize entertainment and news acceptable to business and Western foreign policy. A global network of communications activists, advocates, and researchers is working to reform the mainstream media and to construct alternative media. Alternative media projects not only serve people; they also demonstrate what democratic media might look like.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
March of Indigenous Peoples, Colombia 2008. Tejido (social fabric) of communication was key to mobilization, Victoria Maldonado, Waves of Change
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