A liberation front has opened in the cultural war
I don’t see myself as just a journalist or activist, but as someone sharing ideas and opening the boundaries that restrict ideas from moving. That brought me to the Web as a developer; I see it as a powerful tool, more powerful than some of the more traditional approaches to sharing ideas.
In the Vancouver IMC, we’re sharing space with a smaller, tighter-knit organization and with the Pacific Center for Alternative Journalism, and opening it to a broader community, including the Vancouver Direct Action Network and forest and housing activists. We’re blurring the line between journalist and activist, and trying to educate, empower, and facilitate communication. That’s inherent in the mandate for our space. We recognize the value in sharing these skills and resources, and trying to redefine what journalism is — who gets to tell stories or what stories are being told.
What practical instruments are available for activists to participate in issue organizing? The biggest tool we can offer is the audience on our global on-line site. We’re hoping to empower our community to tell stories and analyze situations, and thus grow our audience, surpassing what the corporate media is capable of promoting, ensuring diversity and finding creative solutions.
How can we bridge the gap between organizers, think tanks, and the activist base? Indy media seems to do this through its open structure. We not only can accommodate information and propaganda from think tanks and organizers: We provide an interactive forum for dialogue between these constituencies. Thus, we can find new insights in each other’s perspectives.
The indy media community is truly unstoppable by its design. I don’t see how we can be brought back into the corporate sphere, or silenced by the corporate media paradigm, because of the attention indy media has already attracted. In Vancouver, we’re deeply committed to open forums for communicating ideas and providing a space for anyone, and facilitating critique that builds upon these ideas, so they can’t be resisted by the powers that be.
The indy media idea — open, free sharing of information — is long past due. John Perry Barlow, a songwriter for the Grateful Dead, wrote recently about the success of Napster and the music swapping community. There’s an analogy to our information and perspective swapping community. "For ideas, fame is fortune," he said, "and nothing makes you famous faster than an audience willing to distribute your work for free."
The work done by the IMC for social change movements is truly that. In breaking down barriers, sharing ideas with friends and peers, we’re creating a new front in the cultural war to commodify information and our lives. I see this front as indy media, an on-line front working with journalism and activism at its core. Long awaited by some, and a beautiful surprise to others, the concept of a free, open, uncensored exchange of ideas is now being build in earnest, thanks to a modestly conceived but paradigm-shattering open community called indy media.
Shane Korytko is a Canadian Indymedia activist and a founder of the Vancouver Independent Media Center. He has worked as a Web developer and co-produced the live video on Nov. 30, 1999, for the Seattle IMC. He is currently developing tactical mixed media for the Web and the street.