[DigCult] Not even Indymedia is independent

by Thom Kiraly

For this week we read two more chapters in Axel Bruns’ book Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond. Chapter four deals with citizen journalism and the role of produsage therein, while he in chapter seven goes deeper into the taxonomies (or, as he calls them: folksonomies) of online communities.

Bruns points to the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999 as an important moment for citizen journalism. He claims that the people involved in the build-up to the protests against the WTO were afraid that their side of the story would not get enough/the right kind of coverage from the mainstream media and that they therefore decided to start Indymedia.org to get their stories out on the web (that’s a very rough outline of what he’s saying, I know). What I would like to point out, in connection to this, is that their reaction was no accident and that the cause-effect chain is not as clear as Bruns would seem to have it. We must remember that these independent media platforms did not arise only out of sheer necessity, all of them came from a base which was already prepared to take on that kind of responsibility, materially and ideologically. The movements, of which they were parts, had traditions of developing DIY ethics going back many decades, if not centuries, before the advent of the Internet. The foundation of self-organization upon which these groups were built is absolutely essential in understanding why and how their use of media took the form it did. The “Indy” of Indymedia, thus stands for the independence from mainstream media and commercial interests, not for some kind of absolute rootlessness.

Here are some of the videos the Seattle IMC produced during the Seattle. It’s a playlist of the five Showdown in Seattle films put together during the week of protest (turns out you can’t embed playlist, so you’ll have to follow the link).