Defining Radical Media: Thoughts on moderating Paper Tiger Television’s 30th anniversary conference panels
For the last few months I have been thinking about what I’m going to say while moderating Radical Media Then & Now, a panel happening at Paper Tiger Television’s 30th anniversary conference. I want to make the concept and execution of radical media projects accessible to everyone — academics, punks, activists, filmmakers, parents, teens, etc.
“It is one thing to critique the mass media and rail against their abuses. It is quite another to create viable alternatives.” — DeeDee Halleck, co-founder of Paper Tiger Television
“Radical, alternative media has one thing in common. It is that they break somebody’s rules.” — media scholar John Downing, author of Radical Media: Rebellious media and social movements (1983)
My intention is that the audience, the panelists and I will all brainstorm together to define radical media and what the future of it will be. We will share examples of radical media projects and I want to discuss how radical media overlaps and informs traditional media.
I can’t stand panels that aren’t interactive or treat the audience like they don’t know anything about the topic. I love engaging with people because it’s a learning experience for me too. It HAS to be informative AND fun.
Thoughts On Radical Media
My #1 goal for participating in this panel is to help anyone paying attention to figure out how to use radical media in their own lives to create positive change for THEMSELVES, their community and the world. That requires understanding what radical media means to them and what they are already doing in their own lives that they can use to understand the concept and the steps to creating and supporting radical media.
Radical media falls under the scope of alternative media, which differs from mainstream media along one or more of the following dimensions: their content, aesthetic, modes of production, modes of distribution, and audience relations.
There are several definitions of radical media out there. For some media professionals and academics, it’s greatly informed by how they define what ‘radical’ is. The term ‘radical’ is associated with dissent and opposition to established norms that are perceived as natural and legitimate within multiple contexts and these contexts can cover a wide variety, ranging from politics to fashion, from ethnic to gender, from sexual to religious contexts.
Also, radical media is about the form as well. Video as a medium is not inherently radical. It was a radical medium for expression in its early stages but now its the norm for sharing visual information. However, the combination of imagery, sounds, texts and other elements can be radical media (such as Paper Tiger TV!). A recent example of that is the video projections during Occupy protests in NYC.
Video projections as a medium are no longer radical (corporate events often feature projected imagery) but VJs often use their content and the form to share radical messages, which is radical media.
The human body can be a form of radial media — you can write messages on your bare body and display them in a context that is radical, the way that FEMEN does.
You can subvert traditional platforms to create radical media, such as blogging sites like Tumblr, where WE ARE THE 99 PERCENT curates a visual narrative of Occupy themes and stories.
POC Zine Project, a grassroots non-profit org I founded in 2010, explores materiality as a tool for social change. The zine format and aesthetic has been co-opted by corporations so it’s not radical as a medium but the content, production and distribution process often is. With POC Zine Project, I raise awareness about the great zines people of color are making and the topics being addressed within them. We sponsor and produce events that bring together people from all walks of life to celebrate diversity, DIY values, social good, art and music.
So, I really don’t want to get caught up in battling over one agreed-upon definition of radical media. For me, radical media is creating content and experiences that challenge the status quo and usually are part of a larger social justice goal. It can subvert existing forms or be entirely new forms.
A final example I’ll share of radical media is http://invisiblepeople.tv by Mark Horvath, videos about real homeless people across the country. Mark — who was once homeless — started the project in 2008 and since then he has become an internationally recognized activist and ambassador for the millions of individuals and families who reside in shelters, motels, tents along the streets and under highway bridges across the country.
Here’s a trailer for a documentary about Mark’s story:
Mark is an incredible example of a person who subverted traditional forms (video, social networking platforms, etc.) to create radical media that has changed his life and the lives of others.
What he is doing — and living — embodies radical media. I am excited to facilitate conversations about the future of radical media and learn more about cool radical media projects.
Bottom line: I’m a doer. I learn by doing. I understand the importance of discussing radical media but I am honestly more interested in making it and sharing it with others. Radical media should be a tool in your arsenal to use in your daily life as you see fit.
If you want to learn about more examples of exciting radical media projects (I didn’t give them all away here 😉 hehe), come to the panel! Details below.
Here is the Facebook invite with more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/262983143769389/
Here’s a 30th anniversary clip that is an overview of Paper Tiger Television’s history:
Their 25th anniversary doc is very informative too.
I asked PTTV to utilize the #PTTV30 hashtag so that anyone can follow along during the radical media events. They will also livestream my panel here: http://www.livestream.com/papertigertv
PRODUCERS CONFERENCE AND DESIGN CHALLENGE
Friday and Saturday, February 10 & 11, 2012
6:30-9PM (there will be a keynote, screening and my panel).
The New School, Theresa Lang Community and Student Center
55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor, New York City
People To Watch
I’m looking forward to meeting the panelists in person and learning from them:
• Jamilah King, news editor at Colorlines.com, where she writes about media, politics and technology
• Jennifer Pozner, media critic, founder and executive director of Women In Media & News
• Andy Bichlbaum of YesLab, a genderless, loose-knit association of some 300 impostors worldwide who agree their way into the fortified compounds of commerce.
I’m also moderating the media intensive component on Saturday from 10:30AM – 12 PM. It will consist of succinct, fast-paced and provocative presentations by four leaders on the key topics of the convention:
• Media Justice & Media Autonomy -Martha Wallner
• New Media Activism & Movement Building -Pablillo Jose and Isaac Wilder
• Collectivism & Collaborative Culture -Jesse Drew
• Media Materiality & Aesthetics- Shannon Mattern
About Paper Tiger Television
An early innovator in video art and public access television of the early 80’s, PTTV developed a unique, handmade, irreverent aesthetic that experimented with the television medium mixing together art, academics, politics, performance and live television. PTTV, founded on the ideal that freedom of speech through access to the means of communication is essential in a democratic society, regularly exposed the hidden agenda of the mainstream media and questioned the powerful grip of corporate influence on media content to become the first nationally disseminated public access television program. Over the years, thousands have enjoyed the intelligent, irreverent, ultra-low-budget antics of PTTV.
PTTV produced Paper Tiger Reads Paper Tiger Television not only out of love and respect for its history of creating radical critiques of mass culture and politics, but from a desire to continue supporting and providing innovative leadership for documentary filmmakers, artists, media literacy educators and the social justice media movement. Archival footage, hand-crafted animations, video shorts and interviews are brought together in this documentary which serves as a catalyst for conversations on new directions in creative use of the media.
I’ll add more links here later today but here are a few to get you started:
Reality Unreeled – critical look at reality tv (34mins) – featuring Jennifer Pozner
Maple Razsa & Michael Hardt Read Riot Porn (15mins) – critical look at normative activist video http://blog.papertiger.org/2010/09/21/maple-razsa-and-michael-hardt-read-riotporn/
Detroit Preview (11:25mins) weaves together segments from an upcoming PTTV production http://blog.papertiger.org/2011/09/16/detroit-preview/
Explore more links at the bottom of this page.
While moderating the Meet Me at the Race Riot: People of Color in Zines from 1990 – Today panel last November that I co-produced with the Barnard Zine Library and For the Birds Collective, I organized the structure of the conversation to keep the audience involved.
Based on what I accomplished there, Paper Tiger Television — the seminal non-profit, volunteer video collective that works to challenge and expose the corporate control of mainstream media — asked me to moderate their panels on radical media.
If you know of a great recent example of radical media or are working on a project you define as radical media, share in the comments.