Channels of activity and emphasis of thought in Community Media (a methodology of mapping)

Since 2004, whenever I have given a paper at a conference about community media I have shown a table on powerpoint, (see the first table below).  I would go on to explain how this table informed my definition of the sector – which is according to the main areas of emphasis of activity by practitioners.

 My description and definition of community media states that the channels of activity are according to the main motivation of the action, ranging from;

–  the community stations that have no overt political agenda;
– the media activists using technology as a tool for political and social campaigns;
– media education with a media industry agenda;
– and educational projects that use technology as a tool to aid transferable skills. 

This isn’t to say that there isn’t cross-over between these channels, as there definitely is and the lines are blurry.  But I feel this framework does capture the main strands of motivation in community media practice, which are then delivered in an infinite amount of variations.

(I’ve written a chapter about this in a book called ‘Understanding Community Media’ edited by Kevin Howley, to be published in November this year by Sage.)


CM sector table

What I have now come to realise is that this framework is not only the means for me to define and understand what happens in community media practice, it is also the hypothesis by which to map the thought processes in community media theory and participation. 

For example, for my literature review chapter I wrote up the history of the idea of Media Literacy, and I found that the different opinions on what the concept was by scholars fit into the same framework according to the main areas of emphasis (see table below). 


media literacy table2 jpeg


I have also written up the history of community media according to what has been  mentioned in community media & arts texts, starting at the Egyptian Hieroglyphs in pre-history (Caton-Rosser, 2006: 14) through to the UK government setting up Creative Partnerships in 2001 (Harding, 2005: 14), which in some cases has tried to be to UK schools and freelance artists/media facilitators what Roosevelt’s New Deal was in 1930s USA.  (This history also contains moments such as Thomas Paine’s pamphleteering, the world’s first community radio station, the MacBride Report, the founding of Deep Dish TV, the Rodney King incident, and the use of video by the Zapatista movement and the Chiapas Video Project in Mexico, amongst many, many, many other references!)

I’m now in the middle of mapping this history according this framework, and already it seems to be making sense!  😉

My next task after this is to analyse and interpret the piles of text data I have got from the interviews I conducted with participants of community media projects, many of which are longitudinal studies spanning 13 years worth of reflection by participants, looking at the impact on their lives, (some were 14 years old when they first regularly attended media workshops and are now 27!).  As well as other types of analysis and interpretation, I will also map the motivations of the individuals involved according to this framework.

Obviously these thoughts are still a work in progress.  I will be writing about this more over the summer and hope to get some journal papers published about this alongside my thesis at the end of the year.  (I especially want to get my history of community media chapter published!) 

Thanks for reading this, any comments welcome as always.




Caton-Rosser, M. S. (2006), ‘ Case studies of how community media enact media literacy and activism in the public sphere’. PhD Thesis

Harding, A. (2005). Magic Moments: Collaborations between Artists and Young People. Black Dog Publishing. London, UK


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