Leah Lievrouw, Alternative and Activist New Media


Polity Press, 200 pages, 2011, English, ISBN-13: 978-0745641843
Defining new media has always been tricky. Here, the author gives a clear and thorough definition of new media based on three components: the device/artifact which enables the ability to communicate, the communication activity/practice, and the social arrangements and organizational forms created around the artifact and the practice. This is a strong base that, coupled with an explicit reference to “Remediation”, the famous book by Bolter and Grusin, is used to develop Lievrouw’s extended concept of “mediation”, which she suggests both intensifies communication and makes it more participative. Lievrouw ranges over five different fields of investigation: culture-jamming, alternative computing, participatory journalism, mediated mobilization, and commons knowledge. Taking Dada and Situationism as initial reference points, she goes through different classic artworks (by Surveillance Camera Players, RTMark, Jonah Peretti, for example) analyzing the hacktivist initiatives of sharing the DeCSS code embraced by 2600 The Hacker Quarterly magazine and the whole history of Indymedia. According to the author, media activism represents a cultural “turn” which leads to a more contemporary concept of “mediation” as previously explained. What if we’re already beyond this turn? In that case, we’ll hopefully soon see this kind of consistent analysis applied to the next phase of alternative (new) media, such as the alternative use of social media, the ubiquitous possibilities of mobile digital publishing and the building and sharing of alternative archives.