Launching: Info-Rhizome and interlocals.net

2009-04-26 - oiwan
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We are pleased to announce the launching of Info-Rhizome: Report on Independent Media in Chinese-speaking world (2008/09) and the re-launching of interlocals.net.

Info-Rhizome: Report on Independent Media in Chinese-speaking world (2008/09)

The book published in two languages English and traditional Chinese and is free to download for individual use.

It is consisted of reports on the development of independent media in four regions: China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan, with special focus on regulation and control and citizen initiatives in counteracting information manipulation and media monopoly. Below a some quotes taken from our introduction:

Hu Yong: Audience revolt is a consequence of a legitimacy crisis in journalism... We thus see the emergence of new and decentralised forms of citizen engagement in government monitoring, political discussion, and agenda framing. In a word, "the previous audiences" have now become potential contributors to political dialogue, and potential actors, in the political scene.

Rebecca MacKinnon: How can independent media communities a across the Chinese-speaking world share experiences, support, and promote one another? ...Will Asia's Chinese-language independent media largely focus inwards on their local communities and polities? Or can some transcend the nation-state and bring together various like-minded Chinese-speaking communities formed around interests or beliefs? What will then be the implications?

Feng Chien-san: In order to proclaim our media independent and alternative, we first need to equip ourselves with the spirit of Sisyphus and believe that, one day, we too will reclaim the sea and move the mountain. At the same time, we need to be prepared to penetrate the mainstream through both guerrilla and regular warfare, hand-in-hand like Ying and Yang, in both dream and in reality.

Relaunching Interlocals.net

As for the interlocals.net, it has been re-orientated as a community websites for media activists, researchers and translators to share information and discuss agendas that are related with the development of independent media. You can read the "About Us" for more information. The editorial note of Info-Rhizome also tells the background of our re-orientation:

Editorial note: Grassroots power / Info-rhizome - By Lam Oi-Wan and Ip Iam-Chong

In the Chinese speaking world, we like to use the poetic phrase "A wildfire soon burns out; As spring wind blows [the grass] grows again" to describe the strength of people's resistance. Wild grass always survives because of its roots, which hold the earth together as one. Grassroots media share similar character; they are rooted in local social and political contexts and grow accordingly, spreading and aggregating grassroots voices into a transformative social force.

However, the image of the grassroots is too loose and dispersed. We need to accumulate our resource and experience and form networks and nodes in order to develop a strong independent media movement. Hence, in translating the title of this book, we decided to use the term "rhizome" as opposed to "grassroots" to further our imagination of the movement. Rhizome is a term developed by leftist scholars Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Originally a term used in botany, it was later borrowed to describe the multiplicity, rupture and connectivity in theory and research. Such imagination is parallel to the development and status of independent media movement.

Local politics

When we conceptualized this cross-border dialogue, we decided not to define the meaning of "independent media", opting instead to leave such definitions to the local initiatives to make according to their own historical and political trajectories, in the interest of sustainable discussion on the relation between media (especially new media) and local politics. In recent years, the majority of research concerning grassroots media have been orientated towards technological determinism and focused on the release of technological power in the development of Internet and mobile phone industries. While within the Chinese-speaking world, however, most of the research has focused on Mainland China on topics related with Internet governance and censorship. Little research touches upon the interaction between media, civil society and social movement.

The four reports have contextualized the development of independent media against the history of local political movement for exploring the interaction between technology and politics, as well as the social and political space such interaction has generated. On the other hand, we also situate the research on a specific cross-border Chinese community in order to reconstruct our experiences for cross-reference and dialogue. In face of the global governance system, local resistances are learning from each others, and in the local independent media movement sector, the experiences are interconnected, while at the same time divided into different branches as a result of local practices. For example, the participation of citizen reporters in the movement to preserve the Star Ferry and Queen Pier movement in Hong Kong and the involvement of bloggers in the protection of Losheng Sanatorium in Taiwan are interconnected and mirror each other. The practice of citizen reporter in South Korea has been transplanted to Hong Kong and developed into a new agency of media activism, and in China, intergrated with blog culture to foster independent grassroots journalism.

We expect this descriptive report to provide local references and stories for future research on independent media movement. Our imagined audience are grassroots media and social movement practitioners, researchers and students who are interested in the development of media and issues related with social transformation.

All four reports are written by experienced practitioners and researchers of independent media. The mainland China report is written by Wen Yunchao, a prominent blogger in Southern China with rich professional journalism experience. He has practical experience in the media sector in China and his report gives stress to marginalized groups and individual strategies to find voice through fissures in the repressive system. The Hong Kong report is written by Ip Iam-Chong, one of the founders of inmediahk.net. He teaches cultural studies in a local university and his report depicts independent media as a new political practice in post-colonial Hong Kong. Chang Teck-peng, one of the founder of merdekareview.com, writes the Malaysia report. He teaches university courses in media studies and his report depicts the marginal status of independent media, in particular Chinese ones, under a highly monopolized media market which works hand-in-hand with the repressive government bodies in maintaining the political status quo. Kuang Chung-hsiang, the head of civilmedia.tw and a teacher of journalism studies, has written the Taiwan report. His report places Taiwan's independent media movement in the post-martial law and neoliberal context.

In order to promote our book to our potential readers, we have produced separate traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese and English version. We have also invited professor Hu Yong from the Journalism and Communication Department of Beijing University, professor Feng Chien-san from the Department of Journalism of Taiwan Cheng Chi University and professor Rebecca MacKinnon from the Journalism and Media Studies Centre of the University of Hong Kong to introduce the reports to readers from different parts of the world.

Solidarity building

This project, apart from being a research initiative, it is also a networking and solidarity building process. Since its establishment in 2004, apart from giving direct support to inmediahk.net, Hong Kong In-Media has been faciliating exchanges among independent media in the East Asia region. In fact, in planning our local independent media, we have taken references from overseas initiatives including citizen reporter practice from South Korea, blog culture from Taiwan and social service media from Malaysia. In 2005, we took the opportunity of the anti-WTO ministerial meeting protest to organize an international conference entitled "New media and social transformation" aimed at exploring the development of grassroots media in the region. In 2006, we launched our website, interlocals.net, as a platform for further dialogue and information exchange. Last year (2008), Coolloud.org.tw donated their website's Content Management System (CMS) to inmediahk.net, thereby assisting us through a major technical crisis. This independent media report is based on all the full amount of interaction and collaboration which has taken place during the past few years. In the process, each party contributed to the project at their expense; in Hong Kong, we received the initial funding from the Chinese University Student Union's Democracy Fund allowing us to coordinate the publication and associated translation works, while our Taiwan counterparts organized a seminar for the researchers to meet and present their initial report.

The release of this book accompanies the relaunching of interlocals.net, the initial concept of which was to provide a common platform for independent media in Asia. Having chosen English as the mediating language, however, most of the participating grassroots media groups lacked the resources to translate the large volume of information into English, the website failed to remain up-to-date. Language barrier aside, sustained dialogue across local social movements requires great effort in the explanation of social and political contexts. We expect that this research can reconfigure the website to become a platform for inter-local social movement research in the future.

Info-rhizome will mainly be distributed via interlocals.net through online print on demand order. We will also allow individuals to download free copies and encourage them to give donations via PayPal to support our future research and publication work.

Acknowledgment and thanks

This project is made possible by the funding of the Chinese University Student Union Democracy Fund. Apart from the introduction and report writers, we need to give special thanks to our translators, proof-readers, designers and assemblers of layout pictures, including Coco Au, Cheng Yi-Yi, Portnoy Cheng, Cheung Choi-Wan, Chow Sze-Chung, Heng Hui-yi, John Kennedy, Law Yun-Fan, Lam Wai-Yui, Lee Chi-Leung and Diane To, they have contributed to the project either voluntarily or semi-voluntarily and enabled us to create this publication using little resource. Lastly, we should also thank oursky.com for redesigning interlocals.net in a pro-bono agreement. We believe that all websites, organizations and individuals involved in this project will grow organically into a rhizomatic movement network.

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