Globalisation from below? ICTs and democratic development in the project Indymedia Africa
Frenzel, F. and Sullivan, S. (2009) Globalisation from below? ICTs and democratic development in the project Indymedia Africa. In: Mudhai, O. F. ed, Tettey, W. and Banda, F. , eds. (2009) African Media and the Digital Public Sphere. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 165-182. ISBN 9780230614864
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Indymedia Africa (IMCA) is a global network of media activists that aims to both connect and foster the use of Independent Media in Africa. Originating in the digital age activism of the late nineties, the Indymedia network has been surfing a wave of optimism regarding the potentials of new media and the digital public sphere to democratize publishing and the media. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) were understood as permitting “convergence” between people and movements in a horizontally- organized fashion, thereby facilitating desired organizational cultures based on consensus and plurality, and producing “open spaces” relatively unstructured and uncontrolled by political and economic structures. As an element of a “globalization from below,”, IMCA considered these ideas as an answer to problems of democracy and freedom of expression in Africa and attempted to spread its own organizational principles into the African context. In the process of creating virtual and physical convergence spaces, online forums, and websiteWeb sites, as well as transnational gatherings, however, over the four years of its existence the IMCA has had to face something of a reality check regarding the conditions of its own work and the African context. It has also gone through a process of action and reflection that appears symptomatic for a variety of initiatives of global co-operation in the field of new media, highlighting the limits of technological and pragmatic answers to the debate of the democratic potentials of these media. This chapter considers the actors and ideologies that have informed, defined, and altered IMCA practices since its inception, via an action research guided analysis of its virtual and physical encounters.
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