Readings from Graham Meikle’s Future Active: media activism and the internet brought to question many ideas about the internet that I had previously held as well as introduced new insight into the potential for media activism on the internet. For instance, in “Open publishing, open technologies” I found myself guilty of falling into the trap that Meikle points out of viewing the internet as this utopic place that is the only truly open, neutral media space. Perhaps it is due to the language that surrounds the internet as a media form that “will change the world.” Although this book was published in 2002, this type of language when describing the internet hasn’t really changed much. The examples that Meikle gives of the projects Natural Selection and Word Perhect (sic) show how the medium itself can be used to prompt a discussion about the supposed “inherent properties” of the medium and show how the politics of those working on the programs is reflected in the finished platform. I’m reminded of a recent campaign by the UN women where they created ads that showed real search engine results that completed the sentence “women shouldn’t/need to/cannot/should…” Not only does this campaign provoke a discussion about the views about women’s abilities that are expressed on the internet, but also the realization that the politics about representation are promoted by those who have the access and time to create those search results.
The above examples of media activism can be seen as examples of “culture jamming” and the sections “Turning Signs into Question Marks” and “Hack Attacks and Electronic Civil Disobedience” further expand on tactical media as well as employ a call to pay attention to terminology. For instance, the group Electronic Disturbance Theater gained media attention for the Zapatista movement for their flooding of servers with the applet FloodNet. Tactical media is all about creating a media event in order to steer the attention and discussion towards the cause/project that the group wants to have more media time. While I enjoyed the examples given of what tactical media could look like, I would have liked to have seen if the effects of tactical media sparked any grassroots actions. When does the media event actually spark action and when does it simply become some kitschy internet trick? I believe part of the effectiveness of the tactical media is how it becomes framed in the media coverage. For example, Meikle shows how post FloodNet, the media labeled the event as an attack and also how the term “hackers” has notions of crime attached to it. The term hacker still holds some of that criminal activity around it, as we have seen in popular media representation of hackers “breaking into” sites where they shouldn’t be in, as well in the imprisonment of hackers who disseminate what they uncover. The criminalizing of people by the term used takes attention away from the work they are attempting to do or the criticisms of the private, closed publishing that hacktivists seek to put into question.