As I was reading for today, some of the points made about alternative media in Catherine Saalfield’s “On the Make: Activist Video Collections” caught my attention in their relation to current forms of participatory media. First, a definition of alternative media as media that encourages participation is one I haven’t heard articulated in such simple terms before, and I began to consider what forms of alternative media I recognize in our society today, based on that definition. Something I think is very important that came up was how many forms of media and media platforms only seem to encourage participation – such as TV shows questioning viewers on what should happen next in the plot – yet there is no true exchange and complementary relationship between the audience and the producers. I think this simulation of exchange is supposed to satiate viewers, while real critique and feedback is not encouraged or regarded. Small exchanges such as these masquerade as liberatory media, yet true critical analysis and feedback from audience would most likely upset the hegemonic agenda of dominant culture. For example, viewers might be able to vote the outcome of a certain relationship on a TV show, but critique from women of color about the show’s untruthful representation or lack of women of color characters does not have a platform. I think this is the type of audience participation that would be truly revolutionary and that would do a lot to “interrupt the spectacle,” because definitely not everyone is mesmerized, yet it doesn’t happen. However, there are a few cool successful platforms/forms of participatory media that I could think of, like allowing the public to Tweet questions for the presidential debates. It is not perfect, because not all questions are addressed, but I think it is a start to some radical changes in the way media and governmental institutions interact with the public.
Examples of Tweeted questions for the Presidential debate: http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/16/politics/cnn-republican-debate/