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Theorising Alternative Media

The next speaker at Transforming Audiences is Lisa Farrance, whose interest is in alternative media practices; she distinguishes between a range of uses from the simple (publicity, organisation within and between social movements, and uncensored and counter-information) through to greater ambitions of giving a voice to the voiceless and achieving democratic and political renewal.

Theory, in this context, can aid practice: it should position itself as the growing point of practice. Useful theory may include a study of political eonomic contexts and constraints, and a return to early Marxism in pursuit of a new materialism. Lisa now takes us through a number of key concepts in this context.

Ideology is both epistemological and functional, and should be understood not as a set of false and deceptive beliefs arising through manipulation, but as arising from the material structure of society as a whole. Today, this is a world of commodity production and exchange which is so pervasive that it obscures its fundamental principles; the market is reified and naturalised, as is private property. Against this, it would be necessary to reassert the social in commodity relations, and re-politicise the world of objects.

The public sphere separates the economic from legitimate political activity, it naturalises the dictatorship in production, provides a set of rules and norms which constrain political activity, and separates lived experience from political action. Against this, to achieve counter public spheres it would be necessary to reconnect lived experience and action, re-politicise the economic, and reconnect productive life with the political.

The critical realist idea of the duality of structure and praxis points to the fact that society is two things (the ever-present conditions for activity, and a structure that is continually reproduced through activity), as is praxis (conscious action at a personal level, and the normally unintentional reproduction of society). Here, it is necessary to reconnect conscious political activity with the transformation of social relations.

The question then is what the role of alternative media may be in achieving truthful political consciousness that exposes the dominant ideology, which reproduces the dominant economic structure and social relations which in turn reproduce political oppression. Alternative media may be able to aid this exposing by reconnecting that which is disconnected; they can expose and re-politicise the world of social relations behind commodity relations, extend political action into the economic, and cohere conscious agency and direct it as social structure.

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