[Air-L] New books: Digital Rebellion and Low Power to the People

christina dunbar-hester c.dunbarhester at gmail.com
Sun Nov 16 12:50:55 PST 2014

(with apologies for x-posting)

Announcing two new books of potential interest to people on this list:

*Digital Rebellion: The Birth of the Cyber Left* (History of Communication
Series, University of Illinois Press), by Todd Wolfson

*Digital Rebellion *examines the impact of new media and communication
technologies on the spatial, strategic, and organizational fabric of social
movements. Todd Wolfson begins with the rise of the Zapatistas in the
mid-1990s, and how aspects of the movement--network organizational
structure, participatory democratic governance, and the use of
communication tools as a binding agent--became essential parts of Indymedia
and all Cyber Left organizations. From there he uses oral interviews and
other rich ethnographic data to chart the media-based think tanks and
experiments that continued the Cyber Left's evolution through the
Independent Media Center's birth around the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle.
As Wolfson shows, understanding the intersection of Indymedia and the
Global Social Justice Movement illuminates their foundational role in the
Occupy struggle, Arab Spring uprising, and the other emergent movements
that have in recent years re-energized radical politics.


UIL Press:


*Low Power to the People: Pirates, Protest, and Politics in FM Radio
Activism* (Inside Technology Series, MIT Press), by Christina Dunbar-Hester

[not internet studies in the narrowest sense, but concerned with issues of
digitality, the interplay between old and new media, and the politics and
social life of technology]

The United States ushered in a new era of small-scale broadcasting in 2000
when it began issuing low-power FM (LPFM) licenses for noncommercial radio
stations around the country. Over the next decade, several hundred of these
newly created low-wattage stations took to the airwaves. In *Low Power to
the People*, Christina Dunbar-Hester describes the practices of an activist
organization focused on LPFM during this era. Despite its origins as a
pirate broadcasting collective, the group eventually shifted toward
building and expanding regulatory access to new, licensed stations. These
radio activists consciously cast radio as an alternative to digital
utopianism, promoting an understanding of electronic media that emphasizes
the local community rather than a global audience of Internet users.

Dunbar-Hester focuses on how these radio activists imputed emancipatory
politics to the “old” medium of radio technology by promoting the idea that
“microradio” broadcasting holds the potential to empower ordinary people at
the local community level. The group’s methods combine political advocacy
with a rare commitment to hands-on technical work with radio hardware. The
book follows the ways in which activists’ hands-on, inclusive ethos was
hampered by persistent issues of race, class, and gender.  Projecting
utopian politics onto technology resulted in unanticipated challenges.

Dunbar-Hester’s study of activism around an “old” medium offers broader
lessons about how political beliefs are expressed through engagement with
specific technologies. It also offers insight into contemporary issues in
media policy as the FCC begins issuing a new round of LPFM licenses in 2014.


MIT Press: http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/low-power-people

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