working title: Indymedia authors: Sam and Annie (Indymedia volunteers) type: practitioner

Time and again Indymedia collectives are approached by researchers. More often then not this happens in a form of an email stating "Here is my questionnaire, please put it on your website" or "Please give us access to your mailing lists and logs". More often then not, researchers don't find it necessary to get into contact with an Indymedia collective before or while they develop their ideas, even though it is apparent that they did find the time to discuss their ideas with supervisors at their university and/or financial donors.

Indymedia set out to challenge the idea of the "objective" journalist who writes about the actions of other people - instead of waiting for somebody else to write about them (and be grateful if a journalist actually writes a good article) activists that use Indymedia speak and write for themselves. But when it comes to scientific research we encounter people who consider themselves as objectively studying us as if we were simply research objects who should be happy that somebody takes an interest in them; presenting us with their view of what is important, without even talking to us.

Most of us think that research about Indymedia would be a good thing, but then we want to be involved, then we want to be able to give our own input into issues that we consider good to investigate and where we are longing for answers ourselves - and also we are the ones with the initial expertise. (Expertise on simple things like the fact that during big events the number and type of readers changes drastically, differences in editorial policies that make it impossible to compare two sites on a specific issue, or whether specific issues are discussed face-to-face, on mailing lists or in the chat - and quite often we see that researchers are not aware of such issues.)

Indymedia collectives consists of volunteers who are chronically short of time. So if somebody spends their time answering a questionnaire instead of writing a feature or setting up a server, then there must be a good enough reason for it. A better reason then an scientific article that isn't even posted on Indymedia, a study based on assumptions that were wrong from the beginning, or somebody else's career.

As an group of activist involved into direct and participatory reporting, as well as in into issues like Open Source software, we also have different criteria by which we judge projects: Who's financing it? How will it be published? What does the Indymedia network get back from it? What is the goal of this study?

Research request that come in are now quite often simply ignored, or if researchers go ahead anyway their mistakes are not corrected. Most unsolicited research projects therefore never make it beyond a contact phase. However, since there are some academics involved in Indymedia, and since we actually think that research could be interesting, some Indymedia volunteers developed guidelines for researchers: Unfortunately, when we try to engage researchers who have approached us into discussing their project with us, we are either often met with silence or resistance. Why should any Indymedia activist take a researcher serious who doesn't have the curtsy to introduce themselves, or who will not answer our questions, but wants our answers instead?

(All of these issues raised here can be supported in the article by examples, mainly from publicly archived email lists with links to the original mails and postings.)

-- ClarA - 30 Sep 2006
Topic revision: r1 - 30 Sep 2006, ClarA
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