Reviving / Restructuring Indymedia UK

This page is for updating, revising and improving Shiar's 2007 reviving/restructuring indymedia uk proposal.

The problem(s)

Although we're sometimes reluctant to acknowledge it, Indymedia, in my and others' opinion, is facing many dead ends: structurally, technically, politically and in its once-revolutionary presence and relevance to the movement(s). So unless we acknowledge these problems and seriously think of ways forward, we can only sit back and sadly witness it dying slowly.

Behind these various problems, though, there is imo a bigger 'problem': the fact that the project has grown so much since it started 8 years ago, and that the world has changed so much, that Indymedia sometimes feels like a real maze (or mess). Different people seem to want different things from this great project. I have often noticed that people mean different things when they say "Indymedia". So it is time, i would humbly propose, to 'break it up' and think differently.

But before that, let me stress what i think can keep Indymedia "revolutionary" and "relevant":

  1. open publishing;
  2. the politics (radical, grassroots etc.);
  3. the collective, collaborative way of working.

None of these is able to create an Indymedia or hold it together without the others. If one goes, what remains is a masquerade.

Break-up

As I said, Indymedia has grown so much and there are already so many projects within it. However, some of these projects are imo fundamentally different from the others and have a different logic. It seems to me that keeping them 'in the same house' is the core problem.

So my proposal is to break up Indymedia UK into sub-projects, or sub-sites, each with its own aims and editorial guidelines, target audience, dynamics and everything. And here is what I personally think is the best way to do that (of course, it's all up for discussion and improvement).

1. Indyspatch or IndyNews

We've already seen Indymedia dispatch and phone services during big actions. What i'm thinking of is a permanent dispatch facility, made easier and more open and widespread. Think of it as an alternative, grassroots, open-publishing news agency.

I've thought about this quite a lot and it needs a separate discussion (how it would work, what kind of news etc.). In principle, there would be permanent number(s) and email address(es) where people can call, text and email their brief news as they happen and these go up automatically after some sort of confirmation (which would be the job of Indy admins/volunteers). More importantly, concerned people can receive these news on their mobile phones in order to go down, act etc. It would obviously have topics and regions, i.e. separate newswires or feeds.

Anyway, the main point is: reporting on big actions is not enough any more imo; we need to think bigger and really be everywhere. It also restores the main function of Indymedia as a grassroots news 'service'.

2. IndyReports

The typical action reports and middle-column features. And we've already talked a lot about a non-linear design. No Comments would be allowed (this will happen elsewhere); only Additions.

Regarding Features, I would argue that experience has shown that, unlike the Newswire, open publishing (or depending on activists) doesn't really work for features. So what we need, it seems, is a committed Features Working Group that sews reports together and is trusted by the rest of the collective to represent the views of Indymedia UK where it has to say more than mere facts (the process of feature-writing will still be public and open, of course).

3. IndyPost

We've kind of talked about this when discussing the proposed Other Press topic. But, in addition to commentary on and links to reports in other alt. media and blogs, this could be the place for what i call Edited Reposts (i've done it quite a lot): reposting mainstream news after stripping it from the editorial distortion and manipulation; in other words, re-writing news we don't normally get from a radical, grassroots perspective.

The idea is that, while action and community news help cover what the mainstream and corporate media ignore (censorship by omission), this would help challenge them in their own game as well, i.e. in the things they do cover but in a biased or distorted way.

Middle column Features could be, for example, Indymedia 'critiques' of mainstream coverage of certain events.

4. Indyscussion or Indymedia Discussion Forum

We have discussed comments a lot and tried to come up with solutions, but they remain one of the biggest and most annoying problems for admins and 'target readers' alike. However, we can't deny people's need to talk and comment, and i personally think it's a good thing and sometimes good/useful results may come out of it. So the idea is to provide a sort of open discussion forum for people to discuss the content in other Indy sections.

This could (or should) be moderated on a more user-based basis (like people voting if a comment is offensive etc.). We could also have such features as the "most popular", "most fruitful" etc. which would help us get a better idea of our readership, interaction and so on.

5. IndyFoto

Apart from a Photoreports Wire, this could have other interesting features like Photo Features; featured photo(s) of the day; collections of pics on certain topics etc. etc.

6. IndyVideo

Similar to IndyFoto. It would also be nice to have a built-in player (like YouTube) and some encoding/decoding code (like G8 TV, i think).

Ideally, there would be dedicated video-makers piecing together videos to produce more Indy 'video features' or films.

7. IndyRadio

More important than producing radio shows by certain committed individuals, in my opinion, would be allowing people to record and post their own audio reports and commentary. Then we could easily have 'audio features' pieced together from these audio reports and comments.

8. Indy Calendar

This already exists (thanks to Yossarian) and would ideally become the 'calendar of the movement'.

9. IMC UK History

This, too, was created by Yossarian and others a while ago. However, i can't see much point in it if we don't really use it to eagerly document what we do and use this to reflect on and research what we do ourselves, rather than leaving it to alien academics.

10. Collaborate Workspace

We haven't really worked hard to promote the collective/collaborative production of media, the way Wikipedia has done, for example, although we do have a vast wiki site (i'm not talking about dedicated IMCers). Even features are often written wholly by one single person, with the others not even bothering to fix typos.

So I propose we have a section on the UK docs.indy (or even a separate wiki) as a Collaborative Workspace for 'normal' contributors, where they can collaborate on writing articles and other things.

11. Have I forgotten anything?

Technically speaking

I am aware that all this is very ambitious and needs years of work to realise. I am also aware that we already have a shortage of techies and we're hardly coping with what we have now. But i am hoping that these proposals would re-awaken the interest in our techies and bring some news ones.

Also, there's already a lot of work and thinking being done on new Content Management Systems (CMS). But IMO we don't really need to have one CMS for everything; it just makes things more complicated. A lot of these things already exist. We just need to feed them into each other where necessary and make sure we keep them under the same umbrella (mutual links, similar designs etc.).

The startpage of Indymedia UK could simply be nice links to these sub-sites, perhaps with a startpage-special for a big current event or something.

As for regions, I would propose non-linear startpages with sections for each of these projects. For example, regional newswires could be split up into two: regional IndyNews and IndyReports (articles from the corresponding wires that have that region ticked). It is, of course, up to the regional imc's what they want to do with their sites.

What's next?

Well, endless discussions on lists then a network meeting where these proposals are blocked or, if decided, working towards materialising them over the next 10 years ;-).
Topic revision: r1 - 18 Apr 2010, ChrisC
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