From Third Cinema to Media Justice


In “A Place in the Online Feminist Documentary Cybercloset,” (Media Fields, Issue 3, 2012) thinking after the fact about the ways that my feminist and social justice activist principles, methods, and goals had been largely covert in the YouTube project, I tried to make sense of what I learned by finding myself engaging, for the first and only time in my long career, with and within corporate or mainstream culture. What I lost propelled me to situate my critical Internet work not against dominant, corporate Internet culture but rather within alternative or even radical Internet culture made and critiqued with others.

Two large-scale projects followed. An ongoing, collective project that I initiated in 2012 in collaboration with Anne Balsamo, that led our collective first to the formation of the listserv, FemTechNet, that brings together feminist scholars, artists, activists, librarians, tech people and others interested in discussing and innovating within feminist technology studies, and then to FemTechNet’s innovative feminist rethinking of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) made by activating what we conceived and produced as our DOCC (Distributed Open Collaborative Course), now in its fourth iteration (see our manifesto here).

The second project was my course and its associated media and Internet materials, Feminist Online Spaces, interrogating and producing digital experiences that could imagine, occupy, refashion, replicate, extend and interrogate overtly political spaces that linked activities on the Internet to what we might once have called “the real world.”

In the class, which I taught three times, and in associated talks and writing, participants first defined for ourselves (and in conversation or even opposition with earlier iterations) what made any site “feminist.”

We built
feminist things, like the two images above and the two below, that might sit on a "feminist" site:

We engaged in feminist properties of production and community to make such things and the sites that might hold them, all the while making room for self-aware criticism of how our differences, deeply structured through power imbalances as well as the tools we inherit to comment on them, often limit our most radical aspirations:

While might itself be considered one such space,
most if not all of the other sites we explored on the Internet failed us in some of the core values and structures we had named as "feminist." That’s why this space, here, From Third Cinema to Media Justice, is so important. It is one of only a few successes, because online feminism is hard to do well. In my writing that follows, I will demonstrate how this particular, online manifestation of Third World Majority's praxis—holding as it does a usable and multi-pathed archive of curriculum, stories, videos, and their theoretical and political interpretations, all spanning multiple times, places, and authors—is itself a viable and generative online feminist space.

In my research with students and other participants, we learned again and again that ways of being together, methods of making things together, practices of sharing things with each other—so expertly theorized and practiced by Third World Majority in its on the ground, media, and internet activism—works best for feminists when our practices online and off, digital and material, all share overt (if flexible, debatable, and contextual) ideals, goals, practices and politics. That is, our goals, methods, theories, and practices are coherent across media, place, and time. In the video below, and the many that will follow as aspects of the writing of "my" dialogue, note how the politics about place expressed and experienced from a once lived reality then inhabit video and later still a digital manifestation on this page. A comprehensive media politics, that sees no disconnect between material conditions and their mediated ones (while acknowledging their differences), is what I begin to celebrate, and try to learn from, in this particular manifestation of Third World Majority's archive of radical social justice cultural production.

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