From Third Cinema to Media Justice


From 2007-2010, I engaged in an innovative praxis of critical Internet studies by teaching about and also within YouTube:

As a longtime
practitioner, teacher, and scholar of activist video, I was keen to understand why improved access to production and distribution of media had not incited the media revolution anticipated by many of us within these movements—like those of Third World Majority—but rather had led to an escalating production, reception, celebration, and embrace of corporate media culture written in the name of freedom of expression and media democracy.

YouTube is Where we Go it Alone, I wrote:

“For visibility to have meaning, impact, or power (beyond the indisputable pleasures of self- or celebrity-recognition), it must be connected to specific social-change goals. For visibility to contribute to social justice it must connect information or images to activist communities. Visibility is neutral in and of itself.”

It became clear to me, from inhabiting, using and studying YouTube, that the newfound gains in self-expression and visibility allowed by social media were not themselves equivalent to social justice which also depends upon the overt, linked and living qualities of community and politics. Media justice work needs to be rooted in community education, production, and reception. Such concepts, analyses, and aims are largely unavailable on YouTube’s corporate platform of isolation, self-promotion, and advertisements.

Working with and learning from both my students who took the class in
2007, 2008 and 2010, and from everyday YouTubers, our situated interrogation and repurposing of YouTube held during the earliest years in the life of this cultural behemoth, ended up focusing primarily upon the limitations of the platform, particularly in relation to its inadequate infrastructural support for the core aspirations and carefully built practices of media justice movements.

Eventually brought together in a structured archive much like this one here (in fact, many of the requirements of Scalar began when USC’s Vector’s team began to produce tools to help me author through my large archive of YouTube related objects including my writing and video, that of my students, and hundreds of examples of work by everyday YouTubers).

The “
video-book” argued in its form and its content against quickly consolidating celebrations of social media’s revolutionary potential for “media expression” and “media activism” emerging, as such digital media has been, within corporate platforms given to us for free. We wanted to name what YouTube could provide for media activists, but as importantly what had never been written into the architecture, tools, and norms of the most used media archive and distributor in the history of the world. In the video-book, I write in On Iran Verite that “Communication, context, analysis, and media making need to accompany verite images if we hope to take advantage of new media technologies to their fullest emotive, indexical, and critical depths.”

In the pages that follow for my “Dialogue” here, I hope to establish how
From Third Cinema to Media Justice Third Worl Majority and the Promise of Third Cinema successfully performs and manifests the much harder, revolutionary act and art of connecting expression and visibility to analysis, history, community, and revolutionary goals: what I have called ThirdTube when it lives on/in a video (and even on YouTube) but what I will attempt to understand here as a Feminist Online Space to honor this particular work’s multiple, exciting, rhizomatic directions, spaces, media, practices, theories, affects and temporalities.

Contents of this path:

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