Irfan Raja | 11.12.2008 21:53 | Education
The gathering in Saltzburg brought together more than one hundred academics, media practitioners, researchers, policy makers, community development workers and activists from 20 countries to discuss participatory media production with respect to intercultural dialogue.
Peter Lewis, a senior lecturer in community media at London Metropolitan University warned the conference that 'our liberties are being curtailed' - referring to government plans to shut down various websites using the threat of terrorism as the reason.
Shabana Kausar, who's an English literature student at the University of Bristol, briefed the participants about the first ever joint Muslim-Jewish Community Radio.
Radio Salaam Shalom ( http://www.salaamshalom.org.uk/) based in Bristol is an exciting new project jointly run by a combined team of Muslim and Jewish volunteers. The 24/7 online radio station aims to get Jews and Muslims talking together.
Overall the conference received about forty contributions relating to participatory media. Of particular note was another British researcher, teacher Debi Withers. Her paper on 'free media' was received as a scholarly addition to the existing work underscoring the importance of the 'free media' concept.
Debi Withers work demonstrate how web tools enable asylum seekers and their supporters to tell their own stories independent of mainstream media narratives which often misrepresent their interests.
Another outstanding British researcher Red Childgey grabbed the audience's attention with details about her upcoming book "DIY Feminist Action: Dispatches from the Transnational Zine Movement".
She said the book aims to offer a creative insight into the queer feminist zine network worldwide, from the 1980s to the present day, and explained how the book brings together important documents and resources from the DIY transnational feminist movement. Red explains Zines are small, self-published, non-commercial newsletters or magazines.
She pointed out that she was focusing on collecting, archiving and critically analysing work which critiques the dominant system and offers practical alternatives. More detailed information on Red Childgey's work can be found at http://feministzinebook.wikispaces.com/ and also at www.grrrlzines.net
In today's climate of tension between different communities living in the West, a timely piece was put forward by a Leeds University student. 'Islamophobia and Citizen Journalism: A challenger to Islamophobic reporting' sparked lively discussion. The paper aimed to unearth mainstream media's hostility towards Muslims and tendency to create and promote stereotypes.
Civilmedia 08 garnered considerable international and local media coverage and the event is looking to get even bigger next year. 'We would welcome more British researchers, academics and student observers next year' said Eva Schmidhuber, organizer and the editor of local Radiofabrik.
Eva who is campaigner and a prominent icon for alternative media added that 'community media is a great point to map-out future policies and we will strive hard to make it recognized in Austria and else here in Europe'. She looks optimistic about next year's conference that even hopes to reimburse delegates their costs – further information on the event can be found at ( http://wiki.civilmedia.eu/index.php/Main_Page)