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A critical contribution to the foundations of alternative media studies

Sandoval, M. (2009). A critical contribution to the foundations of alternative media studies. Kurgu: Online International Journal of Communication Studies, 1,


This paper is concerned with the question how to conceptualize alternative media. In alternative media studies, there is no agreement on how alternative media should be defined. A distinction that is drawn in this paper concerns the question whether the main aim of alternative media should be to provide critical content and to reach a broad audience for their media products (objective approach), or if they should aim at opening up access to media production and at empowering those who are involved in the production processes (subjective approach). The task for this paper is to define alternative media in a way that enables them to increase their societal impact and to contribute to emancipatory societal transformations. Possibilities and limits of alternative media as emancipatory media are identified. Based on dialectical social theory and critical media theory I construct an ideal model of alternative media as non-commercial, participatory and critical media. In taking into account structural constraints under capitalism I argue that alternative media can hardly realize all of these ideal dimensions. Thus I discuss on which of these levels alternative media necessarily need to be on the alternative side and on which they can also make use of mainstream strategies without loosing their alternative character. Finally I confront the ideal-model with an understanding of alternative media as critical media.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > Culture & the Creative Industries
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