Decentered Media Meetups – 6.30pm Wednesday Fortnightly

Finally, the sun has arrived here in the UK. After a very disappointing July and August, we’ve got a couple of warm days ahead of us, just at the point when it’s time to start planning for our autumn and winter activities. During July and August, I’ve taken a break, which has helped to do some thinking about the potential themes that might be worth exploring in our future Decentered Media meetups.

I’ve identified three issues that, I hope, will be important for any kind of community-focussed communication and media in the future:

First, I’d like to talk through the need to develop a community cohesion approach to media-based interaction, and particularly media that has a focus on enhancing community life. We started to discuss this earlier in the year, and I’m keen to carry on with the development of the community media social cohesion charter we started to develop before the summer.

Second, I’ve come to the view that there is a need to develop an easy to understand and use toolkit that can be used for equality impact assessment of community focussed communication and media. How do we know that the media we are developing, making and sharing is fit for purpose? How do we know if our community-focussed communications are good value for money? How do we know if we are reaching the right people, and not simply scatter-gunning different people in the hope that some messages stick?

As our local media landscape changes, and the opportunities for community communication are narrowed, such as the BBC limiting its local radio output in England, and the decline of locally based commercial radio, it is incumbent on any public authority and third-sector services to ensure that they can demonstrate how they are achieving their Equality Act duties, and communicating with specific people who are often overlooked, and who don’t have ready access to established media platforms.

Third, I’d like to explore in more detail the principles of bildung, which is an approach to cultural education that is practised in Scandinavian countries and Germany. Bildung is a concept that refers to the process of personal and cultural maturation through education and self-cultivation.  It is a way to become active and free citizens through higher levels of self-reflection and the continued expansion and growth of an individual’s spiritual and cultural sensibilities, as well as life, personal, and social skills.

While social unity requires well-formed institutions, advocates of the bildung model propose, it also requires a diversity of individuals who can exercise a high degree of independent thinking, and who can develop a wide variety of talents and abilities, and this requires personal agency. The term bildung is related to the German word for “image” and the verb meaning “to form, shape, construct,” suggesting an approach to the formation of one’s character through feeling rather than measuring.

The concept of Bildung has connections to both the aims and objectives of any education and personal development and self-education. It is not just about knowledge and skills but rather about personality and character formation. At a time when our media is obsessed with the assertion of individual identity and representation, we seldom hear about character any more. It’s as if we’ve become people with interchangeable intersecting components, rather than core attributes that we develop over a lifetime. Bildung is a process of social and individual character building. The question I’m interested in, then, is to what extent would this be a useful approach to integrate with community media?

So, I’m interested in how these three issues relate to any form of communication that is focussed on positive social change. That can meet the challenges of the future, and that deploys critical thinking, and is grounded through experience and supported by empirical evidence.

The Decentered Media online Meetups are a chance to have a conversation with like-minded people who recognise the need to build social capacity by enhancing public education, communication and deliberation, by supporting and using media in creative, accessible and trusted ways.

Our online meetups take place from 6.30 to 8pm, every fortnight, starting Wednesday 20th September. To take part, sign up at Patreon for as little at £3 per month. As a Patreon subscriber, you get access to the Decentered Media Forum, where we can share and discuss topics online. I’ll give a quick demo of how to access the forum when we next meet.

Look out for more podcasts coming soon. I’m keen to speak with people that use community media as a sensemaking process. I’m interested in discussing how we face the practical challenges of producing and sharing meaningful media content that resonates across different communities, using different tools, and helping us to understand each other in a more reflective way.

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