Time to move on: IMC London signing off

Tagged as: directmedia goodbye hyperactive imc imclondon indymedia london openpublishing
Neighbourhoods: london
Published by group: GroupIndymedia London

The Indymedia London collective has taken a decision to close.

Collectively we have racked up almost 100 years of involvement with the Indymedia project; from the beginnings of Indymedia in 1999 and the launch of Indymedia UK in 2000 as a manual website and evolution to a content management site, to the creation of local indymedia groups in 2003, and then the launch of the current IMC London website in 2008.

So it is with a sad heart that we bring this latest chapter to an end. Firstly thanks to all the people, friends and comrades who have participated in the project with us over the years, as users, as members of the london collective (over 50 people) and other imc collectives, or as supporters behind the scenes. All of us wish to continue working in a similar terrain and view what comes next as a development from the work that’s already been done. However for us, this Indymedia project is for many reasons no longer the one which we think is tactically useful to put our energy into. There are still many features of the project that we believe to be important and essential, but others which are less so. Below we set out some thoughts on both of these, and some of the challenges and limitations of the Indymedia project over the years.

On a practical note, the open publishing newswire of this website is now closed and the content will be archived, along with selected london related content from the previous different Indymedia UK websites. User logons for the website will no longer work. Our public email lists and wiki pages will also be closed and kept as archives.

We will add to the London Indymedia archive some further reflections and evaluations generated through more than a decade of practice, debate and argument. We also think the function of the London events calendar has been an important one and are interested in thinking about ways of retaining this function in one way or other.

If you wish to contact us or send any feedback on the rest of this farewell message please email us at imc-london-contact@lists.indymedia.org

See you on the streets!
IMC London
xXx

[read more]

Farewell from IMC London:

Over the last 13 years the Internet and the way people use it has changed dramatically. In many ways Indymedia won, because it pioneered approaches which have now become mainstream.

When Indymedia started it broke new ground, technically, socially and politically. Blogging was yet to take off so providing a way for people to publish their own news stories and multimedia reports from protests and campaigns without any logon was a game changer. This model of ‘open publishing’ or ‘direct media’ allowed everyone to add their voice to the collaborative creation of news, challenging the dominance of single narrative news journalism. The stated purpose was to erode the dividing line between reporter and participant, between active producers and passive audiences, to show that everyone had the ability to be a journalist and speak for themselves. At the same time Indymedia organised transparently and via consensus drawing a distinction between democratic participatory media (by the people for the people) and the hidden agendas and processes of the corporate media monoliths and their vested interests. Powered by advances in technology it provided an infrastructure that was needed and which people wanted to use. At the time, Indymedia was pretty much the only game in town.

Indymedia emerged in conjunction with the so-called “anti-globalisation” (alterglobalisation) movement. There was a general sense of “creating something big” then, and the struggles often focused on big days of action and big counter-summits. In that context it was absolutely necessary to have a web platform that allowed self-representation and communication, whilst, at the same time, provided a space to report the unfolding events worldwide. Indymedia became a global network offering solidarity and direct support across national boundaries, pushing an experimental agenda of radical openness, collaboration, privacy rights and free open software in the name of empowering people to speak for themselves, amplifying our collective struggles.

In addition to digital communication, Indymedia also became a framework for real world organising on the ground. Setting up physical media centres, providing spaces for alternative media groups and activists to plan coverage of big protests to break the monopoly of the mainstream media on reporting the “truth” of what happened on the streets, and to publicise the issues and reasons people were protesting in an unmediated way. Setting up systems to gather and distribute news from participants on the frontline with staffed “dispatch” phone lines, using internet chat and wikis to co-ordinate volunteers and translations, streaming and broadcasting FM radio, mixing video streams, broadcasting sms messages – it truly was a media revolution, and revolutionary in itself.

It was also a massive experiment in distributed virtual democracy and self organisation. Different tools exist for organising, and are appropriate in different circumstances and for different purposes. Whilst we remain committed to participatory models and collaborative working, we have also become disenchanted with some aspects of Indymedia. We share this experience with others working on Indymedia throughout the world. Too often, openness and dogma interact to create bureaucracy and to limit progression. The wider question of how to go about organising our lives and work is ongoing.

Fast forward and many of the things Indymedia volunteers were evangelical about have come to pass. No longer is it necessary to set up ‘Public Access Terminals’ in the street to provide power and connectivity, most people have this in their hands with their 3g mobile phones, collectively documenting minute by minute as events unfold. Self publishing is the norm. But be careful what you wish for… we won, but we also lost. Corporate commodification of the self through social media platforms and the corresponding loss of privacy create considerable pitfalls alongside the huge opportunities.

Looking back after five years of developing this particular website and the HyperActive code it’s based on we’re pretty pleased with some of the advancements made. We introduced tagging, a video player, an improved calendar, optional logons for users and group pages (eg cuts reporting), mobile versions of the site and uploading, sms updates and more. Compared to many other Indymedia websites, this constituted a significant move to a more advanced approach. But we are not some massive media corporation or a silicon start-up with millions of pounds to burn, we are volunteer activists devoting our time between studying, jobs, other projects, childcare and the demands of living in London.

Importantly Indymedia has remained one of the few online places that allows users to publish anonymously and without a logon. We always cared about privacy, which means protecting users’ identities from the authorities or corporations, and we prioritised this over the ability to share content with commercial platforms. It is this more than anything which has kept Indymedia isolated from other social media and similar feature developments so thoroughly.

The landscape of the internet changed and so too its usage by both individual participants, activist and campaign groups and indeed the mainstream media. The inexorable rise of corporate blogging tools and the mass adoption of facebook, twitter, flickr, youtube and third party curation and sharing tools has created new complex communities of interest and empowered the production, organisation and distribution of content as never before. The main raison d’etre for Indymedia’s existence is no longer there. Correspondingly the usage has dropped significantly over the last few years. Those whose main outlet for their political documentation was Indymedia now use their own blogs or websites, twitter, flickr, demotix, youtube or vimeo and facebook. Use it or lose it.

But it’s not as if there haven’t been good examples of large street reporting on Indymedia London over the last four years;
we’ve seen the G20 protests and climate campsukuncutstown hall protests and university occupations, the student protests [2,3,4,5], March26th TUC [2,3], the riots of Aug 2011 and the Occupy movement [2] all burst onto our screens from the streets. Many people believe Indymedia can be seen at its best during such moments, providing a structured, more detailed view of events and their backgrounds than can be found almost anywhere else. This imperative remains.

With Indymedia, the global protest movement built a worldwide communication space which was built collectively. Fed by the subjectivities of thousands of individuals and groups, Indymedia gave voice to a collective “we”. This approach does not sit well with the “me, me, me” attitude so prevalent in social media, where blogs, profiles, status updates, and picture galleries constitute interlinked individual self/expressions. Digital communication today seems to be made up of a collective/singular active subject that approaches the “we” from a clear “I” identity”. But this subject is not per se individualistic and de-politicised. We can also regard it as an expression of the multitude, which organizes not through unity, but through singularities that act together. The Tojolabal indigenous people of Chiapas, in their language, have a specific pronoun for this I/us type of subject, an attitude to subjectivity which was crucial for the Zapatista way of organising.

We in London see the challenges of today more in terms of collectivising the individual outputs, of curating from within the sea of content, of fostering true collaboration and solidarity that survives longer than the latest surge in popularity or fashion. We also believe that the ability to publish and surf the internet anonymously is a fundamental necessity. We know that most people choose corporate platforms over alternative and autonomous tools, but we urge you to also use and support alternative providers and those that campaign in this area, as well as learning how to protect yourself (see Tech Tools for Activism + Crypto Party Handbook). We also believe that sometimes having physical spaces to collaboratively co-ordinate and work together is essential. And that maintaining the archive of protest coverage and campaigns from the last years is an important task. Too much history is lost to the 404 error as websites lapse and companies fold, so we commit to ensuring the web archive of the 13 years of reporting remains accessible as an important resource and historical record.

In fact we are very proud of our contribution during the last 13 years, setting up and maintaining a structure for open publishing. We believe that we created a fundamental bit of “autonomous infrastructure” that the movements have benefited greatly from, and by doing so, we have also put into practice our “political ideals” and diy approach to active political involvement. Openness, horizontality, transparency and collaborative and participative practices which have been central to Indymedia and to our radical politics.

It’s been hard work, but fun too. Online and offline, like all good revolutions there was also room for dancing along the way, with benefit parties, film screenings, and cafe nights. Producing stickers, posters, banners, t-shirts, running radio shows, doing stalls at festivals and raves, distributing CDs and DVDs, organising skills shares, being visible on demonstrations, challenging legal attacks, all part and parcel of participating in a radical collaborative media project for so long.

We are not going away defeated, we are moving on to more exciting projects that we feel are needed, and which we cannot do whilst maintaining a site that we no longer see as strategically or tactically essential. The vision remains the same, as do many of the challenges – we’ll see you in the streets!

Background texts:

Indymedia and the Enclosure of the Internet
london.indymedia.org/articles/203

Why Indymedia Sucks – Thoughts From Conference09
london.indymedia.org/articles/1541

Software Summit in Whitechapel
london.indymedia.org/articles/4762

Their business and ours
london.indymedia.org/articles/5456

Corporate Social Networking .. How Cool Is That!
london.indymedia.org/articles/4787

Non-corporate social networks
london.indymedia.org/articles/4773

Indymedia historical reel film 2009
london.indymedia.org/videos/4336

“The way is the Goal” Interview
stefi.engagetv.com/sites/stefi.org/file...

G8 Scotland: – media centres and dispatch:
docs.indymedia.org/Local/ImcUkWritingAl...
docs.indymedia.org/Local/ImcUkG8Dispatch

Indymedia at the Camp for Climate Action 2006: Report & Personal View
www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/10/352703....

Parties:
10 yrs
london.indymedia.org/articles/4856
london.indymedia.org/events/4663
www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/05/451899....

2005
www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/05/311023....

2004
www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2004/11/301314....
www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/london/...
www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/london/...
www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/london/...

New Year Messages
2012 london.indymedia.org/articles/11374
2011 london.indymedia.org/articles/6848

Additions