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By Dênis de Moraes
Alternative and counter-hegemonic communication in the network refers to a participatory process on the Internet that involves groups, collectives, organizations and movements with a politicizing vision of journalism, based on the recognition of the information sector as a space for disputes of meanings for the political and cultural hegemony. The fact that the global network is not subject to the domination of media empires provides an accentuated margin of freedom of expression, in addition to favoring convergence around ideas and values and mobilizations for specific affinities.
The virtual, decentralized and interactive ecosystem favors communication practices that question the forms of domination imposed by the hegemonic classes and institutions, ideologically supported by the corporate media.
Communication is alternative because it is structured for political-ideological work, privileges critical content and is governed by collaborative management methods and non-commercial forms of action.
It means assuming the option for the dissemination of information and analysis that contemplate issues of collective interest, in a perspective favorable to the dissemination of social and community demands that are generally absent or despised in the agendas and coverage of the traditional media.
Five characteristics distinguish alternative network communication: a) commitment to the universalization of human rights; b) no single interpretative optics are imposed in the appreciation of events, thus breaking with the subordination to the particular values of media corporations; c) virtual dynamics stimulate changes and interactions; d) the inclusive principle of copyleft is followed (permission to reproduce information, mentioning the source and without profit, avoiding the barriers imposed by intellectual property).
An unforeseen variety of ways of creating and interacting is manifested on the internet, allowing autonomous transmissions of content in different formats and languages. Projects, experiences and media related to social, popular and community movements, political organizations and militant groups that face the capitalist system and the construction of inclusive and socializing development models are included there.
Alternative online media are increasingly used in social networks, blogs, discussion lists and e-mail for the dissemination of ideas, calls for events and campaigns, exchange of data, images and sound files. All this facilitated by infoelectronic connections and mobile technologies that eliminate geographical barriers and institute more agile forms of contact and articulation.
Communication projects are not exhausted at the informational level, in the strict sense, and establish links with counter-hegemonic activism. The aim is to associate informative activities with projects to transform society, which will always depend on a consistent application of editorial commitments.
In a general way, counter-hegemonic actions act as tools for communication in the popular field, without neglecting social militancy, being implicit that journalists and / or communicators should be in solidarity, in the battle of ideas, with the forces social workers engaged in the struggles for the democratization of speech and information.
The wide variety of alternative network communication initiatives expresses the heterogeneity of movements, groups and collectives from different places and contexts, with unique accumulations of experiences and purposes. But the participants integrate, with peculiar rhythms and emphasis, the same field: opposition to private monopoly groups that commodify information based on their lucrative ambitions. Although with a social penetration much lower than the mass media, most of the counter-hegemonic experiences in the network stimulate the social circulation of critical interpretations on relevant political, economic, cultural and environmental issues.
In spite of these potentialities, we must problematize some questions. The deepening of counter-hegemonic communication in the network depends on more advanced technological platforms, on more convergent actions and mainly on adequate conditions of economic sustainability. They are basic requirements to diversify and intensify the distribution of content in multiple and simultaneous points of the network.
The impact of alternative network communication on the whole of society is still relatively small. It is worth asking: how to compete with the infernal machines of symbolic production that are based on the monopoly concentration of the mass media? In general, the counter-hegemonic media that are present on the Internet reach more organized and politicized sectors, in addition to opinion formers, journalists, students and union activists. Probable reasons for these limitations:
Inappropriate languages and formats, excessively ideological discourses, inconsistency in editorial guidelines and disclosure schemes, low internet penetration in poor population areas, etc.
It is necessary to debate, define and try to develop more efficient electronic communication policies, taking advantage of all available means and dissemination methodologies, such as electronic newsletters, events that attract the attention of new audiences, specific strategies for social networks and greater integration of experiences in common dissemination platforms. Another problem to overcome is the infoexclusion of low-income populations. The universe of users, even though it is increasing exponentially, does not correspond to the social totality, which is contradictory and unequal. There is a serious asymmetry between technological innovations and the capacity for inclusion of the base of society in the new scenarios. The universalization of access depends on public policies that expand the social, cultural, educational and political uses of technologies; the development of broadband network infrastructures; investment and permanent public development; educational and cultural training, among other points.
The Internet is one more tool in the intricate battle of ideas in the communication arena, and it would be delusional to believe that, with current limitations, it can supplant media power. But we are talking, without a doubt, of a strategic tool, since it allows the development of more independent spaces for the production and dissemination of reliable and non-commercialized information, without ties to the structures and pressures of media power.
Finally, it is necessary to emphasize that the valorization of alternative network communication does not mean, at all, substituting the real world for virtual reality. To imagine otherwise is to underestimate social mediations and fundamental mechanisms of political representation. Face-to-face mobilizations are still irreplaceable, however they can be reinforced by virtual actions, as part of the long struggle for citizens' social, political and cultural rights.
- Dênis de Moraes has a doctorate in Communication and Culture from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and a professor and researcher at the Fluminense Federal University, in Brazil. Author, among other books, of The media crusade in Latin America (Paidóis, 2011), Mutations of the visible: communication and cultural processes in the digital age (Paidós, 2010), Mediatized society (Gedisa, 2007) and Por otra communication (Icaria / Intermón, 2005).