For the first time, the International Communication Association (ICA) celebrated a regional conference for the Latin American research community. This event took place in one of the most prestigious universities in Latin America, the Pontificia Universidad Católica, from October 18 to 20, 2012 in Santiago-Chile.
A topic which seemed to cut across various sessions and panels was the relationship between social media usage and political or social activism. One interesting perspective of the issue focused on the new media role among the indigenous inhabitants of Latin America.
Paulette Desmormeaux (Chile), a former Mundus Journalism in Hamburg student, emphasized on the importance of the grassroots online media among the Mapuche community. In this respect the Mapuche´s newspapers Azkintuwe and MapucheExpress play a central role opposing the representation power of mainstream media, which reflect and reproduce Mapuche´s negative stereotypes. “In this panorama the social media platforms increase visibility and strength inclusion, contributing to democracy reinforcement”, she said.
On the same line, Karina García-Ruano from Michigan State University (USA) spoke about the Guatemalan struggle, where a group of Mayas mobilize demanding the closure of the Marlin mine in San Marcos. The social media offer them two types of power: one inwards, empowering the community, strengthening collective efficacy, and social cohesion; and one outwards, increasing solidarity with the movement, generating visibility in mainstream media, and incidence in decision making. “New media platforms allow this group to expand their voices, fighting locally with global impact”, said the researcher.
The conference also offered some interesting lessons on the gender issue, like the paper presented by Graciela Natansohn from the Universidad de Buenos Aires (Argentina), where she approached the digital gap from a gender perspective, questioning the media and their capacity to include women in several levels, from content and design until usability. “Gender plays an important role in technology appropriation, and if our countries want to overcome the digital divide, the gender issue should be in the center of the discussion”, emphasized the post-doc researcher.
Two members of the RCMC community participated as speakers in the conference: the lecturer at the Institute for Journalism and Communication Studies and the Institute of Political Science and a member of the Center for Media and Politics Kathrin Voss from the University of Hamburg (Germany), who spoke about how the Internet changed grassroots campaigning, and the current GMaC PhD candidate Amaranta Alfaro Muirhead (Chile), who presented on citizen participation and inclusion through social networks sites.
The closing key note talk was in charge of Henry Jenkins from the University of Southern California (USA), with the presentation “From Participatory Culture to Participatory Politics by Way of Participatory Learning”. He elaborated on the new kinds of politics, which include a sort of cultural play by performing, collaborating, creating, connecting and circulating, and leads to participatory democracy. Jenkins stated that this new forms of participation are “lowing the engagement barriers, because of their informal membership, the strong sharing creation with others and the value of the members contributions, opinions and work”. These reflections regarding indigenous empowerment in the media and participation are some to take into account while thinking about the numerous indigenous groups in Latin America, which remain in conflict with countries like Colombia and Mexico. On the other hand the gender issue cross many of the developing countries, and many times both factors are combined, so these perspectives offer a great potential to include in the national discussion excluded groups, minimizing not only the digital gap, but also the social and participatory divide, leading to Jenkins participatory culture and democracy.
- Conference Link in Spanish: http://ica2012.cl/
- Conference Link in English: http://ica2012uc.wordpress.com/english/
- Graciela Natansohn profile (papers to download): http://ufba.academia.edu/GracielaNatansohn
- Henry Jenkins (papers to download): http://henryjenkins.org/
- Kathrin Voss: http://www.sozialwiss.uni-hamburg.de/publish/IpW/Workgroups/Medien/MitarbeiterInnen/Kathrin/voss.english.html
- Mapuche´s newspapers: http://www.azkintuwe.org/ & http://www.mapuexpress.net/
– Amaranta Alfaro Muirhead –