Media @ McGill

Media@McGill Delegation to the World Social Forum - post-event report

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During the WSF and as part of the WFFM, Gretchen King facilitated a workshop on the impact and sustainability of community radio. Participants included representatives from Tunisian and Moroccan community radio stations and a staff person from Community Media Solutions, a UK-based non-profit organization working in the MENA region. The workshop provided crucial data for her final dissertation chapter and validated some of the conclusions of Gretchen’s doctoral research. She also attended a workshop on MESH networks, interviewing participants about this autonomous media infrastructure.

Based on this experience, Gretchen King and Sophie Toupin submitted a co-proposal for a chapter in The International Handbook of Media Literacy Education. The title of their proposed chapter is: "Hacking the spectrum in the classroom: Building critical media literacy through educational interventions concerning communication infrastructures." Gretchen’s other activities included participating in the WFFM and documenting the processes (audio recordings and photographs), reporting on events around the WSF and WFFM, and networking with activists from the Independent Media Center (IMC) of Africa and members of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC). Finally, Gretchen will be leading the drafting of a co-authored article reflecting on scholar-activism using our delegation’s experience as a case study for the Union for Democratic Communication (UDC) journal, the Democratic Communiqué.

Following the attack on Tunis in the days before our departure from Montreal, the Gender and Tech Institute (GTI) that Sophie was co-organizing and co-facilitating was unfortunately cancelled for security reasons.  Sophie’s participation to the WSF and WFFM was, however, very fruitful. She met several times with one of the Tactical Tech Collective (TTC) staff present on site, and was given the lead authorship of a chapter focusing on “Creating and Inhabiting Safe Online and Offline spaces” as part of an TTC publication entitled:  “Including Gender: New Approaches to Privacy and Digital Security”.  Moreover, as a co-organizer and facilitator of the hacklab, Sophie took a leadership role in the discussions, contributing for instance the notion of hacking beyond a somewhat narrow and computer-specific understanding of the practice. These experiences enrich the Special Issue she is co-editing on Feminism and (Un)hacking for the Journal of Peer Production in addition to an article she is working on entitled “Anti-Colonial Hacking: The Case Study of an Autonomous Encrypted Communication Network”. As one of the only female-identified participants in the hacklab, Sophie advocated for the importance of taking a feminist stance to hacking, including the necessity of interfacing the work of activists and techies through popular education. Finally, the WSF/WFFM experience is also generating a gathering Sophie is co-organizing at La Passe on April 11, 2015, entitled: Autonomous Infrastructures as Feminist Hacker Practices: The Way Forward.

In Tunis, Stéphane Couture organized and facilitated the WFFM gatherings that attracted more than 300 people and promoted the goals of M@M in these events. Starting the night he arrived, Stéphane had multiple meetings to discuss the writing of the Free Media Charter, thus advancing the insights of the consultation conducted at McGill by the M@M delegation on March 18. As part of the workshops dedicated to the Charter, he facilitated a session about the meaning of “free media” as well as the following plenary. He also took part in the rewriting of the charter, up to the last version. Stéphane also presented in two different workshops, one on the relationship between hacktivists and media activists, organized by the French organization Ritimo, and another on Internet infrastructure and policies, organized by the Brazilian organization Intervozes (who paid his plane ticket and lodging in Tunis). He also co-facilitated the WFFM closing event - the “Communication Convergence Assembly” - where participants of the WSF who organized events related to communication and media where invited to share the results of their work and draft a common plan of future actions.

Finally, Stéphane attended multiple informal meetings with organizers of the upcoming Internet Social Forum, with leading members of the Quebec delegation, and lobbied with some members of the WSF International Council in order to convince them of the benefit of having the WSF in Montreal in 2016. Stéphane will follow-up on this process in the coming months and will produce scholarly outputs based on these experiences. The first of which will be a “Research in Brief” to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Canadian Journal of Communication for which Stéphane is taking a leading role in developing collaboratively with other M@M Delegation members.

As it was decided that the next WSF 2016 will be in Montreal in August, the M@M Delegation will seek to engage the interest of faculty, students, media and technology activists, and members of the Montreal community in the local planning process for the event next year. This is a very exciting development as this would be the first WSF held in North America.