Understanding Alternative Media Power: Mapping Content & Practice to Theory, Ideology, and Political Action


  • Sandra Jeppesen


alternative media, autonomous media, critical media, DIY, subculture, participatory media, citizens media, Marxism, anarchism, individualism


Alternative media is a term that signifies a range of media forms and practices,
from radical critical media to independent media, and from grassroots
autonomous media to community, citizen and participatory media. This paper
critically analyzes the political content and organizational practices of
different alternative media types to reveal the ideologies and conceptions of
power embedded in specific conceptions of alternative media. Considering
several competing conceptions of alternative media theory, including subculture
studies (Hebdige 1979), community media for social change (Rodríguez
2011), critical communication studies (Fuchs 2010), and radical media
(Downing 2001), four distinct categories emerge: DIY media influenced by
individualist ideologies and subcultural belonging; citizen media theorized
by third-world Marxism and engaged in local community organizing; critical
media influenced by the Frankfurt School of critical theory and focused
on global anti-capitalist content; and autonomous media influenced by social
anarchism and rooted in global anti-authoritarian social movements. This
synthesized taxonomy provides an important mapping of key similarities and
differences among the diverse political projects, theories, practices and ideologies of alternative media, allowing for a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the limitations and political challenges to media power afforded by specific types of alternative media.