Research Outline

PhD Thesis – Sustainability in Community and Collaborative Media
My thesis demonstrates how meaningful interaction was accomplished and experienced by agents participating in community media organisations in Leicester between Autumn 2012 and Spring 2014. I question the role and the function of community media as a lived social experience, and note the difference that participation in community media activities makes to agents and activists. Drawing on a pragmatic approach to social communication (Rorty, 1980) and using ethnographic research techniques, particularly symbolic interaction (Prus, 1996), my thesis explores the emerging social processes of participation and engagement associated with community and collaborative media (Howley, 2005; Jenkins, 2006).

The study used a mixed method design that incorporated participant observation, interviews and reflexive engagement. In ethnographic methodology it is possible to attend to the unfolding of human actions and understandings as they are found in the collective expression of community life. Particular emphasis was given in the study to three key participants whose role was analogous to gatekeepers for their community media networks.

Community media is less well funded, supported and researched than other forms of media, and yet it holds considerable potential as a transformative social experience. This thesis explores how community media represents an opportunity for reinvigorated democratic and civic conversations about issues of concern to local communities. My thesis challenges mainstream media studies discourse by asserting that it is in paying attention to the lived experience and the accomplishments of people acting in lifeworlds and intimate social networks, that it is possible to renew a wider understanding of changes in ICT, social media and digital media production – particularly those of participation, activism and agency.

My thesis contributes to an underdeveloped area of media analysis, providing an opportunity for further study and evaluation of the developments of community media at a time of significant change and social reorientation.

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