There’s a great look back at the heyday of Indymedia from Todd Wolfson and Malav Kanuga for Logic Magazine. I wanted here to highlight two paragraphs in particular as it navigates from that era to today’s (over)reliance upon platform social media.
But social media also exposes movements to many vulnerabilities. The solidiarities it generates are often superficial: movement use of social media can easily devolve into repetitive messaging in echo chambers without collective gains in narrative power—a change in the stories and values that hold sway in society—or a translation to real-world militancy. In all cases, the logic is determined not by a radical politics of participation and organization, as in the Indymedia model, but by the individual user’s decision to follow, like, comment—in short, pick and choose (within the ruse of algorithmic “choice”) which leaders to listen to and which profiles to amplify. This short-circuits the important but slower work of belonging to—and being responsible to—a movement culture. The small doses of interpersonal connection that social media platforms are built to deliver stand in for collective gains of social power.
Today, social media’s dominance in movement communication and coordination means that we lack the ability to build collective self-determination around narrative, news, and analysis. There are indeed important activist media projects such as Unicorn Riot, but they are few and far between, and their capacity is limited by the lack of movement infrastructure. To build a stronger Left, we need to reimagine our media strategy. In particular, we need to learn from the legacy of Indymedia, and recreate an independent media network that can scale from the local to the national to the global while cohering multiple fronts of struggle into a unified opposition.
I can’t help but think that there must be a federated way to do this, such as forking Mastodon to create instances that could authenticate to share each of their Local timelines amongst themselves, or even create particular shared timelines that only federate within that activist affinity network. This would allow activist instances focused on various specific areas to have their own, individual community as well as have targeted, shared communities across authenticated instances of mutual interest.
Each instance still would function as a normal Mastodon instance, and therefore have access to the network effects of the wider fediverse, but with the added feature and function of narrowly-defined intercommunicative activist networks.