The theme “communities” is quite an important subject matter for me within the context of my studies of community media and at-risk youth and this theme is also featured in two of my PhD thesis chapters, which focus on community. Some of the scholarship I’ve reviewed present community in various concepts and characteristics (see the works of Burns (1994) Anderson (1983), Carey (1989), Cohen (1985), Rennie’s (2011), Possi’s (2003) and Downing’s (2001), Fraser and Estrada (2000, p.76) Wilmott (1986) Lee and Newby (1983) and Crow and Allan, (1995). My own impact case study on the Shoot to Live project in Trinidad and Tobago further demonstrates that community formation can take informal and formal approaches; they have the ability to empower or disempower; and they are transient in nature.
I recently attended the #MeCCSA2016 conference with the sole purpose of listening to other academics and postgraduate researchers talk about their contributions on the subject matter “communities.” There were 160 presentations over this three-day conference and all of the presentations fell under some of the following categories: “communities in the digital age; communities and the commons; communities and cultures; communities on the margins; local and community media; politics and policies of communities; community engagement and cohesion; inclusion and exclusion in communities; communities and the past.”
There were many interesting presentations, one of the immediate benefits of being at this conference was the ability to explore the term community through wider lens than I’ve done previously. One thought-provoking discussion was held by Caroline Molloy who talked about “Re-imagined communities: the adaptation of cultural identity as performed in London Turkish Photography studios.” In her talk she interrogates the practices and images created in the studios and discusses the transformative nature of the photography studios in creating cross-cultural identity in the post-digital era. She also shared a clip from her field work to give an insight into the cultural tastes of the photographs she reviewed. Essentially, she uses the prism of photography to explore the cultural identity of the community. This particular overview made me reflect more closely on the cultural identities evident in my own data, especially in the photography and video artefacts I collected in my research. Even more than reflecting, this particular presentation conjured some further thoughts about the connection between community and identity, which sometimes appear to be separate in theory.
Another discussion that resonated with my research was one presented by Josephine Coleman. In her talk she discusses how feelings of attachment and belonging to place-specific communities can be reinforced, not compromised, by internet delivery of radio programming. She posed very important questions such as “What it means to be local? What does it mean to be part of a community? How is a sense of ‘local community’ achieved and sustained in this digital age?” Ultimately, she concluded that the concept of community is relative, which is similar to my own findings and many of the debates.
There were some other provocative panel discussions such as “Place and community” and “Community Engagement and Participation.” What I also realised was that the topic of community couldn’t be presented without the subject of sustainability, as they were all common components of “Hyperlocal and Community Media” and “Local and Community Media Panel” discussions.
This connects closely with some recent work my colleague Siobhan and I are now doing on sustaining community radio stations within the West Midlands region. I had detailed and engaging discussions with Peter Lewis, Janey Gordon and Andy Williams on said subject matter. We will discuss these views and more at the BCMCR Research Seminar on Wednesday January 27th, 2016. Check out our “Workshop on Community Radio Sustainability: Identifying Issues and Creative Solutions”