Hamish Campbell, looking at the past and future of “native” grassroots media.
In the last three decades, the digital landscape has undergone dramatic changes. I have witnessed its evolution firsthand, working in radical media and engaging with grassroots technology. But this journey hasn’t been without its challenges and setbacks.
The Dawn of the OpenWeb
The early years of the #openweb were a golden age. It was a time when the power of connectivity and innovation was shared and wielded by people rather than confined to corporate silos. This openweb we cherished was built at a human scale, with real conversations and decisions made not by algorithms or profit-driven entities, but by human beings with a vision for a decentralized and inclusive digital space.
However, those pioneering days of the openweb seem distant now. The landscape rapidly shifted, favoring echo chambers over open forums, transforming the dream of a participatory digital spaces into commercialized pockets designed to commodify our data and society
The Rise and Fall of .Coms
The term #dotcons, inspired by the .com boom, exposes the underlying deceit in this new era of the internet. Companies emerged with the aim of capitalizing on our online presence, turning every click and keystroke into a financial opportunity. Social media platforms like #Facebook—aptly dubbed #Failbook and others have become disasters for both our personal mental health and societal construct.
The Encryptionist Agenda
In response to the corporatization of the web, alternative technology, especially within radical grassroots movements, began to focus heavily on encryption. Yet this #encryptionist agenda, instead of fostering a true alternative, led us to a dead end. #Indymedia, which once stood as a beacon of open, participatory journalism, eventually succumbed to this closed technology approach.
The Plight of Progressive Technology
#Fashionista politics—those which blindly follow trends without questioning the underlying systems—have dominated the progressive tech landscape, often embracing the very platforms that stand contrary to open standards. The ideals that spurred movements and created spaces for change have been eroded, leaving us in a technological quagmire that stifles creativity and real progress.
Rebuilding from the Roots
Despite these challenges, hope remains for a resurgence of grassroots media. By revisiting the core principles that made #Indymedia a force in its early days, we can steer the movement back on course.
A Simple Federated Network
I consider Oxford IMC, which I co-founded, as a blueprint for this revival. Through a network of trust-based content sharing, we can create a federated model that allows information to flow freely yet responsibly.
Think of it as a series of nodes: activist news websites, Mastodon instances, peertube channels, and local blogs, all interlinked by trust and moderated collaboration, governed by a simple yet effective set of controls—including link subscribe, moderate/trusted flow, and rollback functions to maintain the integrity of our content.
Trust First, Moderate Later
By focusing on trust-first networking, where content flows are based on established relationships, we not only streamline communication but also protect against the pitfalls of a closed, controlled web. This approach allows for open, decentralized storytelling, with an organic curation system that respects the diversity and autonomy of each node.
Reclaiming and Reshaping Security
Recognizing the need for secure communication without sacrificing openness, the reboot incorporates both bridges to other #4opens network publishing and guidelines for pseudo-anonymous contributions through Tor.
These measures provide a balanced approach, enabling activists to share their stories without fear of repercussion while maintaining a spirit of openness and community-driven journalism.
Foundations of the Reboot
Central to this reboot are the #PGA hallmarks and the #4opens—open data, open source, open standards, and open process. This framework, informed by the lessons from #Indymedia’s past, will ensure that we do not repeat the same mistakes.
Moreover, by adopting federated databases and leveraging tags and flows of news objects, this network will function as a vibrant, resilient web of news, accessible at different levels and capable of adapting to the ever-changing demands of radical grassroots journalism.
Be Part of the Open Media Reboot
I invite you to join us as we embark on this journey to reclaim our digital commons. If you share the vision for an open, grassroots-powered web, visit http://unite.openworlds.info and contribute your expertise. With a commitment to the #4opens and a collaborative spirit, we can usher in a new era of the fediverse centered on truth, empowerment, and community.
This is more than a project—it’s a movement. Let’s create a network that stands as a testament to our collective power, one that honors our past achievements while forging a future that lives up to our highest aspirations. Let’s make history, again.
The open web is not just a concept; it’s our birthright. Together, let’s bring it back to life.
This blog post is a call to action. It’s a bid to revive the original spirit of #Indymedia and extend a hand to those willing to contribute to the future of open, grassroots media.
– Hamish Campbell’s background in grassroots and radical media
– The open web’s early potential for alternative media
# The Failure of Alternative Media
– Rise of big tech like Facebook led to closed and monopolized systems
– Encryptionist agenda went nowhere over the past decade
– Climate crisis shows need for societal alternatives
# The Open Media Network
– Explaining the decentralized federated network model
– Trusted flows of content based on open standards
# Rebooting Indymedia
– Rebuilding the local community news site with focus areas
– Approaches for enabling secure anonymous publishing
# Why Indymedia Failed
– Early successes but internal disputes over openness
– Problems with incompatible customized systems
– Control desires led to user-hostile encryption
# Lessons Learned
– Open standards critical for networks
– Loose flexible processes over rigid bureaucracy
– Explicitly embedding the “four opens” philosophy
# Project Overview
– Building a web of trusted news flows
– Agnostic decentralized network via protocols like ActivityPub
– Get involved to help create alternative media