Amanda McDonald Crowley on Thu, 2 Jan 2003 08:08:17 +0100 (CET)

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[oldboys] Crisis/Media: The Uncertain States of Reportage

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From: "rachel" <>
Date: Thu, 2 Jan 2003 14:42:46 -0000

Crisis/Media: The Uncertain States of Reportage

Sarai-Waag Workshop
at Sarai-CSDS, Delhi
March 3-5, 2003

"The hottest place in hell is reserved for those
who tried to stay neutral in times of crisis..."
The Inferno, Dante Alighieri

Crisis/Media, is a conference that will bring together media
professionals, activists, and scholars to discuss crisis in the media,
and the crisis of the media today.

Since September 11, crises in the media have become everyday events
and have taken on global dimensions. But what happens when crisis
becomes commonplace? How can media tell the stories
behind/beneath the crisis? How are the tensions between local/global,
mainstream /alternative, event/representation unfolding? In thinking
about these and other questions, the conference will try to focus on both
the ways in which media cover/create/manage spectacular crisis
events, and on the crisis that this reportage has produced for media
itself. (For a full description See Below)

Key Issues:

*    Are the Crises in the Media, the Crises of the Media? Where do the
lines between reporting in the mainstream and the alternative media
harden, and where do they blur?

*    Has the "broadcast" model, which was the mainstay of the big media
business, proved to be too bulky and too conservative in a world in
which things change by the minute?

*    Has the internet really made it possible for correspondents to be
co-respondents to the realties of a changing world?


*    South Asia : Bearing Witness to the Truth in Difficult Times
*    Correspondents in the Crossfire : Reporting Situations of Conflict
*    The Crisis of Everyday Life : Dispatches from Global Cities
*    Stories of Earth and Water : Reporting Ecological Crises
*    The Future of Global Independent Media Activism

Special focuses and reports from:

South Asia, Argentina, Australia, the Balkans


Plenaries, Discussions, Open Sessions, Screenings


Apart from previously scheduled presentations, the workshop will
feature some open sessions. If you are interested in making a
presentation in one of the open sessions, please send a brief
description of what you want to do to

Support for Travel and Accommodation:

In general, we will not be able to cover any transport or accommodation
costs, for coming to Delhi for the workshop, or for staying in Delhi. If you
need a letter of support from Sarai, in order to raise funding for a trip
that you are planning, then we will be happy to send you one. Write to asking for a letter of support.


If you are not presenting a paper but wish to attend the conference, you
can pre-register by sending an email to


For updates, notices, and schedules from now until the workshop,
check  Links to
various interesting resources and readings are also available from this

For further details contact

Full Description:

CRISIS/MEDIA : The Uncertain States of Reportage

Ever since the events of September 11, the image of a  world in crisis is
something that we have  grown accustomed to. It is not as if crises have
not had global dimensions before. Perhaps all that is different is the
frequency, intensity and reiteration of the reportage of  crises, an
epidemic of images and data of a world out of sorts with itself, which
marks and distinguishes the contemporary moment on a global scale.
In times like this to attempt to be 'objective' or 'neutral' is to become a
mercenary of power, a purveyor of platitudes. At the same time, we have
little understanding of the complex professional and ethical dilemmas
that bedevil the act of the media's bearing witness to our world. The
crisis in the media are the crisis of the media.

The rise of new information technologies has ensured that crises are
reported and commented upon even as they unfold on our television
screens, radio programmes, newspaper pages and computer
monitors. The trailers advertising news programmes have made
images of war, violence, terrorism and disaster the staple diet of the
twenty first century's quotidian sense of the world. Each bulletin
anticipates tomorrow's, or the next bulletin's crisis, the very next crisis.
So that the breaking news may break even, all day, everyday. And yet,
often, they are relinquished to the oblivion from which they emerged, as
rapidly as they emerged.

If the spectacle of the crisis becomes quotidian, banal and
commonplace, does it make sense to speak of a "crisis" anymore, as a
temporally distinct phenomenon, a time apart from the rhythms of
normal time? Or does this overproduction of crises give us an
opportunity to reflect on the making and unmaking of crises, their
announcement and forgetting?

Does it allow us to ask questions about media in crisis with
themselves, about their offerings of uncertain truths to shadowy
audiences. In what way do emerging alternative paradigms of reporting
and commenting on crises, like the Indymedia Network, themselves
become the raw material for mainstream news processing. Where do
the lines between the mainstream and the alternative harden, and
where do they blur? Has the "broadcast" model, which was the
mainstay of the big media business, proved to be too bulky and too
conservative in a world in which things change by the minute? Has the
internet really made it possible for correspondents to be
co-respondents to the realties of a changing world?

To reflect on these and other related issues, Sarai : The New Media
Initiative at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi and
the Society for Old and New Media, Amsterdam will be hosting a three
day international seminar titled - "Crisis/Media :  The Uncertain States of

This conference will deal with both the ways in which media
cover/create/manage spectacular crisis events and also how they deal
with the aftermath of crises. One of the aims of the conference is also to
shift the focus of reflection away from simply looking at the 'event' of the
crisis to looking at the structural processes that anchor what gets
reported as 'the crisis', in everyday life.

Typically, the media crews arrive instantly whenever a "Crisis" hits the
surface of what is constructed as 'Global Consciousness'. Usually, by
the time this happens, the locally available human, cultural and
intellectual resources available in that society have been severely
depleted. This means that the "crisis" is interpreted and made
intelligible mainly by 'experts'. This also means that the global media
fails very often to recognize  the varied approaches to "living" the crisis
that exists on the ground, it also makes the crisis a unique event,
unrelated to what might be linking it to events and processes
elsewhere. The "crisis" then gets reported away as an instance of that
happens to 'other' people and 'other' spaces whose realities are
fundamentally different form that of those who view the crisis from
outside. Typically, the crisis is treated as  something that no one, not
even the people the media crews interview can make sense of, almost
as if it had no history. Finally, the media brings in celebrity
intellectuals and pop figures to ethically salvage the event for the viewers
as a cathartic experience and offer redemption as a therapeutic act. Of
course no one asks the question as to why no one was paying attention to the
situation when there were people trying to make sense of it before
journalists, cultural workers, intellectuals, activists, human rights groups
and other interlocutors succumbed to the crisis that retrospectively seems

The problem cannot of course be posed simply in terms of 'local voices'
versus 'external reportage'. Local voices may be implicated in the crisis
itself, and may be either acting to fuel it, or be silenced by it - just as
the reporter who flies in from elsewhere may either seek to turn the crisis
into a unique spectacle, bereft of context and history, or, be the
'necessary outsider', who can be trusted to listen and report in a manner
that is true to the facts on the grounds without fear or prejudice .

The imperative of critical, analytical reportage, that tries to weave
together a complex pattern of voices, motivations, facts and processes is a
function of sympathy, intelligence, curiosity and a commitment to the
freedom of information that is neither reducible to 'local knowledge' nor to
the 'universal' agendas of freedom and justice, but is in each case a unique
combination of distance as well as intimacy. Each situation engenders its
own vantage points, which can be identified as the centres towards which the
truth about the crisis tends to gravitate. The conference will seek to
understand this dynamic of the shifting dynamic of truth and its relation to
the tensions between closeness and distance, the local and the global, the
mainstream and the alternative versions of the crisis and how it unfolds, as
event and as representation.

The conference will bring together media professionals, activists and
scholars in order to create a dialogue between different kinds of approaches
and spaces. We hope to learn from different crises about the processes that
were similar. We will learn from Kosovo about Gujarat, and from Gujarat
about Rwanda. We will examine structural similarities in the restrictions on
civil liberties after 9/11 across the world; we will also assess how the
media makes sense of the continuing economic crisis in Argentina. We will
examine how popular culture and cinema 'memorialize' crisis situations, or,
create the conditions for selective amnesia. We will view riots in relation
to the degeneration of everyday life, and see unfolding unreported crises in
realities that have to do with water, housing, health and the environment.

Crisis Media will first of all recognize that there is a crisis in and of
the media, and this cannot be addressed simply by calling for less reportage
and more analysis. Instead we will argue for analysis in the reportage, and
a disruption of the apparatus of centralized and centralizing information
networks. We need to break down the same images that everyone sees,
worldwide, in many different ways. And we need to find news ways to tell
stories, and to distribute the untold story. The problem of critical media
analysis of global crises so far has been to deconstruct the ownership of
media and its ideological agenda, attempting to uncover a 'truth' of state
and corporate control behind the news. The conference takes this for
granted, and seeks instead to ask how we may go beyond it, and how
alternative media too can stop looking and feeling like cheaply produced
versions of mainstream media production. Crisis/Media will be taking place
exactly one year after the events of Gujarat 2002, a crisis that was
extensively reported and could be either memorialized or passed over in
silence by the media as the years go by.

It has become customary in situations of extreme violence to try and make
sense of the terror in terms of atavistic and primordial passions, in terms
well rehearsed in the Huntingtonian theses of the 'Clash of Civilizations'.
In a peculiar sense, this 'normalizes' the crisis more than anything else,
so the eruption of the crisis is seen in terms of irreconcilable
differences, and the return to normality is seen in terms of generous
'cultural' accommodation and reconciliation. Both these explanatory moves,
of the eruption and of the return to normality, offer a way out of a
critical analysis of the situations that turn into crises. They also offer a
way of returning to the 'business as usual' attitude that eventually papers
over the crisis as preparations are made to unravel the 'next' crisis on the
world stage. The conference will search for paradigms other than the vaguely
cultural to understand situations of crisis, so that crises can be
encountered intellectually on concrete and material terms.

The workshop will have keynote speakers, presentation sessions, open
sessions, public interviews, screenings, and exhibitions. The event will
be audio streamed and video fragments will be available after the event
as streaming files on the website of the Society of Old and New Media.
The conference will take place at Sarai, Delhi in the first week of March
2003, after the presentation of the third Sarai reader on February 28,

A team at Sarai will document the proceedings of the conference and
interview the presenters to create a log/journal of the conference.
Transcripts will be made available on the Waag website. The aim is to
edit the material into a publication that can become a benchmark in
thinking about media practice

------ End of Forwarded Message
Amanda McDonald Crowley
Freelance cultural worker, facilitator, researcher, curator

Dec 2002 - Mar 2003: artsworker in residence, Sarai New Media Initiative,
Delhi, India. (supported by Asialink)

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