The University of Tampere, Finland, is helping people in local communities use new media to promote discussion and tackle social issues. Esa Sirkkunen describes their Locality in the Net project.
Some theoretical and practical commitments of the Locality in the Global Net project.
Journalism critics are saying that today's commercially driven journalism is detached from the lives and problems of its audience. Journalism tends to follow the agenda of social elites rather than the diverse agendas of other actors and groups. In this way journalism offers the role of passive and helpless onlookers in relation to the social world.
Locality in the Global Net will be trying to find ways in which to turn the audience (or at least the interested audience segments) into a public defined more by an orientation to discussion and problem-solving than by private consumption of media products. The key question concerns the role that the Internet can play in this process.
'Virtual communities' often bring together like-minded people who share similar values and life-styles. In the Locality project our chief concern is not to create these kinds of virtual communities; we are more interested in geographical communities, in the interaction going on within these communities and in how the Net could help to promote and enrich this interaction.
New technologies are not inherently deliberative. The problem is how to actualise the public and deliberative potential of new technologies by encouraging people to apply them for purposes of exercising their democratic rights, for making their voice heard, for telling their own stories.
The project will be cooperating with people who are active in their communities, offering them the opportunity to use new digital media in pursuing their goals. We do not believe that there is a growing demand for these technologies as such; that is why we have to locate the ongoing social interaction or public discussion and try to strengthen it.
In order to reach a broad and genuinely diverse audience, we will also be employing 'old' media; this way we will be able to reach the audience thatdoes not have access to computers. The Locality project is also concerned to promote more equal access to new technologies because their commercially based distribution tends to deepen social and cultural differences. To reverse this undemocratic development, steps are needed to broaden and equalise the distribution of computer literacy.
In a nutshell, the Locality in the Global Net project is concerned to
In a first step we have introduced the Mansetori &endash; an umbrella website for different activities (http://mansetori.uta.fi) More information about Mansetori and contact information: http://mansetori.uta.fi/infoe.htm
. August 1999.