Voice and representation in participatory media

  • Mark Dunford

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This submission draws on research and practice completed over a twelve-year period (2003-2015). It explores changes within the media economy, considers the historical development of participatory media and then interrogates practice within it by using two key periods of action research (Inclusion Through Media, 2004- 2008; Digital Storytelling with older people in their communities across two major projects – Extending Creative Practice and Silver Stories, 2009-2015) as fields of enquiry. Three supporting documents (Building the Knowledge Economy: A Strategy for the Media and Related Creative Industries in the Channel Corridor, 2003; Digital Science: A Collaboration between the Wellcome Trust and Nesta, 2006; The Power of Youth Media to Change Lives, 2012) set out the changing nature of media from 2003 to 2010. The first adopts a strategic approach to economic development and, in doing this, shows the particularity of the media economy. Taken together, the second explores the use of media within a new market and the third reviews the growth and importance of youth media. The three reports examine the impact of digitalization on the media landscape. This combination of diverse research sources enables the submission to draw on an evidential richness transcending different worlds of policy, practice and theory. In doing this it is able to join dots to provide a clearer picture of voice and representation within participatory media. The submission argues that the development of new forms of media activity enabled by digitalization led directly to new modes of community-based media which, in turn, created spaces for community based practitioners that emphasized the importance of the voice of the participant. It uses three concepts of voice, namely opportunities for new voices to speak and be heard, an increased mutual awareness flowing from a greater influence over distribution and exhibition and the potential for new intensities of listening as a means to interrogate the notion that digitalization has increased the range and number of voices across the media. The thesis argues that these changes have shifted the dynamics of participatory media away from a model dependent on the patronage of broadcasters to a more varied landscape with lower costs and a greater range of funding opportunities. This has led directly to an increase in the amount and range of media. New forms of media, such as Digital Storytelling, have acquired an international standing. The thesis considers the extent to which these changes have created a space for the voices of participants to be expressed and heard. It goes on to argue that the representative components of these new forms of media are partly illusory as the participant voice is frequently distorted and curtailed by the need to meet an explicit requirement set by the funding agencies, the longer term needs of the producer or by the inability of the work to reach and engage an audience. Examples to illustrate these points are taken from Digital Storytelling work completed over the past six years.
Date of AwardJun 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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