GUAGE: by Jennifer LaFontaine and Camille Turner socially engaged media


Defining the terms of of community engagement

Socially engaged media is an emerging field involving community/artist collaborations using communications media and new technologies. It's practioners are activists and artists from various backgrounds who hack into the closed system technology operates within to empower communities who have been misrepresented or underrepresented by this media. It brings resources to the grass roots so participants can become makers rather than consumers of technology.

Media art is difficult to pin down because it is in a constant state of flux. Here are a few interpretations of the many words used interchangeably to describe various forms of collaborative community media.

Media Arts

"Contemporary media art covers such a wide range of categories that a course of studies could be designed around simply exploring its genealogy: experimental film, expanded cinema (including film installations, multiple projections and film performances), videotapes, video installations, closed-circuit installations, video performances, computer art, computer graphics, computer animations, CD-ROMs, Internet and web art, virtual reality, sound art, multimedia installations and performances, which may or may not be interactive, net radio and net TV, live broadcasting, VJ raves and phone and fax art – all these may be categorised as media art."
Goethe Institut

"Our lives are continually being recorded and shaped by mechanical devices. Through still photography and moving image and sound, identities are created, memories are constructed and culture is illuminated. At the birth of the new millennium access to information is accelerating beyond conventional means of comprehension. Media forms are evolving to keep pace and provide a context for meaning."
Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Vancouver

Socially Engaged Media

"Involvement in extended collaborations with community, environmental or social agencies."
LITTORAL: New Zones for Critical Art Practice

"addressing constantly shifting social and political issues, or working as catalysts and activists"
Locus+, UK

Community Arts

Community Art is an arts process that involves the work of artists and community members in a collaborative creative process resulting in collective expereince and public expression.  It provides a way for communities to express themselves; enables artists, through financial or other supports, to engage in creative activity with communities; and is collaborative - the creative process is equally important as the artistic outcome.
Ontario Arts Council

Community Cultural Development

"Even though it is a mouthful, we prefer 'community cultural development' because it encapsulates the salient characteristics of the work:

Community, to distinguish it from one-to-many arts activity and to acknowledge its participatory nature, which emphasizes collaborations between artists and other community members;

Cultural, to indicate the generous concept of culture (rather than, more narrowly, art) and the broad range of tools and forms in the use in the field, from aspects of traditional visual- and performing - arts practise, to oral hisotry approaches usually associated with historical research and social studies, to use of high-tech communications media, to elements of activism and community organizing more commonly seem as part of non-arts social change campaigns;

Development, to suggest the dynamic nature of cultural action, with its ambitions of conscientization... and empowerment and to link it to other enlightened community development practises, especially those incorporating principles of self-development rather than development imposed from above.
from "Community, Culture and Globalization"

Don Adams and Arlene Goldbard, page 27 in the book Community, Culture and Globalization, The Rockerfeller Foundation, 2002