Clemencia Rodriguez

Clemencia Rodriguez

Eminent community media scholar, Clemencia Rodriguez has advocated that instead of excessive focus on media technologies in community media, we explore ‘media at the margins’ in terms of how these technologies are used by people to meet the always shifting local information and communication needs.

Rodriguez, who is a professor of Colombian origin at the University of Oklahoma in the U.S., is known for her pioneering work embodied in books such as Fissures in the Mediascape and Citizens ’ Media against Armed Conflict.  Delivering a plenary address at the recently concluded conference of the International Association for Media & Communication Research in Montreal, she drew attention to how specific media ecologies develop at the margins.  “At the margins, media tend to be less universal, less driven by global trends and markets, and more grounded in local time, place, interest, and needs.”  Variously called alternative media, community media, citizens’ media, and social movement media, media at the margins, she suggests, exist as a plurality, with each margin producing its own type of media.

Exploring media practices in the geographic margins of Colombia, Rodriguez underlined how some of these initiatives have developed ‘idiosyncratic media pedagogies’ based on local languages and aesthetics.  Giving the example of the use of the ‘human microphone’ by the Occupy protesters of Zucotti Park, New York City, she seeks to demonstrate how community communicators identify communication needs and use their skills and available resources to get around a problem. Rather than looking for linearity and homogeneity in community media, she says, scholars must more productively focus on processes of cross-pollination, adaptation, hybridization, and replication that are often visible in grassroots media.

Advocating a shift away from ‘technological fascination’ bias, Rodriguez wants community media scholars to understand what she calls, ‘communication rhizospheres,’ the micro-structures and processes that promote a range of media and communication practices within social movements.   Grassroots communicators exist in a communication rhizosphere where media use is not determined by whether technology is old or new, digital or not digital; “what determines media use is a flux of historical information and communication needs, and how embedded community communicators employ available technologies to address these needs.”

Vinod Pavarala