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Heather Gorgura

Graduating Summer 2003 - B.A. in Political Science and Comparative Literature

Research interests: Internet-driven alternative media and activist networks

My interest in the potential of Internet-driven alternative media as an activist resource is longstanding. In 2000 I became involved with the Seattle Independent Media Center (IMC) and witnessed how media activists worked at creating a space where voices traditionally marginalized and muted by the mainstream media could be heard. This was open publishing. The IMC sites, first in Seattle, now around the world, are run on special software platforms allowing visitors to the web sites to post original articles and editorials, enabling the public to become the media.

The broader implications of such a resource came into focus for me in early 2003 during Professor Lance Bennett’s graduate course on “Global Activist Communication Networks.” The readings and class discussions revealed the intersections between the current socio-political environment (globalization), the emergence of new forms of activist organization (networks), and the development of a new activist tool—open publishing on the Internet.

Research project: "The Net Repertoire: Global Activist Networks and Open Publishing"

In “The Net Repertoire: Global Activist Networks and Open Publishing,” I explore how globalization, in tandem with rapidly evolving communication technologies, has given rise to the global activist network. I posit that these activist networks are using open publishing to democratize the news media and alter the balance of political power in the nascent 21st century. After theorizing the origins and implications of open publishing as an activist tool, I go on to offer a conceptualization of open publishing, including a model for assessing the level of openness, interactivity and transparency of a given site. I conclude with two case studies—the Palestinian rights movement and the international protest against the U.S.-led war on Iraq—in which I examine how global activists networks are using the various facets of the open publishing forum to broadcast their voices and claim political power.