Book of the Day: What Ecology Can Teach Us about Responsible Media Practice

The French theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin argued that if the biosphere is all that contains life on Earth, then a noosphere contains our collective consciousness. The semiotic version of a noosphere is the semiosphere, which is the totality of human signs and symbols. Anthropologist Wade Davis envisions an ethnosphere, which contains the totality of human cultural and linguistic diversity. The space of mediated civic engagement refers to the public sphere. The mediasphere is an all-encompassing media ecosystem that mixes these various concepts: a mediated cultural commons that facilitates planetary communications.

* Book: The Media Ecosystem. What Ecology Can Teach Us about Responsible Media Practice. By Antonio López. Evolver, 2012.

From the publisher’s summary:

“”In The Media Ecosystem, Antonio López draws together the seemingly disparate realms of ecology and media studies to present a fresh and provocative interpretation of the current state of the mass media—and its potential future. López explores the connections between media and the environment, arguing that just as the world’s powers have seized and exploited the physical territories and natural resources of the earth, so, too, have they colonized the “cultural commons”—the space of ideas that everyone shares. He identifies the root of the problem in the privileging of “mechanistic” thinking over ecological intelligence, which recognizes that people live in a relationship with every other living thing on the planet.

In order to create a more sustainable media ecosystem—just like the preservation of organic ecosystems—we must reconnect our daily media activities to their impact on others and the environment. To become “organic media practitioners,” we must become aware of the impact of media use on the environment; recognize media’s influence on our perception of time, space, and place; understand media’s interdependence with the global economy; be conscious of media’s interaction with cultural beliefs; and develop an ethical framework in order to act upon these understandings. Above all, López calls for media producers and consumers alike to bring a sense of ritual and collaboration back to the process of communication, utilizing collective intelligence and supporting a new culture of participation. Containing both wide-reaching analysis and practical tips for more conscious media use, The Media Ecosystem is designed for all those who seek a more sustainable future.”

The author, Antonio Lopez, writes this about “Reoccupying the Collective Imagination”:

Earth embodies a great spirit, of which we are all a part.

But alienated humans have colonized this planetary life force. Working in service of corporate abstractions, they have forsaken membership in the Earth community for the power and privilege to exploit all its resources and living subjects. Despite being children of Earth, they no longer know from where they come. Instead they enclose commonly shared resources, altering the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans in order to transform our biosphere into a buyosphere. These ecological imperialists cannibalize the living systems they depend on. Not only do they subsist by eating the world, they colonize the media in order to harvest the system’s most valuable resource: human consciousness.

The corporate project of savage capitalism is a colonial war on the spirit of Earth, anima mundi, the all-encompassing life force of minerals, water, air, plants, animals, and humans. Through creativity and the capacity to learn, anima mundi represents the self-regulating power of the world that guides evolution and life. It is both our ancient past . . . and our ancient future.

Rather than acting as a parasite on its life force, human culture should act as part of Earth’s immune system. Such an immune system is encompassed by the cultural commons, the uncommodified activities and mutual support that are key to evolving our species. The cultural commons includes food recipes, agricultural knowledge, spiritual traditions, rituals, healing practices, language, everyday skills, crafts, songs, games, political conventions, and philosophical knowledge. In traditional land-based cultures, the vast array of practices that enables them to survive from year to year are passed between generations, sometimes refined and built upon, but always based on the condition that culture remain “all that we share.”

Characteristics of the cultural commons include reciprocity, mutual support, participation, intergenerational dialogue, self-sufficiency, and receptiveness. Ultimately these practices and behaviors derive from knowledge gleaned from inhabiting the biggest commons of all: Earth. Therefore, the cultural commons is integral to sustainability and is the last line of defense against the fencing off and privatization of life on Earth. For a sustainable cultural commons to thrive, we need organic media that promotes green cultural citizenship and an Earth Democracy.

Coined by Vandana Shiva, Earth Democracy represents the Indian concept of vasudhaiva kutumbakam, Earth family, which encompasses the planetary community of beings that comprise our living systems. Because corporate media and gadget companies promote technological “progress” while excluding living systems from our awareness, organic media practitioners are charged with the responsibility of incorporating an Earth perspective into their engagement of media ecosystems.

The French theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin argued that if the biosphere is all that contains life on Earth, then a noosphere contains our collective consciousness. The semiotic version of a noosphere is the semiosphere, which is the totality of human signs and symbols. Anthropologist Wade Davis envisions an ethnosphere, which contains the totality of human cultural and linguistic diversity. The space of mediated civic engagement refers to the public sphere. The mediasphere is an all-encompassing media ecosystem that mixes these various concepts: a mediated cultural commons that facilitates planetary communications.

As a space of appearance that shapes our interconnected reality, the mediasphere can make visible the spirit of Earth. Imagine the healing and bridging potential of a healthy, conscientious, democratic media space. Unfortunately, the mediasphere is largely colonized by corporate forces that propagate an unsustainable model of unlimited growth and technological progress. This domination is represented by the increased monopolization of traditional mass media (TV, film, popular culture, news, etc.), the commercialization of the internet, and an unsustainable system of media gadget consumption. If unchecked, corporate media’s power to shape our collective imagination inhibits our ability to envision alternatives beyond a colonial model of the world, in which a handful of megacorporations privatizes the planetary commons at the expense of the public good and living systems.

Resistance to corporate domination of the planet is reflected in the struggle for control of the mediasphere between the concentrated wealth holders of the planet and the global majority. Colonized media coordinates the interests of the corporate kleptocracy; decolonized media emerges from daily practice and the communication habits of people. The former is vertically structured and controlled by a handful of multinational megacorporations; the latter constitutes the horizontally networked communications environment that makes up the rest of the global mediasphere.

As such, we see hope in people’s movements around the world: across the planet citizens take root, occupying the last remnants of the commons. Through selfmediation and network savvy, occupations glocalize their struggles by linking local conditions with a larger globalized network. In the process they engage in a kind of cultural citizenship that is shifting planetary culture toward an Earth Democracy. It’s represented by systems theorist Ervin Laszlo’s call to consciously evolve civilization from conquest, colonization, and consumerism to connection, communication, and consciousness. In short, through active engagement we can transition the cultural commons from “my space” to “our space.”

Media’s collective “myth space” is shifting from the topdown, transmission-based media of the Industrial Age to ritual communication. Ritual draws on the ancient traditions at the root of communication: commune, commonness, community, and communion. Through the occupation and reclamation of public spaces and the cultural commons—done in the spirit of conviviality, democracy, and connectivity—we can chart a new course of planetary evolution. When these physical spaces hybridize with global networks, they create an interconnected swarm of raised consciousness.

To this end, we can instigate a kind of media occupation that accelerates the emergent democratization of our collective imagination. Occupy, a transient verb, represents movement and transition in a number of ways: (1) seizing possession or control, (2) dwelling or residing in time or space, (3) residing as owner or tenant, (4) engaging attention, and (5) filling or performing a function. It should not be thought of as a noun or an end, but rather an action. Occupation doesn’t mean taking over the TV studios or editorial offices of corporate media.

It means staking a position as a node within a network that transcends the top-down propaganda machines of the past. Like the fluid media spaces we engage on a daily basis, sites of occupation are provisional, liminal zones. They politicize and socialize according to the form they take.

These five dimensions are expressed by the following characteristics:

* Seizing control.

The past five hundred years of colonization have resulted in the corporate occupation and theft of the global commons from Earth’s human and nonhuman inhabitants. The consolidation of corporate control is leveraged by the monopolization of the symbolic order. Because media represent the planetary communications commons, such a space must remain open, transparent, diverse, and democratic. Occupying the media means reclaiming the cultural commons and envisioning alternate realities beyond the corporatocracy’s vision of world enclosure.

* Dwelling in time or space.

Colonization resulted in a disruption of our ancient sense of time and space, breaking our perceptual bonds with living systems. The antidote requires that we engage a participatory cosmology that reintegrates time and space into a shared reality that extends to global ecology. Our minds and bodies are designed to interact and engage with living systems. The rupture with and virtualization of living systems necessitates that we integrate our perception to acknowledge, respect, and engage the nonhuman world. Media should serve the purpose of making these connections more real and significant.

* Residing.

We reside within embedded landscapes, from how we connect our senses with the environment to the bioregions that feed and nurture us. Occupying the media means the reinhabiting of not just public spaces but living systems. By hybridizing local issues with global movements, these actions glocalize the reclamation of the commons. Media occupation extends beyond the internet, cell phones, plazas, parks, and streets to how we inhabit the landscape of our lifeworld and within our own sense perception.

* Engaging attention.

The colonizers’ most precious commodity is our attention. Daily complacency and inattention enable the commodities system’s ecocidal assault on the planet. Additionally, colonized media repackages and sells the time we spend doing things with media. Through media mindfulness we can allocate our energy through the careful application of our attention so that we no longer manufacture consciousness for the benefit of the corporatocracy.

* Performing a function.

When one occupies a specific position within an organization (whether formal or informal), it entails a set of practices, skills, relationships, and expectations. It also means belonging to communities of practice with unspoken guidelines and norms. Whether working in traditional media companies and marketing firms, producing activist media, participating in education, or engaging in daily media practice, our global emergency calls for explicit ethics. Green cultural citizenship means articulating and thinking about the ethical orientation of our work, and engaging in mindful practice founded on a moral framework that puts the commons and the sacredness of life at the center of our attention.

Media occupation means applying green cultural citizenship to media ecosystems. Every media portal offers the chance for individuals to make the choice of whether to perpetuate the system of conquest and destruction or to become part of a greater evolution in which consciousness and connection build an Earth Democracy. Integral to this evolution is the reintegration of ecological intelligence into our daily practice, in particular how we use and make media. Media occupation and green cultural citizenship cannot be prescribed. There is no singular handbook or manual to direct its activities; the form of its practice comes through its doing and not through description or ideology. These particular practices emerge in the same way that dreaming merges creativity and learning to create new pathways of understanding.

The one thing we can be sure of is that the planet calls upon us to take action. Either we continue to reproduce the colonizers’ planet-destroying delusions, or we restore the mediasphere’s power balance by embracing the one advantage we have: our collective imagination. As such, we are too big to fail.

You are the ultimate mediator. As a medium of the planet’s spirit, channel wisely.”

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