Rethinking the term ‘community’

Community is a key component of my PhD thesis, which essentially looks at the impact of a community media project based in Trinidad and Tobago. In my own research I make references to various ideas of communities such as “imagined communities” (See the works of Burns (1994) Anderson (1983), Carey (1989), Cohen (1985). I also refer to Rennie’s (2011), Possi’s (2003) and Downing’s (2001) contribution to the discussions in my literature review, where they talk in one way or the other about various facets of community such as a localism, politics, professional, nostalgic, provision of homogeneity for minority groups, subordinated social classes. While some theorists perceive community as a value characteristic, others approach community as one that describes a place, interest or form of communion (Fraser and Estrada, 2000, p.76; Wilmott, 1986; Lee and Newby, 1983; and Crow and Allan, 1995).


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All of these views are important because they allow for me think of community more broadly, i.e. within and outside the context of community media. However, based on the literature I reviewed debates on the term community have not necessarily painted a clearer picture of community media. Some concerns emerge regarding one’s awareness of the community’s shared characteristics, and the failure to consider the transient nature of said cohesive factors in some ideas on community. In my view, there remains a lack of a clarity on the concept of community. However, Patel (1998) claims that this search for a clear definition of community attaches unconstructive labels within societies and people should not be restricted to these labels or identity as people are exposed to countless influencing factors. Although I can understand Patel’s point this lack of clarity in the conceptualisation of “community” contributes to the blurred nature associated with terms such as community media

For my own impact case study on the Shoot to Live project in Trinidad and Tobago it is interesting to use some of the concepts proposed by scholars in analysing the theme community. These views would make for a stimulating about the Shoot to Live findings in exploring what kind of communities exist and whether or not communities take one shape or if they are an amalgamation of various discussions. The more significant outcome of this study would be to discover whether or not new ideas on community will be grounded in the data collected.

After analysing my data for my qualitative research the term community is illustrated as a geographical location, with shared attributes and the ability to connect individuals through cultural and social values remains relevant even in a technologically-driven era. In examining the practice of community in this study I also discovered that the formation of a community is not always intentional; diversity still exists within communities; and that numerous community fractions exist. The community media project I assessed established a newly-formed, temporary, and positive community. Despite the short-term nature of this project the contributions made by this temporary type community appears to be significant and impactful to some extent. Though there is a concern about temporary-type projects, I learnt that the focus should be on maximising the contributions of these transitory communities. Meanwhile, collaboration among existing communities can aid in the post project activities.

However, I would like to explore this notion of community a bit further and I believe that attending the #MeCCSA2016 conference next year is critical to rethinking the term community within this context because the MeCCSA conference theme this year is “community.” I will keep you posted on the progression of my thoughts on this subject matter.

Here are some related blogs and links: Reflecting on the MeCCSA Conference 2016| Sustaining Community Journalism ActivitiesBirmingham Center for Media and Cultural StudiesBirmingham City University| Arts Design & Media PGRStudio


Procrastination and my sample abstracts for Conference Presentation

Procrastination has been my friend for the longest time it seems.

“I can do it tomorrow or the tomorrow of tomorrows.”

“I know I should do it, but I just can’t seem to get started.”

“Let me check FB or some searches in web one more time – then I’ll get going.”


In my attempt to unfriend this huge obstacle I will publish sample abstracts, which I have been meaning to upload for some weeks now.

Submitting abstracts for conference presentations can be a bit tricky especially when you are doing it for the first time. Although some may say this is a no-brainer just follow the submission guidelines…  I remained a bit perplexed as to what I was supposed to submit but I submitted ‘something’ anyway. I know this might sound silly but I guess for me it was a matter of deciding do I write something new or do I submit an abstract that’s within the remit of my research. After deliberating and discussing with my supervisor he definitely advised sticking to the area of research. In this way, one is less likely to become distracted and the writing may actually add substance to the research project.

So with that said here are my abstract samples that have been written within the last 2-3 years:

Abstract 1

What contributions can community media make to people-centred development in Trinidad and Tobago?

People-centred development is an interesting form of transformation, as it focuses on giving voice and agency to the people and this can be done through a myriad of processes. The practice of community media is an interesting phenomenon, as it has similar premises of the people-centred development paradigm. Observing the relationship between both variables to assess whether or not and in what ways they can contribute to each other made this study interesting, as this type of media has been under researched and neglected. Most of the existing media investigations reflect the mainstream media and the facilitating type of role it plays in development. The few researchers that have ventured into researching both the community media and development discourse have argued that the concept of development has made it quite difficult to measure any type of input. Therefore, this study attempted to be much more specific as it matched one of the best-suited types of development with community media so that signs of social change can be much easily measured. The findings unearth data that illustrates how a media type ‘for the people’ may still reach the grassroots audience even though the medium is utilised as a ‘go-between’ between the people and decision makers. This paper also demonstrated that notwithstanding call-in-segments and emails from the local people, they were still able to participate in bringing the issues to the fore.  In the final analysis of this research document it was deduced based on the case study that there are various ways in which community media have been a means of attaining people-centred development. However, no evidence gathered has exemplified that community is an end in itself in attaining people-centred development.

Abstract 2


The community media fraternity slowly became apparent in the 1970s to generate a bottom-up form of communication after years of dominance by the commercially-driven and top-down mainstream media terrain (Louw 2001:53-54; Jakubowicz 2009). These fundamental flaws, identified in mainstream media, led activists in Europe (Nigg and Wade 1980), Latin America (Fox 1988; Mattelart 1986; White 1980 and 1983) and South Africa (Louw, 1989) to develop a community media framework, which aimed to provide a platform for the voiceless. These activists and many other community media scholars and practitioners, such as, Jankowski (2003), Rennie (2006) Gordon (2008) Fuller (2007) and Howley (2010), continue to debate the definition, organisation, structure and models of this nonmainstream form. As a result, many perplexed concepts and models of community media have materialised (Gordon 2008; Howley 2010). Beyond these ‘elusive’ and highly debatable definitions of community media, the amalgamation of theoretical approaches and distinguishing features prohibit this media form from achieving self-sustainability (Carpentier, et al. 2007).

Still, many theorists remain undeterred by the critical imperfections aforementioned of community media, as they believe that this particular nonmainstream form offers some factual advantages. According to Jakubowicz (2009), community media has a pluralistic element, whereby it plays an important role not only within the media fraternity but more importantly within any given society. In other respects, Carpentier and Scifo (2009:115-118) assert: “Despite their financial and organisational weaknesses… community media are being increasingly recognised as the third and distinct sector of broadcasting by recent policy and regulatory developments in Europe and across the globe.” To this end, it is important to maintain community media’s existence, so that society can improve and maximise on this outlet, as it offers valid alternatives to mainstream (Gordon 2008:11; Lewis 2006:13-39). Furthermore, community media enterprises are evolving through the use of a social enterprise approach (CCI 2011). Therefore, this evolution provides ‘a glimmer of hope’ for community media forms that encounter the critical issue of sustainability.

Without regard to ongoing debates on community media, scholars in this discipline have identified the areas that remain unexplored within the community media discourse: “the main deficiency in community media research is the paucity of theoretical grounding and model building” (Jankowski 2003:11). Therefore, with the aims and objectives of this research, which is to essentially assess the community media industry in Trinidad and Tobago, the outcomes will provide the basis for the creation of an improved philosophy and practice within this industry.

Abstract 3

The effectiveness of the Shoot To Live community media initiative in addressing the needs of the at-risk youth in Trinidad and Tobago.    

Practitioners and or scholars have presented arguments on the concepts, characteristics and theories of community media. While there might be some consensus on the community media debates presented, fundamental differences remain. One of the arguments, considering the title of this project, is that community media can be utilised as a social change tool (Rennie 2006:37). Evidence demonstrates that community media have been implemented to address social issues, such as crime and delinquency, in many parts of the globe (Servaes 2003). Still, theorists remain concerned about these types of community media initiatives, as many similar projects were fraught with fundamental issues that undermined its ability to be effective (Servaes 2009).

Therefore, a study of the Shoot To Live programme can potentially augment ideas on community media’s effectiveness in social change. The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Trinidad and Tobago has taken this approach in their attempt to address issues faced by at-risk youth by launching the Shoot To Live programme. The main objective of this project is to empower 15-20 young men between the ages of 12-16 years residing within at-risk areas of Trinidad and Tobago through a combination of life skills training, photography and videography (YMCA 2010).

Thanks for reading!