Welcome to the Alternative Media Archive Research Project
The Canadian Alternative Media Archive Research Project (CAMA) is a two-year study of archiving practices across Canada in connection with ‘alternative media’ cultural production. By ‘alternative media’ we mean citizen-based cultural participation that emerges from within the intersecting tensions of engagement in social action designed to influence political economic, social and cultural issues; that challenges concentrations of media power; and that plays a role in the construction of community (Kozaolanka et al. 2012).
Alternative media play a significant role in society (i) by alerting the public to issues underrepresented or not covered by the mainstream media; (ii) by offering a diversity of perspectives on issues of public concern; and (iii) by creating opportunities for Canadians to participate in the creation of Canadian culture. In addition, alternative/citizens media often exist within their own alternative public micro-spheres, in which they practice prefigurative politics by being organized and by operating in a way that reflects the social change and innovation they are working towards.
Alternative media have historically and continue today to play a key role in Canadian culture by bringing to public discussions points of view and ideas that would otherwise be absent, marginalized, delegitimized, or rejected from commercial media. Yet examples of alternative media can be difficult to find, especially historical examples, and alternative media culture is highly transient. Libraries typically do not carry large holdings of alternative media products, which are often produced in small numbers in localized settings by volunteer labour without funds or time to maintain them. Current databases are scant, and no archive devoted specifically to alternative media currently exists in Canada.
Without a central archive much of this work languishes in shoeboxes and basements, in an unindexed patchwork of hard drives held by the organizations themselves, or has been lost altogether. The purpose of this project is to work towards ensuring that a historical record of alternative media culture in Canada exists.
Our first efforts are to find out what is happening on the ground and in communities across Canada: Who if anyone is archiving alternative media culture? How are alternative media organizations themselves archiving their work? What are their archiving tools and strategies? What resources do they have and need? And what archives currently exist in libraries, provincial and university archives? Where are alternative media holdings currently in Canada and how are they indexed and catalogued?
Our longer-term goal is to bring together a community of interested stakeholders in a conversation about archiving alternative media culture in Canada, to share resources and expertise, and to provide useful information to archivists, activists and the Canadian public.