Of media tools & instruction manuals

Of media tools & instruction manuals

By Autumn Labbé-Renault

Special to The Enterprise

This column originally appeared in The Davis Enterprise Feb. 26, 2009

I saw “The Lightning Thief” this past weekend, which may explain my analogy of contemporary media to a Hydra, that multi-headed Greek mythological beast that, if decapitated, grows a few more heads to replace what was severed.

To put it simply, no matter which way I move these days, there’s a new media tool, coupled with the imperative to share information faster, better and in ever-new ways. Much like that Hydra, technology and information has changed and morphed into something truly magnificent and sometimes unpredictable. It’s a challenge to keep pace with the tools of the day, but it’s the role of community media centers to do just that.

Our local community media center, Davis Media Access (DMA) started out as public access television channel Davis Community Television in 1988, and for many years it used cable television as a community soapbox, an information source, and training platform.

The public access channel—along with its educational and government counterparts--is still here and still fulfilling those community needs, and its history and significance as a community institution is wide and deep. That core has given us strength and presence to   evolve along with the times, and as a media center, DMA has been busy growing up around it, embracing radio, Internet, social media and the like.

Today we’re home to a small but knowledgeable staff that is rooted in community development and community building, as well as versed in a wide variety of media technologies and applications. We are a partner to many non-profits and community-based organizations, as well as local agencies, advising on programs and media strategies, recording community events for posterity, training volunteers, developing websites, and engaging and empowering youth.

We’re also home to many active volunteers and supporters. Our community members come to us for help in understanding their own equipment, or to borrow ours. They come for workshops, internships, hands-on opportunities, how to’s, and to learn how to edit or blog. They come to learn about digital copyright law, and to get their word out. They come because the services are available free or low-cost. They come to get information, to engage, to have fun.

How and where their videos or radio programs are seen and heard varies widely. It matters not that they’re on cable or a website or a smartphone or iTunes, it matters that they’re local. In this age of media saturation, our community media partners provide and promote localism, creating a nexus for the community to create, share and archive their voice and identity.

Media is pervasive in our culture. In all its infinite forms, media has the capacity to be a powerful tool and like most tools, it helps to have an instruction manual. DMA is the walk-in, talk-to-a-real-person version of that manual.

To learn more, please consider attending a monthly orientation. The next one takes place at 7 p.m. on March 10 at DMA, located at 1623 Fifth Street in Davis. You can also find us online at http://davismedia.org.

Autumn Labbé-Renault is executive director of Davis Media Access and writes this column monthly.