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) started out as a site where folks could post audio, video, personal accounts, and whatever else to an open newswire. "Open Newswire" means that anyone can post, at any time, but soon that ideal collapsed. Posts deemed inappropriate were "hidden" by administrators. That means that the link to the post from the newswire disappears. On some indymedia sites, one can view a list of hidden posts on a seperate page, but on others, only administrators can view them. Admins also have the power to block posting from certain IP's - ostensibly to prevent spam, but, in practice, the IP block has, allegedly, been abused.
Due to lack of clear editorial policies, a lot of crap gets posted to the newswires that doesn't get hidden.
The most interesting aspect of indymedia is their attempt to use OpenProcess. Transcripts from irc meetings are posted to the web, http://lists.indymedia.org has archives of all indymedia mailing lists, etc. Decisions are often made by consensus, which makes things quite difficult at times, but a lot of interesting stuff gets done.
Indymedia started in November, 1999 to let the street have a voice during the WTO Protests that became infamously known as the Battle in Seattle. Since then, a few hundred local indymedia collectives have sprung up. Some provide video and audio editing facilities, some do a print publication, and almost all have a website with an open newswire. A lot of good work gets done on a local level. Global projects of note: http://print.indymedia.org, a freely printable and distributably pdf file, semi-weekly in multiple languages, http://radio.indymedia.org, a good source for audio for radio stations (though a lot of it is crappy quality, as might be expected), and various video projects, including http://satellite.indymedia.org/, the "NewsReal" and various documentary films made up of video collected from hundreds of activists with video cameras; notably: http://www.thisisdemocracy.org/, "This is What Democracy Looks Like".
Currently, things are extremely chaotic, but folks are working on a lot of interesting proposals to make a global, multi-lingual democratic media organization work. If they pull it off, it could be a pretty interesting precedent.
Hyde, G. "Independent Media Centers: Cyber-Subversion and the Alternative Press," First Monday Vol. 7(4), April 1, 2002. Available electronically from: http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue7_4/hyde/index.html
I created a series of proposals to add a bit of method to the madness of indymedia's open newswire with "Three Proposals for Open Publishing", http://dru.ca/imc/open_pub.html --DruOjaJay
IndyMedia and TaoCa are the two communication platforms NaomiKlein names in her second book FencesAndWindows as examples where the anti-globalization movement organizes.
I have yet to view an Indymedia collective site where the commentary didn't make the peanut galleries of Slashdot look like the Board of the Mensa Society. Turning those off is probably the best way to keep from being completely disillusioned. Even as a newswire, it's not great for source material, since the stories come with spin attached. I would love an aggregator like google news on top, to collect the same story from different reporters and flip through them, because it seems to me everyone on IM is trying to out-left each other. There are some seriously brave stand-out reporters for IM who don't let their outrage get in the way of facts, but I'm afraid it's hard to pull their signal out of the noise that tends to characterize the rest of indymedia. --ChuckAdams