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book excerpt from The Media Ecosystem: Reoccupying the Collective Imagination

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Pretext: 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.

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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.


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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.


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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 self mediation 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."


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http://mediacology.com
Antonio López is the author of  The Media Ecosystem , and is a media educator and journalist who has written for  Tricycle, Punk Planet, In These Times, High Times, The Brooklyn Rail, Reality Sandwich , and scores of other magazines, newspapers, websites, and academic journals. His (more...)
 

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book excerpt from The Media Ecosystem: Reoccupying the Collective Imagination