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Conclusions, Reflections

In this chapter, I have outlined how activists, scholars, and, to a lesser degree, reformers approach media change, each with their own priorities and strategies. I have also attempted to demonstrate how members of these groups may either enroll or mark distance between themselves and members of other groups, sometimes simultaneously. In essence, both activists and scholars are concerned with both marking difference and effacing boundaries in order to advance what they feel are the most meaningful, constitutive aspects of work to change the media system. Even while they recognize, and indeed highlight, distinctions between their goals and work styles, each of the groups I have discussed also strives to overcome these differences at times, in order to foster, if not collaboration, at least a sense of common cause or common way of seeing.

I want to point out that the insistence on “making a real difference,” however it is defined, underscores the similarity in activist and academic projects around media democracy. Like activists, academics occupy a mediating position, making knowledge claims and mobilizing them across networks. As anthropologist Dominic Boyer suggests, a sense of critical agency pervades the work of intellectuals;46 elsewhere I have suggested that this concept may be useful in understanding activism as well.47 Normative intervention does not necessarily flow from critical agency, but they are closely related, as an impulse to intervene is predicated on criticality, as well as the not-insignificant belief that social change is possible. Thus even out of the “variegated, even chaotic field of collective action” complementarity may emerge. Differences matter (even greatly), but efforts to strategically efface boundaries between groups may also yield productive alignments and unforeseen transformations.

 
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