oAccess	  360 	  Building	  engaged	  communities	  in	  a	  digital	  age	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	         AMHERSTMEDIA .ORG...
 	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  	  By	  Martha	  Fuentes	  Bautista,	  Ph.D.,	...
                            AMHERSTMEDIA .ORG                                                                   	  	  In	 ...
This	  evaluation	  also	  reveals	  that	  in	  fact	  Amherst	  Media	  functions	  as	  a	  regional	  access	  resourc...
Table	  of	  Contents	  	  	  I.	  Introduction	  	  	  ……………………………………………………………………………………	                                 ...
I.	  Introduction	  	  In	  the	  last	  two	  years,	  results	  of	  studies	  and	  public	  inquiries	  on	  the	  fut...
II.	  Media	  Localism	  2.0	  	  	  Media	  localism	  policies	  in	  the	  U.S.	  have	  been	  conceived	  as	  a	  me...
digital	  technologies,	  and	  distribute	  video	  content	  online	  and	  across	  different	  media	  platforms.	  Ho...
Research	  on	  digital	  media	  education	  has	  also	  found	  that	  increasing	  user’s	  competencies	  in	  the	  ...
PEG	  channels	  and	  Community	  Access	  Centers	  that	  support	  them	  bear	  great	  potential	  to	  serve	  as	 ...
the	  whole,	  local	  newspapers	  –print	  and	  online–	  are	  the	  preferred	  sources	  of	  public	  affairs	  and...
III.	  Mapping	  Amherst	  Media’s	  Publics	  	  This	  study	  assesses	  only	  the	  experience	  of	  the	  Amherst	 ...
1.	  Users’	  socio-­‐demographics	  	  	  Participants	  in	  this	  study	  tended	  to	  be	  older,	  less	  ethnicall...
2.	  Amherst	  Media	  as	  a	  Regional	  Community	  Access	  Resource	  	  Our	  study	  reveals	  that	  Amherst	  Med...
Non-­‐Amherst	  residents	  are	  an	  active	  and	  vibrant	  part	  of	  the	  AM	  user	  community.	  In	  focus	  gr...
•      Watch	  online	  videos:	  69.9%	  watches	  between	  one	  and	  ten	  hours	  of	  online	  videos	             ...
We	  found	  that	  only	  16%	  of	  people	  in	  our	  sample	  lack	  of	  high-­‐speed	  Internet	  access	  at	  hom...
4.	  Awareness	  of	  Amherst	  Media	  services	  	  Survey	  results	  indicate	  that	  contact	  with	  local	  social...
the	  center	  should	  think	  more	  creatively	  of	  training	  and	  outreach	  activities	  for	  low-­‐income	  res...
IV.	  Amherst	  Media	  and	  the	  Local	  Information	  Ecosystem	  	  Perhaps,	  the	  most	  valuable	  contribution	 ...
• Direct	  use	  of	  Amherst	  center	  facilities	  (46.8%),	  and	  content	  production	  for	  the	           web	  a...
The	  need	  of	  ‘connecting’	  with	  local	  community,	  and	  keeping	  up	  with	  local	  public	  affairs	  is	  t...
looking	  for	  training	  opportunities,	  contact	  with	  Amherst	  media	  staff	  and	  members	  of	  the	  local	  ...
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem
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Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem

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Responding to the challenges of the digital future, AmherstMedia.org commissioned a communication needs assessment of its users, seeking broader community input and participation in ongoing efforts to strengthen its services in the digital transition. This report summarizes the findings of the research that took place between April and November 2011, and involved a general survey, focus group discussions, and in-depth interviews with users of Amherst Media’s facilities and training services, and viewers of video content distributed through local cable channels, and the Web.

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Access 360o - Rebuilding citizen participation in the community information ecosystem

  1. 1. oAccess  360  Building  engaged  communities  in  a  digital  age                 AMHERSTMEDIA .ORG      
  2. 2.                                                      By  Martha  Fuentes  Bautista,  Ph.D.,  with  assistance  from  Verity  Norman  and  Diana  Coryat.  National  Center  of  Digital  Government,  UMass  Amherst  Amherst,  Massachusetts    The   author   wants   to   express   her   gratitude   to   Amherst   Media’s   user   community,   staff,  board  members,  and  the  Town  of  Amherst  for  their  participation  in  and  support  to  this  study.          This  work  is  licensed  under  the  Creative  Commons  Attribution-­‐NonCommercial-­‐ShareAlike  3.0  Unported  License.  To  view  a  copy  of  this  license,  visit  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-­‐nc-­‐sa/3.0/.  
  3. 3.   AMHERSTMEDIA .ORG    In  recent  years,  broadband  and  digital  media  technologies  have  renewed  opportunities  to  produce,  distribute  and  exchange  information  and  culture.    However,  according  to  the  FCC’s  groundbreaking  report  on  “The  Information  Needs  of  Communities”  (2010),  localities  around  the  country  now  face  new  challenges,  more  prominently,  a  shortage  of  locally  relevant  information  and  news,  less  accountability,  and  diminished  local  capacities  to  generate  content  that  meets  these  needs.      In  2008,  after  more  than  three  decades  of  operation,  Amherst  Media  revamped  its  services  to  expand  digital  media  training,  citizen  productions  and  online  distribution  of  digital  media  content  to  serve  public,  educational,  and  government  information  needs  of  our  community.  In  the  last  four  years,  and  with  continuous  support  of  the  Town  of  Amherst  and  local  residents,  we  have  reorganized  our  operations  to  become  a  Digital  Community  Access  Center.  This  process  has  entailed  digitizing  and  retooling  the  equipment,  developing  new  training  services,  upgrading  online  distribution  of  our  programs,  reorganizing  staff  positions  to  fulfill  new  functions,  rebranding  our  organization,  and  becoming  an  Apple  Authorized  Training  Center.      Seeking  broader  citizen  input  and  participation  in  this  process  of  change,  Amherst  Media  commissioned  an  evaluation  of  its  services.  We  wanted  to  better  understand  who  was  using  or  not  using  our  services;  how  our  programs  and  services  meet  information  needs  of  local  residents;  and  what  they  would  like  to  see  improved.  We  are  pleased  to  present  the  results  of  this  process  of  public  consultation  that  engaged  more  than  200  users  of  our  services  through  surveys,  focus  group  discussions  and  individual  interviews.  Amherst  Media  would  like  to  thanks  Dr.  Martha  Fuentes-­‐Bautista,  faculty  of  Communication  and  Public  Policy  at  UMass  Amherst,  and  her  team  for  designing  the  research,  and  leading  the  consultation  process.    Findings  of  the  evaluation  have  been  both  encouraging  and  surprising,  identifying  practical  ways  to  improve  our  services.  For  instance,  we  found  that  the  majority  of  our  users  not  only  watch  our  programs  on  cable  channels  and  online  but  also  make  intensive  use  of  our  facilities  for  various  activities.  They  include:  video  production  and  software  development;  access  to  state-­‐of-­‐the-­‐art  digital  equipment  and  broadband  services;  vocational  training,  educational  and  career  projects;  and  variety  of  community  events  and  social  gatherings.  The  public  expresses  great  approval  for  the  changes  implemented  so  far.  However,  users  would  like  to  see  more  media  training  classes,  and  expanded  outreach  to  local  youth  and  students  of  the  Five  Colleges,  senior  citizens,  and  members  of  low-­‐income  neighborhoods  in  the  greater  Amherst.        
  4. 4. This  evaluation  also  reveals  that  in  fact  Amherst  Media  functions  as  a  regional  access  resource  for  communities  of  Western  Mass.  Forty  percent  of  participants  in  the  study  are  residents  of  up  to  17  communities  throughout  the  region.  Some  of  them  watch  our  programs  online,  and  drive  long  distance  to  use  our  services.  They  greatly  appreciate  and  contribute  to  the  creative  culture  and  economy  of  Amherst.    The  survey  finds  that  75%  of  our  users  have  used  our  website  to  watch  programs,  check  community  information,  register  in  media  training  classes,  or  do  other  transaction  with  the  center.  They  consider  http://amherstmedia.org  a  great  community  resource  but  would  like  to  see  better  archiving  practices,  so  content  can  be  more  easily  located.  Users  also  watch  the  local  Government  Channel  (Ch  17)  frequently,  and  as  they  explain  it,  its  transmissions  add  transparency  and  openness  to  our  local  government.  However,  they  would  like  to  see  citizen  news  segments  developed,  and  more  dynamic  coverage  of  local  public  affairs.  They  recommend  developing  partnerships  with  local  newspapers  and  other  access  centers  in  the  region  to  increase  the  circulation  of  locally  relevant  information.    Findings  and  recommendations  of  this  report  will  inform  our  strategic  planning  as  we  continue  our  work  to  alleviate  any  sign  of  “digital  divides”  and  “participation  gaps”  in  the  Town  of  Amherst.  We  also  invite  other  media  access  centers  to  use  the  template  developed  by  Dr.  Fuentes-­‐Bautista,  and  consider  expanding  the  framework  to  gather  data  about  community  access  users  and  operations.  Access  users  can  not  only  help  us  to  improve  our  work  but  also  inform  and  lead  local,  state  and  national  advocacy  for  the  work  of  community  media.      Jim  Lescault  Executive  Director  Amherst  Media                         Amherst Media is a dynamic, community driven, non-profit, public access, information, communication & technology center. AmherstMedia.org 246 College Street Amherst MA 01002 (413) 259-3300
  5. 5. Table  of  Contents      I.  Introduction      ……………………………………………………………………………………    1    II.  Media  Localism  2.0      ……………………………………………………………………….    2    III.  Mapping  Amherst  Media  Publics      ………………………………………………….    7     1. Users’  socio-­‐demographics      ……………………………………………………    8   2. Amherst  Media  as  a  Regional  Community  Access  Resource      ….      9   3. Uses  of  Media  Technologies  and  Exposure  to  Video  Content      ..   10   4. Awareness  of  Amherst  Media  Services      ………………………………….   13    IV.  Amherst  Media  and  the  Local  Information  Ecosystem  ……………………   15     1. Different  Forms  of  Public  Involvement  in  Amherst  Media      ……..   15   2. Amherst  Media  as  Community  Infrastructure      ………………………..   18   3. Amherst  Media  and  the  Creation  of  Local  Skills  and  Capacities  ..   22   4. Amherst  Media  and  the  Availability  of  Local  Media  Content    ……   27    V.  Recommendations      ………………………………………………………………………..   37    Appendix  A:  Public  Comments      …………………………………………………………..   39    Appendix  B:  Survey  Protocol      ……………………………………………………………..   45          
  6. 6. I.  Introduction    In  the  last  two  years,  results  of  studies  and  public  inquiries  on  the  future  of  media  in  the  U.S.  indicate  that  amidst  the  communication  renaissance  enabled  by  broadband  and  digital  technologies,  citizens  are  facing  serious  challenges  to  take  advantage  of  this  opportunity  for  increased  sustainability  of  and  participation  in  their  local  communities.  On  the  one  hand,  abundance  of  digital  platforms  and  media  outlets  has  not  translated  into  more  reporting,  accountability,  and  information  about  local  issues,1  leaving  localities  uninformed  about  everyday  problems  that  affect  them.  On  the  other  hand,  media  and  broadband  providers  unevenly  serve  local  communities.  The  compound  effect  of  broadband,  information  and  literacy  gaps  threatens  to  widen  the  “participatory  gap,”2  undermining  the  capacity  of  underserved  populations  to  engage  in  community  life  and  local  governance.    Responding  to  the  challenges  of  the  digital  future,  Amherst  Media  (AM)  commissioned  a  communication  needs  assessment  of  its  users,  seeking  broader  community  input  and  participation  in  ongoing  efforts  to  strengthen  its  services  in  the  digital  transition.  This  report  summarizes  the  findings  of  the  research  that  took  place  between  April  and  November  2011,  and  involved  a  general  survey  (N=  191),  focus  group  discussions  (n=55),  and  in-­‐depth  interviews  (n=10)  with  users  of  Amherst  Media’s  facilities  and  training  services,  and  viewers  of  video  content  distributed  through  local  cable  channels,  and  the  Web.  More  specifically,  this  report:       (1)  identifies  characteristics  of  local  publics  served  by  Amherst  Media;   (2)  describes  different  forms  of  public  involvement  with  Amherst  Media;  and   (3)  explores    Amherst  Media’s  contribution  to  the  local  information  ecosystem,   taking  into  account  users’  preferences,  and  the  value  of  Amherst  Media  services  vis-­‐ à-­‐vis  other  media  offerings  and  communication  services  available  in  the  region.    Each  section  concludes  with  a  summary  of  key  points  and  areas  where  more  attention  and  action  are  needed  to  better  serve  the  local  community.          1  Waldman,  S.  (June  2011)  “The  Information  Needs  of  Communities:  The  changing  media  landscape  in  a  broadband  age”  Washington  D.C.,  The  Federal  Communications  Commission  (FCC).  2  Knight  Commission  on  the  Information  Needs  of  Communities  in  a  Democracy  (October  2009)  “Informing  Communities:  Sustaining  Democracy  in  the  Digital  Age.”  Washington,  D.C.:  The  Aspen  Institute.   1
  7. 7. II.  Media  Localism  2.0      Media  localism  policies  in  the  U.S.  have  been  conceived  as  a  means  to  support  liberal  democratic  objectives  of  enhanced  political  participation,  the  existence  of  a  better-­‐informed  citizenry,  and  decentralized  decision-­‐making.  Even  before  the  Internet,  PEG  Public-­‐Educational-­‐Government    (PEG)  access  centers  supported  media  localism  by  enabling  direct  participation  of  local  publics,  educational  institutions  (i.e.  schools,  high-­‐schools  and  community  colleges),  and  municipalities  in  the  production  of  video  projects  distributed  through  local  cable  channels.  Amherst  Media  was  a  pioneer  of  this  movement,  serving  the  Amherst  community  since  1976.  Nowadays  there  are  approximately  5,000  centers  unevenly  distributed  in  the  nation  The  majority  of  these  projects  are  funded  with  revenues  from  municipal  franchise  agreements  with  cable  operators.  However,  since  2005,  many  states  seeking  to  deregulate  the  emerging  multi-­‐channel  video  programming  distribution  (MVPD)  market  have  assumed  this  function,  and  municipalities  have  scaled  down  or  closed  PEG  operations.  According  to  recent  estimates,3  one  hundred  communities  across  the  country  closed  their  access  centers  between  2005  and  2010.  The  majority  of  these  closures  (93%)  affected  public  channels  that  distributed  local  content  produced  by  community  residents.    Policy  analysts  and  scholars  have  paid  more  attention  to  community  media  in  the  recent  years.  Contributions  by  Buckley,  Howley  or  Fuller  document  the  multi-­‐faceted  character  and  social  benefits  of  community  media.4  Some  authors  highlight  the  correspondence  between  community  media  and  the  traditions  associated  with  public  service  broadcasting  and  development  communication.    Others  examine  the  relationship  between  alternative,  independent  and  community  media  and  their  audiences—a  line  of  inquiry  that  emphasizes  community  building  and  organizing.    According  to  Carpentier,  Lie  and  Servaes5,  the  first  vision  emphasizes  how  community  media  serve  the  information  needs  of  local  residents,  whereas  the  second  sees  them  as  an  expression  and  integral  component  of  local  communities.    Seeking  to  continue  their  historical  mission  in  the  new  media  environment,  Amherst  Media  and  many  other  access  centers  around  the  nation  are  struggling  to  find  their  place  in  this  constantly  changing  landscape.  They  may  have  evolved  from  one  approach  to  another  in  dialogue  and  adjusting  to  the  environment  in  which  they  are  operating.  At  an  operational  level,  they  have  upgraded  their  systems  and  workflow  to  incorporate  3 Buske  Group  (April  8,  2011)  “Analysis  of  recent  PEG  access  center  closures,  funding  cutbacks  and  related  threats.”  A  report  prepared  for  the  Alliance  of  Communications  Democracy.4  Buckley,  Steve  (ed.)  (2012)  Community  Media:  A  good  practice  handbook.  Paris:  UNESCO;  Howley,  Kevin  (ed.)  (2010)  Understanding  community  media.  London  et  al.:  Sage;  Fuller  Linda  (ed.)  (2012)  The  Power  of  Global  Community  Media.  New  York:  Palgrave  MacMillan.  5  Carpentier,  N.,  Lie,  R.    and  Servaes,  J.  (2003),  “Community  media  :  Muting  the  democratic    media    discourse?”,    Continuum.  Journal  of  Media    &  Cultural  Studies,  (17)  1,  pp.  51-­‐68.   2
  8. 8. digital  technologies,  and  distribute  video  content  online  and  across  different  media  platforms.  However,  questions  remain  among  practitioners,  policy-­‐makers  and  the  public  about  how  the  use  of  these  technologies  can  meet  the  information  needs  of  local  communities  in  an  ever-­‐changing  media  landscape.    In  the  past,  policy  discussions  on  access  to  media  have  tended  to  focus  on  technological  platforms  in  isolation,  ignoring  how  a  particular  medium  is  appropriated  and  integrated  in  the  information  environment  of  different  user  communities.  Assessing  the  challenges  of  digital  technologies  for  American  democracy,  the  Knight  Commission  on  the  Information  Needs  of  Communities  in  a  Democracy6  has  proposed  to  replace  this  vision  with  a  user-­‐centered,  ecological  approach  that  takes  into  account  how  citizens,  local  governments,  public  and  media  institutions  interact  in  strengthening  three  main  components  of  a  healthy  community  information  ecosystem  (Graph  1):     a)  communication  infrastructure  that  supports  the  delivery  and  flow  of  information   in  a  community;   b)  individual  and  institutional  skills  or  capacities  to  find,  create,  and  exchange   information  relevant  for  their  communities;  and   c)  the  availability  of  public  affairs  and  government  services  and  information,   community  news  and  events,  and  quality  of  life  information.    Graph  1.  Community  Information  Ecosystem        Source:  Knight  Commission’s  Community  Information  Toolkit    (2011)  6  Supra  2.   3
  9. 9. Research  on  digital  media  education  has  also  found  that  increasing  user’s  competencies  in  the  new  media  environment  demands  much  more  than  just  “computer  skills.”  Abilities  to  collaborate,  negotiate  and  work  in  groups  to  solve  problems,  evaluate  different  forms  of  digital  media  content,  and  experiment  and  play  with  technologies  in  flexible  settings  foster  users’  autonomy  and  proficiencies  in  the  emerging  media  ecology.7  Such  important  aspects  of  social  access  supported  by  community  media  projects  are  commonly  overlooked;  however,  they  are  of  critical  importance  to  promote  sustainable  adoption  of  digital  media  technologies.    As  the  vision  of  the  Knight  Commission  suggests,  becoming  an  active  citizen  in  today’s  society  demands  not  only  opportunities  to  consume  local  information  and  news  but  also  the  abilities  to  create  and  share  messages  on  issues  that  affect  community  life.  In  this  context,  media  localism  should  be  understood  as  a  multifaceted  and  complex  process  that  requires  more  than  watching  local  content.  Although  of  critical  importance,  the  percentage  of  media  locally  produced  and  distributed  tells  us  little  about  people’s  ability  to  access  this  content,  how  diverse  local  publics  participate  in  these  productions,  how  their  voices  and  viewpoints  are  heard,  and  more  importantly,  how  this  process  impacts  dialogue,  local  governance,  citizens’  wellbeing,  and  community  life.8      Access  360 o  As  highlighted  by  the  Federal  Communication  Commission  (FCC)  in  its  groundbreaking  report  on  “The  Information  Needs  of  Communities,”  community  access  centers  that  have  successfully  transitioned  to  digital  operations  and  diversified  their  services  can  contribute  to  the  sustainability  and  quality  of  life  of  local  communities  by:     -­‐ enhancing  opportunities  for  digital  and  civic  literacy  training;     -­‐ offering  vocational  training  in  media  technology  related  careers  for  youth  and         adults;     -­‐ increasing  government  transparency  and  information;   -­‐ making  local  and  national  connections  via  social  networking  and  distribution  of   local  content  online;  and     -­‐ providing  open,  community  access  to  broadband  infrastructure  and  digital   technologies.  9  7  Jenkins,  H.  (2007)  Confronting  the  Challenges  of  Participatory  Culture:  Media  Education  for  the  21st  Century.  Whitepaper  for  the  MacArthur  Foundation.  Available  at  mitpress.mit.edu/books/full_pdfs/confronting_the_challenges.pdf  8  Fuentes-­‐Bautista,  M.  (2011)  “Digital  localism:  Understanding  needs  of  local  publics  in  the  transition.”  Paper  presented  at  the  38th  Annual  Telecommunication  Policy  Research  Conference,  Arlington,  VA;  Braman,  S.  (2007)  The  ideal  vs.  the  real  in  media  localism:  Regulatory  implications.  Communication  Law  and  Policy  12,  231-­‐278;  McDowell,  S.D.  and  Lee,  J.  (2007)  Tracking  “localism”  in  television  broadcasting:  Utilizing  and  Structuring  Public  Information.  In  Philip  Napoli  (ed)  Media  diversity  and  localism:  Meaning  and  metrics.  177-­‐191.  Lawrence  Erlbaum  Associate,  London,  New  Jersey.  9  Supra  1,  p.  174.   4
  10. 10. PEG  channels  and  Community  Access  Centers  that  support  them  bear  great  potential  to  serve  as  a  bottom-­‐up,  integrated  approach  to  media  localism  for  the  digital  future.  Placed  at  the  intersections  of  government,  public  and  institutional  life  of  a  community,  these  projects  can  contribute  to  all  components  of  a  local  information  ecosystem  through  a  three-­‐prone  approach  that  integrates  media  training,  production  of  community  and  government  content,  and  diverse  media  distribution  activities  connecting  localities  with  regions  and  the  world  (Graph  2).      In  this  report  we  call  this  approach  “Access  360o,”  a  multi-­‐modal  access  strategy  defined  from  the  perspective  of  community  users,  aimed  at  enhancing  their  participation  in  the  local  information  ecosystem,  and  their  ability  to  connect  with  local  publics,  regions,  and  the  world.      Graph  2.  Access  360o   Web  -­‐-­‐  Global   Web  -­‐-­‐  Regional  &   National  Publics   Cable  -­‐-­‐  Local  Publics       Cable  -­‐-­‐  Local       Government  &   Institutions   Center  -­‐-­‐  Local   Production   Center  -­‐-­‐   Media   Training   Amherst   Media   Center        Few  studies  have  examined  how  members  of  local  communities  are  navigating  the  new  media  ecology  to  get  informed,  communicate  with  others,  and  participate  in  their  localities.  A  recent  national  survey  of  the  Pew  Internet  &  American  Life10  project  found  that  in  order  to  get  local  news  and  information,  Americans  are  turning  to  a  wider  range  of  platforms,  including  newspapers,  radio,  local  TV  stations,  social  media,  blogs  etc.  On  10  Tom  Rosenstiel,  Amy  Mitchell,  Kristen  Purcell  &  Lee  Rainie  (Sep  26,  2011)  “How  people  learn  about  their  local  community.”  Report  of  the  Pew  Internet  and  American  Life  Project.  Accessed  09/30/11  http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Local-­‐news.aspx     5
  11. 11. the  whole,  local  newspapers  –print  and  online–  are  the  preferred  sources  of  public  affairs  and  government  information,  while  local  TV  news  is  mostly  consulted  for  weather,  breaking  news  and  to  a  lesser  extent  traffic.  Web-­‐only  outlets  (from  social  networking  to  video-­‐sharing  sites)  are  now  the  key  source  of  information  on  education,  local  businesses,  and  community  entertainment  (i.e.  restaurants,  music  and  performance  venues).    This  evaluation  adopts  a  media  ecology  approach  to  assess  Amherst  Media’s  role  in  the  local  community  information  ecosystem.  The  community  ecosystem  is  comprised  of  multiple  media  channels  and  community  spaces  used  by  Amherst  residents  to  get  informed  and  communicate  about  issues  that  matter  for  community  life.  The  following  section  describes  the  characteristics  of  different  user  communities  served  by  Amherst  Media,  their  patterns  of  consumption  of  video  content,  and  uses  of  new  media.    Then,  the  report  turns  to  an  evaluation  of  Amherst  Media’s  contribution  to  different  components  of  the  information  ecosystem  including:  (1)  communication  infrastructure;  (2)  institutional  and  individual  skills  to  create  and  exchange  community  content;  and  (3)  the  availability  of  government  and  community  information.  In  each  area,  we  asked  participants  of  the  study  to  compare  Amherst  Media’s  services  to  other  media  offerings  and  communication  services  available  in  the  region.     6
  12. 12. III.  Mapping  Amherst  Media’s  Publics    This  study  assesses  only  the  experience  of  the  Amherst  Media  user  community.  The  goal  is  to  understand  how  AM  meets  their  communication  and  information  needs,  and  how  this  experience  can  be  improved.  Building  on  previous  studies  of  community  broadcasting  audiences  carried  out  in  the  U.S.  and  Australia,11  this  project  employed  a  user  survey,  focus  group  discussions  and  interviews  to  investigate  users’  reasons  for  watching  Amherst  Media  content,  using  its  facilities  and  training  services,  and  preferring  AM  content  and  services  over  other  media  offerings  and  services  (commercial,  public,  and  independent)  available  in  the  community.  This  design  constitutes  a  practical,  economical,  and  in-­‐depth  audience  research  approach  that  ensures  the  collection  of  meaningful  evidence  about  how  community  access  serves  its  local  publics.      Participants  in  our  community  survey  were  recruited  between  April  and  June  of  2011  through  public  service  announcements  broadcast  on  Amherst  Media’s  access  channels,  and  via  its  website  and  social  media  outlets.  This  method  of  recruitment  ensured  that  we  recruit  active  AM  users  who  could  help  us  to  understand  the  factors  and  dynamics  that  attract  them  to  Amherst  Media,  evaluating  the  quality  of  their  experience  with  the  community  media  center.    The  drawback  of  this  approach  is  that  it  employs  a  convenience  sample  and  relies  on  self-­‐selected  participants,  therefore  limiting  the  generalizability  of  the  study.      Hundred  ninety-­‐one  (191)  members  of  the  public  answered  the  call  to  participate  in  an  online  survey  that  explored  diverse  forms  of  user  involvement  in  the  center,  users’  patterns  of  access  and  use  of  media  technologies,  preferences  in  the  consumption  of  local  information,  media  production  practices,  and  socio-­‐demographics.  From  this  pool,  fifty-­‐five  (55)  people  also  participated  in  ten  (10)  two-­‐hour  focus  group  discussions  conducted  at  the  access  center  between  May  and  July  2011.  These  conversations  explored  reasons  for  involvement  in  Amherst  Media,  value  of  AM  programs  and  services  vis-­‐à-­‐vis  other  local  media  offerings,  and  general  suggestions  for  improving  AM  services.  Follow-­‐up,  in-­‐depth  interviews  with  ten  (10)  AM  producers  further  investigated  the  advantages  and  challenges  faced  by  citizens  that  use  AM  facilities,  equipment  and  services  to  engage  with  the  local  community  through  community  productions.    11 Fuentes-­‐Bautista  (2009,  April)  Beyond  Television:  The  digital  transition  of  public  access.  SSRC  Report;  Amherst,  MA.;  Inouye,  T.,  Lacoe,  J.  and  Henderson-­‐Frakes,  J.  (November  8,  2004)  Youth  Media’s  Impact  on  Audience  &  Channels  of  Distribution:  An  Exploratory  Study.  A  report  for  the  Open  Society  Institute.  Meadows,  M.,  Forde,  S.,  Ewart,  J.,  and  Foxwell,  K.  (March,  2007).  Community  media  matters:  An  Audience  Study  of  the  Australian  community  broadcasting  sector.  Australia.  Available  at  http://www.cbonline.org.au/index.cfm?pageId=51,171,2,0;  McNair  Ingenuity  Research  (2004).  Community  Radio  Listener  Survey  —  Summary  Report  of  Findings,  available  at  cbon-­‐line.org.au.;  McNair  Ingenuity  Research  (2006),  Community  Radio  Listener  Survey  —  Summary  Report  of  Findings,  available  at  http://    www.cbonline.org.au/media/mcnair_survey_06/McNair_Report.pdf     7
  13. 13. 1.  Users’  socio-­‐demographics      Participants  in  this  study  tended  to  be  older,  less  ethnically  diverse,  and  more  educated  than  the  overall  Amherst  population.  As  detailed  in  Table  1,  the  majority  was  white  (81%),  between  ages  30  and  50  (55%),  college-­‐educated  (73%),  and  lives  in  households  making  over  $50,000  a  year  (56%).      However,  users  under  30  years  old  (20%  of  participants)  show  some  unique  socio-­‐demographic  patterns.  They  were  mostly  males  (53%),  more  ethically  diverse  than  the  overall  sample  (68%  were  white),  low  or  middle  income  (70.3%),  attending  school  (51%)  or  working  part-­‐time  (27%).  Young  adults  –  who  clearly  are  mostly  students  –  also  account  for  almost  half  (45.8%)  of  low-­‐income  respondents.  Users  making  less  than  $30,000  a  year  represent  29%  of  our  sample.  They  tended  to  be  more  diverse  than  the  overall  sample  (70%  were  white),  college  educated  (63%),  working  part-­‐time  (44%)  or  full-­‐time  (19%),  or  attending  school  (29%).  Finally,  approximately  half  of  our  sample  (47%)  was  constituted  by  registered  members  of  Amherst  Media.  They  tend  to  be  college  educated,  in  their  20s  or  50s,  more  ethnically  diverse  than  the  overall  sample  (73%  are  white),  and  lower  or  middle  income.  We  compare  results  among  these  different  groups  to  explore  patterns  of  affiliation  and  degrees  of  involvement  of  different  publics  with  the  center.      Table  1.  Amherst  Media  Users  (Valid  N=191)   Amherst Amherst Media Town of Media Town of Survey Amherst Survey Amherst % % (2010) % % (2010) AGE EDUCATION < 20 years 3.2 N/A Some high school 2.1 N/A 20 – 29 16.7 N/A High school/ equiv. 5.3 N/A 30 – 39 8.1 N/A Some college 13.3 N/A 40 – 49 18.8 N/A Associate degree 5.9 N/A 50 – 59 28.5 N/A Bachelors degree 35.1 N/A N/A N/A 60 – 69 13.4 Graduate degree 38.3 > 70 years 11.3 N/A ANNUAL HOUSE. INCOME GENDER < $30,000 29.3 N/A Male 50.5 47.9 $30,000-$39,999 5.5 N/A $40,000-$49,999 9.8 N/A Female 49.5 52.1 $50,000-$74,999 20.7 N/A RACE $75,000-$99,999 20.7 N/A One Race 92 > $100,000 14 N/A White 80.7 78.9 WORKING STATUS African Amer. 5.3 5.5 Full-time 47.3 N/A N/A American Indian 0.5 0.2 Part-time 20.7 Asian 1.6 9.5 Going to school 12.2 N/A Other Race 3.7 Home caretaker 1.2 N/A Mixed races 8 Retired 13.8 N/A Hispanic/Latino 8 6.6 Unemployed 4.8 N/A 8
  14. 14. 2.  Amherst  Media  as  a  Regional  Community  Access  Resource    Our  study  reveals  that  Amherst  Media  functions  as  a  regional  community  access  resource  that  meets  the  communication  and  information  needs  of  residents  of  Amherst  and  many  other  communities  in  Western  Massachusetts.  An  important  number  of  survey  respondents  –almost  forty  percent  (40%)–  were  residents  of  seventeen  (17)  other  communities  in  the  region,  including  neighboring  towns  (i.e.  Northampton  and  Hadley),  urban  centers  (Springfield,  26  miles  south  of  Amherst)  as  well  as  more  remote  ones  such  as  Turners  Falls,  Orange,  Williamsburg,  and  even  North  Adams  (52  miles  north  west  from  Amherst)  (Table  2).  Interestingly,  Amherst  residents  and  non-­‐residents  present  similar  socio-­‐demographics  and  patterns  of  affiliation  to  the  station.    Table  2.  Which  town  do  you  live  in?       Town Frequency % Amherst 113 60.1 Northampton 12 6.4 Springfield 8 4.3 Hadley 7 3.7 Sunderland 6 3.2 Belchertown 5 2.7 Easthampton 5 2.7 Leverett 4 2.1 Other 28 14.9 Total valid 188 100.0       9
  15. 15. Non-­‐Amherst  residents  are  an  active  and  vibrant  part  of  the  AM  user  community.  In  focus  group  discussions,  they  explained  their  interest  in  Amherst  Media,  and  strong  motivation  to  commute  to  Amherst  –sometimes  over  long  distances–  based  on:     • The  lack  of  comparable  access  services  in  their  towns;   • Friendly  and  welcoming  atmosphere  at  the  center  that  is  also  opened  for  long   hours;     • Greater  quality  of  the  services  and  equipment  available  at  the  Amherst’s  access   center;     • Media  technology  classes  not  available  in  other  places;   • Opportunities  to  distribute  content  through  the  local  access  channels  and  online;   and   • Interest  in  the  work  of  community  producers  and  the  creative  community  of   Amherst.    3.  Use  of  Media  Technologies  and  Exposure  to  Video  Content    Participants  in  our  study  can  be  described  as  tech-­‐savvy  adults,  with  taste  for  alternative  forms  of  media  and  information,  and  who  routinely  use  a  blend  of  media  platforms  and  devices  to  watch  video  content  and  seek  out  local  information  (Graph  3).      Graph  3:  Do  you  use  these  electronic  devices  to  watch  video?  (Please  check  all  that  apply)        AM  users  we  surveyed  have  distinct  media  technology  habits  that  somewhat  reflect  the  social  dynamics  of  a  college  town.     • Use  a  laptop  computer  (82%)  or  desktop  computer  at  home  (65.9%)  to  watch   video.  Use  of  laptop  computers  at  home  is  particularly  high  among  users  under   30-­‐years  (94%);   10
  16. 16. • Watch  online  videos:  69.9%  watches  between  one  and  ten  hours  of  online  videos   a  week,  and  3%  watches  10  hours  or  more.   •  AM  users  are  significantly  more  likely  than  US  adults12  to:   • Use  social  networking  sites  (80.1%  vs.  64%);  visit  a  local,  state  or  federal   government  website  (90.9%  vs.  67%);  get  their  news  from  online  sources  (94.3%   vs.  76%);  and  use  the  Web  to  look  for  jobs  (64.2%  vs.  56%).     • Overall,  social  networking,  reading  news,  and  e-­‐banking  are  the  most  preferred   online  activities  of  participants  in  our  study,  followed  closely  by  consulting  e-­‐ government  sites,  downloading  or  streaming  music,  chatting  with  friends  and   getting  or  receiving  advice  about  health  issues.     In  contrast,  they  were  less  likely  than  US  adults  to:   • Use  television  sets  to  watch  videos  (85%  vs.  compared  with  99%  of  all  US   adults).13  It  is  important  to  point  out  that  these  trends  are  even  more   pronounced  among  young  adults,  79%  of  whom  declared  having  TV  at  home.   • Watch  commercial  television.  The  majority  of  our  sample  (71.6%)  watches  less   than  20  hours  of  commercial  television  a  week,  and  23%  of  respondents  do  not   watch  commercial  television  at  all.  These  numbers  are  considerable  lower  than   the  average  consumption  of  commercial  TV  in  the  U.S.14    The  majority  of  survey  participants  subscribes  broadband  at  home  (84%),  uses  the  Internet  in  a  daily  basis  (92.3%),  and  goes  online  from  various  places,  mainly  home  and  work,  and  other  locations  (i.e.  school,  coffee  houses,  and  a  friend’s  house)  (Graph  4).     • These  results  place  our  sample  among  the  well-­‐connected  of  the  Internet  user   population  in  the  U.S.  According  to  the  most  recent  data  of  the  Pew  Internet  &   American  Life  project,  only  62%  of  all  adults  in  the  country  enjoy  a  high-­‐speed   broadband  connection  at  home,15  and  59%  of  American  adults  actually  use  the   Internet  everyday.    12  Recent  statistics  of  video  viewership  across  different  media  platforms  can  be  found  at  http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/american-­‐video-­‐habits-­‐by-­‐age-­‐gender-­‐and-­‐ethnicity/;  for  recent  trends  of  online  activities  see  http://www.pewinternet.org/Static-­‐Pages/Trend-­‐Data/Online-­‐Activites-­‐Total.aspx. For  recent  statistics  of  TV  ownership  see:  http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/media_entertainment/nielsen-­‐estimates-­‐number-­‐of-­‐u-­‐s-­‐television-­‐homes-­‐to-­‐be-­‐114-­‐7-­‐million13  Nielsen’s  Cross  Platform  report  (June  15,  2011)  http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/cross-­‐platform-­‐report-­‐americans-­‐watching-­‐more-­‐tv-­‐mobile-­‐and-­‐web-­‐video/    14  The  most  recent  reports  of  the  American  Time  Use  Survey  indicate  that  that  on  average,  Americans  age  15  and  over  spend  2.7  hours  per  day  watching  television  that  is  18.9  hours  a  week  (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.nr0.htm).  Nielsen  ratings  estimates  the  average  TV  viewing  in  around  20  hours  a  week.  15 Pew  Internet  &  American  Life  Project,  accessed  January  11th,  2012.  For  recent  statistics  on  daily  activities  online  see  http://www.pewinternet.org/Trend-­‐Data/Online-­‐Activities-­‐Daily.aspx;   11
  17. 17. We  found  that  only  16%  of  people  in  our  sample  lack  of  high-­‐speed  Internet  access  at  home.     • The  top  reasons  behind  the  lack  of  home  broadband  access  were  high  prices  of   connection  and  monthly  fees  broadband  services  (64%),  lack  of  interest  in  these   services  (20%),  and  absence  of  broadband  providers  in  their  area  of  residency   (16%).    Graph  4.  In  a  regular  week,  how  often  do  you  go  online  form  the  following  locations?     Several   Once  a   3-­‐5  times/   1-­‐2  times/   Rarely  or   Location Total times  a  day day week week NeverHome 72.5% 17.4% 3.4% 2.2% 4.5% 100%Work 55.1% 6.7% 2.8% 3.4% 32.0% 100%School 12.4% 4.5% 2.2% 2.2% 78.7% 100%Public  Library 2.2% 1.1% 5.6% 9.6% 81.5% 100%Coffee  House  or  other  public   2.8% 1.1% 4.5% 19.7% 71.9% 100%locationA  friends  house 2.2% 1.1% 2.2% 12.4% 82.0% 100%  In  order  to  find  video  content  online,  Amherst  Media  users  tend  to  rely  on  search  engines,  recommendations  from  friends,  and  searches  on  video-­‐sharing  sites  like  YouTube  (Graph  5).    Graph  5.  How  do  you  regularly  find  video  content  online?  (N=176)  Estimates  about  broadband  penetration  are  available  at  http://www.pewinternet.org/Trend-­‐Data/Home-­‐Broadband-­‐Adoption.aspx.     12
  18. 18. 4.  Awareness  of  Amherst  Media  services    Survey  results  indicate  that  contact  with  local  social  networks,  and  casual  TV  surfing  are  the  typical  ways  in  which  viewers  of  Amherst  Media  content  first  become  aware  of  the  local  channels  and  the  Center  (Table  3).  However,  as  explained  by  focus  group  participants,  watching  AM  content  on  cable  or  online  does  not  easily  translate  into  knowledge  and  awareness  of  the  full  spectrum  of  training  and  community  activities  offered  by  the  Center.      Table  3.  How  did  you  first  become  aware  of  Amherst  Media  channels  (Public,  Entertainment,  Government)?       Answers  options   %   A  friend   25%   Surfing  through  television  channels   19%   Local  government   16%   Community  organization   13%   My  local  school   7%   Local  newspaper   7%   Work   4%   Dont  remember   4%   Sought  out  for  local  TV  station   3%   OTHER   3%    Participants  in  focus  group  discussions  expressed  their  strong  desire  to  see  larger  sections  of  the  Amherst  community  represented  in  programs  aired  by  the  channels,  or  directly  involved  in  the  many  activities  organized  at  the  Center.  Overall,  there  was  a  consensus  that  Amherst  Media  needs  to  publicize  more  widely  their  services  and  programs  to  the  local  community.      Users  see  a  great  need  to  customize  outreach  efforts  to  engage  particular  sections  of  the  Amherst  population,  particularly  the  youth,  local  artists,  and  low-­‐income  residents.  For  instance,  Jacob16,  a  youth  local  artist  blacksmith  who  first  became  aware  of  AM  at  a  community  event  when  he  was  invited  to  visit  the  center,  proposed  to  increase  participation  of  community  artists  by  reaching  out  to  local  groups  of  artists,  and  create  and  air  regular  programs  featuring  their  work.  A  26-­‐year  old  community  producer  who  has  used  the  facilities  for  more  than  10  years,17  spoke  of  the  need  to  attract  more  youth  by  partnering  with  local  colleges  and  colleges,  and  offering  screenwriting,  citizen  journalism  and  performance  classes  for  students.    Bruce,18  a  local  contractor  who  produces  his  own  community  show  for  the  public  channel  (Channel  15),  believes  that  16 Focus  group  discussion  1,  04/16/2011.  17 Focus  group  discussion  4,  04/21/2011.18  Focus  group  discussion  2,  04/19/2011.   13
  19. 19. the  center  should  think  more  creatively  of  training  and  outreach  activities  for  low-­‐income  residents  who  cannot  pay  for  training,  for  those  who  work  regular  hours  during  weekdays,  or  those  who  lack  awareness  or  do  not  understand  the  “do-­‐it-­‐yourself”  culture  and  grassroots  spirit  that  drives  community  media  productions.    College  students  and  other  members  of  the  public  would  like  to  see  a  more  active  working  relation  between  Amherst  Media  and  the  Five  Colleges.  Although  Amherst  Media  has  established  internship  programs  with  UMass  Amherst  and  Hampshire  College,  students  participants  in  our  study  explain  that  they  found  information  about  AM  through  social  networks  of  friends,  occasionally  through  professors,  or  through  Web  searches  while  looking  for  local  internship  opportunities.       “There  is  a  personal  link  between  several  faculty  in  the  Communication   department,  but  I  do  not  think  that  it  translates  into  a  student  connection  for   career  or  internship  possibilities.  I  went  to  a  career  office  on  campus  and  no  one   said  to  me  “Oh,  you  are  a  Comm  major,  you  should  go  to  Amherst  Media.”  I  also   don’t  think  it  is  institutionalized  on  the  campus  TV  station…”   Adrian,  AM  Intern,  Co-­‐producer,  Local  Sound  (personal  interview).     “I  found  out  about  Amherst  Media  probably  my  second  semester  here.    I   transferred  here  in  the  fall  of  2008,  so  probably  about  spring  ’09  and  at  that   time,  I  was  working  for  WMUA…  I  spent  a  lot  of  time  on  the  Internet  trying  to   find  things  out  Amherst  and  that’s  how  I  found  out  about  WMUA  and  while   working  there  one  day  I  heard  about  Amherst  Media… The  connection  between   U-­‐Mass  and  Amherst  Media,  I  think  primarily  comes  through  career  services  and   the  campus  television  station…  but  one  thing  that  they  don’t  tell  you  is  you  could   do  this  as  a  work-­‐study  job.    If  I  knew  that,  I  would’ve  found  a  way  because  I  took   two  jobs  these  years…I  worked  at  the  station  for  five  hours  a  week  and  I  did  a   security  job.    I  would’ve  taken  this  before  security  if  I  had  to  known.    I’d  transfer   work-­‐study  funds  here  and  gain  so  much  more  experience,  but  they  don’t  tell  you   that  at  first,  a  lot  of  information  is  missed…  really  it’s  on  you  to  go  and  find   information.”   Candace,  UMass  Amherst  student  and  AM  intern  (04/21/2011)     “I  needed  a  work-­‐study  job  and  all  the  campus  jobs  went  off  quickly,  and  I   wanted  something  media  involved  because  I’m  a  film  video  production  student,   so  Amherst  Media  definitely  filled  those  requirements  and  it  was  a  nice   environment…  I  think  I  saw  it  in  a  flyer  or  a  list  of  work  studies  of  campus…  but   we  have  a  missing  link  between  our  schools  to  our  resource  here…”   MelMel,  Hampshire  College  student  and  AM  intern  (04/21/2011).   14
  20. 20. IV.  Amherst  Media  and  the  Local  Information  Ecosystem    Perhaps,  the  most  valuable  contribution  of  community  media  projects  to  community  life  is  their  ability  to  involve  local  citizens  in  variety  of  media  training,  education,  collaboration,  production  and  deliberation  activities  that  expand  knowledge  and  communicative  skills  that  people  can  use  in  many  aspects  of  their  lives:  from  politics,  education,  and  job-­‐related  pursuits,  to  creative  expression  and  entertainment.  We  assessed  the  contribution  of  Amherst  Media  to  its  local  information  ecosystem  by  examining  different  activities  through  which  the  public  participates  in  the  Amherst’s  access  center  and  its  channels.  We  evaluated  the  quality  of  this  experience  by  asking  users  to  compare  AM  services  to  other  media  offerings  available  in  the  region,  submitting  their  opinions  and  suggestions  for  improving  AM  operations.    1.  Different  forms  of  public  involvement  in  Amherst  Media    Viewing  content  distributed  through  local  cable  channels  and  the  Web  is  the  most  common  activity  (68.6%)  through  which  users  engage  with  Amherst  Media  (Graph  6).      Graph  6.  Public  involvement  in  Amherst  Media     Please check the boxes that describe your relationship with Amherst Media   (you may check more than one box) (N = 156)       I am a member of a local 2.6%   business that sponsors AM   I am a member of a non-profit 8.3%   organization that sponsors AM   I do volunteer work and time for 12.8%   AM   I produce video and web content 29.5%     I use AM facilities and services 46.8%       I watch AM video content 68.6%   0.0% 10.0% 20.0% 30.0% 40.0% 50.0% 60.0% 70.0% 80.0%    However,  the  majority  of  Amherst  Media  users  we  surveyed  (61%)  are  involved  with  the  center  through  many  other  activities  beyond  watching  video  content.  As  a  community  media  project,  Amherst  Media  enjoys  diverse  and  strong  ties  with  its  user  community;  people  tend  to  combine  the  viewer  experience  –arguably  a  passive  form  of  public  involvement–  with  different  forms  of  active  participation  through  training,  production  activities,  and  use  of  the  facilities  (Graph  7).   15
  21. 21. • Direct  use  of  Amherst  center  facilities  (46.8%),  and  content  production  for  the   web  and  the  channels  (29.5%)  are  important  activities  that  characterize  the   regular  AM  user’s  experience.     • Participants  also  volunteer  time  at  the  station  (12.8%)  and  sponsor  programs   and  events  (10.9%),  bringing  direct  support  to  Amherst  Media  operations.   • Forty  percent  (40%)  of  users  are  engaged  with  the  center  in  more  than  one   activity.      Graph  7.  Types  of  Public  Involvement  (n=156)   Produce  content   Volunteer  only   Sponsor  only   only   3%   5%   3%   Use  the  facility   only   10%   Watch  content   only   39%   2  acaviaes   19%   ≥  3  acaviaes   21%      Registered  Amherst  Media  members  are  more  likely  to  engage  in  more  than  one  activity  with  the  access  center  (Table  4).  The  decision  of  joining  AM  as  a  member  is  connected  to  the  benefits  users  derived  from  engaging  in  different  activities  supported  by  the  community  access  center,  particularly  training  and  use  of  equipment.  In  order  to  increase  number  of  citizens  affiliated  to  the  center,  Amherst  Media  should  think  of  how  its  membership  can  “add  value”  to  the  experience  of  its  users,  beyond  offering  access  to  resources  (i.e.  equipment)  and  information  (in  the  case  of  viewers).  For  instance,  members  could  be  offered  discounts  to  attend  local  events  and  venues  that  sponsor  the  center  and  local  access  channels.    Table  4.  Number  of  Activities  in  which  AM  Members  Participate  (n=156)        N  of  Activities   Are  you  an  AMHERST   MEDIA  member?   No   Yes   1  activity   78.00%   39.20%   2  activities   17.10%   21.60%   3  activities  or  more   4.90%   39.20%   16
  22. 22. The  need  of  ‘connecting’  with  local  community,  and  keeping  up  with  local  public  affairs  is  the  main  factor  driving  general  public  involvement  with  Amherst  Media.  This  can  happen  in  the  real  and  virtual  space  through  activities  at  the  access  center,  or  by  watching  local  video  content  distributed  through  the  cable  channels  and  the  Web.  Some  users  look  for  a  “medium”  to  broadcast  their  ideas,  while  others  seemed  more  interested  in  knowing  what  is  happening  in  town,  exchanging  opinions  or  engaging  in  dialogue  with  particular  members  of  the  local  community.      Focus  group  participants  described  Amherst  Media  as  a  “channel”  or  “space”  where  people  can  “meet  other  people,”  “reach  to  locals,”  “made  your  ideas  known  by  others  in  the  community,”  “find  like-­‐minded  people,”  “provide  alternative  viewpoints,”  or  “advocate”  for  a  cause.  This  need  for  ‘public  connection’  was  reflected  in  narratives  that  highlight  how  Amherst  Media  serves  as  a  forum  to  access  local  publics,  and  let  them  know  about  community  life  and  issues.     “I’m  a  parent  and  an  advocate  and  I’ve  been  involved  in  the  Amherst  public   school  system  for  more  than  20  years.    As  a  parent  of  color,  there  are  issues.    We   have  an  excellent  public  education  but  there  are  issues  with  inequality  and   educational  achievement  gaps.    It  [Amherst  Media]  is  important  to  let  people   know  about  these  issues  –  I  am  a  strong  advocate  for  social  justice,  from  special   education  issues  to  kids  of  color,  to  low-­‐income  families…”   Parent,  woman  of  color,  local  business  owner  (04/21/2011)     “I  think  its  important  that  residents  have  access  to  all  of  the  different  programs   and  things  that  are  happening  in  this  community.    There  are  so  many  and  its   hard  to  get  to  even  a  fraction  of  them,  so  I  think  its  important  that  Amherst   Media  records  them  made  them  available  for  all…”   Rebecca,  Amherst  resident,  President  of  League  of  Women  Voters   (04/27/2011)       “I  work  for  the  Amherst  Public  Schools  as  the  volunteer...    I  also  do  a  lot  of   community  outreach  and  development  for  the  Amherst  Public  Schools.    Currently,   I  help  in  our  [school  superintendent’s]  bimonthly  TV  show  here  at  Amherst  Media.     I  line  up  guests  and  coordinate  all  the  behind-­‐the-­‐scenes  things  that  go  on.    I’m   also  very  interested  in  doing  podcasts  of  the  school  events  that  we  have  coming   up,  and  community  events,  and  linking  those  podcasts  to  Amherst  Media  so   people  know  about  them.    Can  you  believe  it?”   Parent  and  school  volunteer  (05/18/2011)    The  second  most  prominent  factor  attracting  users  to  Amherst  Media  is  access  to  affordable  media  training  and  equipment.  Amherst  Media  serves  as  a  training  and  vocational  center  for  many  in  search  of  opportunities  to  learn  and  upgrade  their  media  technology  skills,  or  to  use  state-­‐of-­‐the-­‐art  equipment  and  software  they  cannot  afford  in  the  market.  It  is  important  to  point  out  that  even  for  those  who  come  to  the  center   17
  23. 23. looking  for  training  opportunities,  contact  with  Amherst  media  staff  and  members  of  the  local  community  qualitatively  transform  and  enrich  this  experience,  adding  social  meaning  to  the  learning  process,  and  enhancing  their  sense  of  connection  to  the  local  community.     “I  started  coming  down  here  two  or  three  years  ago  when  everything  kinda  fell   off  economically.  I’m  a  contractor,  so  jobs  definitely  dried  up...  I  thought  perhaps   I  could  make  money  on  this,  maybe  or  it  could  lead  to  some  other  opportunity...  I   am  philosophically  opposed  to  computers  and  don’t  feel  comfortable  with  them;   I’m  not  interested  in  the  whole  media  thing  online.  But  I  have  acquired  some   skills  and  I  produce  my  own  program.  I  figure  some  people  watch  in  Amherst,  and   I  occasionally  get  some  feedback  from  people  around  here.  Most  of  it  is  locally-­‐ related.  I  don’t  like  to  dwell  on  the  politics  all  the  time,  I  think  it’s  depressing...   But  I’m  here  to  offer  an  alternative  viewpoint  to  the  people;  that’s  basically  what   I’m  doing  here…”       Bruce,  Amherst  resident,  local  contractor  and  AM  producer  (04/19/2011)     “I  came  to  Amherst  to  study  a  master’s  of  fine  arts  and  poetry  at  UMASS...  [My   partner  and  I]  decided  we’d  like  to  record  some  of  the  readings  that  happen  at   UMASS,  around  Northampton  and  Amherst,  and  put  them  up  on  a  podcast.  So,   we  come  here  [to  Amherst  Media]  and  we  record  a  podcast  with  an  introduction   and  then  a  live  reading.    We  keep  it  very  light  and  conversational.    I’m  a  veteran   listener  to  podcasts,  so  I  kind  of  try  to  follow  the  formats  there.  As  for  TV,  we   don’t  even  have  our  television  plugged  in.    We  don’t  have  cable.    That’s  not  out  of   snobbishness!  We  watch  online,  that  includes  a  little  bit  of  Amherst  media   website.    Simply,  as  a  student  and  a  teacher,  I  don’t  really  have  all  sorts  of  money   to  invest  in  all  sorts  of  equipment  to  record  a  podcast.    It’s  great  to  come  here   and  have  James’  assistance  when  it  comes  to  recording  and  uploading  it.    We’ve   learned  a  lot  about  recording  audio.    Amherst  Media  has  been  very  helpful  to  us   as  far  as  that  goes.”   Greg,  graduate  student  at  UMass  Amherst,  poet,  producer  (04/21/2011)    2.  Amherst  Media  as  Community  Infrastructure    Forty  seven  percent  (47%)  of  people  we  surveyed  use  Amherst  Media  facilities.  Amherst  Media  functions  as  a  “community  center”  that  supports  not  only  the  production  of  content  distributed  through  its  channels  but  also  vocational,  economic  and  social  life  of  its  users.  Users  of  the  facilities  tend  to  be  white  (68%)  males  (52.4%)  residents  of  Amherst  (76%),  who  are  in  their  20s  or  40s,  who  and  make  less  than  $50,000  a  year  (53.4%).    The  centrality  of  Amherst  Media  as  community  access  infrastructure  is  illustrated  in  Table  5.  The  use  of  the  facility  is  common  not  only  among  those  who  produce  content  at  the  center  but  also  among  viewers,  volunteers  and  sponsors  of  Amherst  Media.       18

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