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Radical Democracy at the European Parliament

On 16th of June 2015 we held an event at the European Parliament to share stories from the Radical Democracy project with MEPs, academics and policy makers. The event included a discussion and a presentation of videos from the project. Here is the presentation.

This is the story of Radical Democracy – a project by the Doc Next Network which has used media making as a way of researching, celebrating and supporting people across Europe who are calling for better democracy. We are going to introduce some videos from the project.

In the run up to the elections to the European Parliament last year we announced a media challenge which invited film and media makers from across Europe to make videos proposing ways to improve democracy. More than 200 videos were submitted. They came from campaigners, amateur film makers and hobby media makers.

Much dissatisfaction with democracy was expressed. The clips from the following videos give a flavour of this: they show: press censorship, disconnected politicians, poverty, big business, unjust laws & their enforcers.

(At present it is not possible to timestamp Vimeo videos so instead I have included the time you will need to wind the counter to in order to view the correct sequence)

Sequence 1: Dissatisfaction with democracy / 0.09

As well as dissatisfaction, alternatives way or organising democracy were expressed. There are two videos here which show that. The first video calls for sortition – a democracy based on citizens chosen by lottery. The second, is about participatory budgeting in Colombia – the process of deciding how a proportion of a city’s budget is spent through a series of public dialogues.

Sequence 2: Alternative democracy / 3.38


In 2014 the Belgian Youth Parliament dissolved itself calling for elective democracy to be replaced with a citizen lottery.

But systemic proposals like this were few and far between. Where films drew attention to alternatives & hope – ‘radical democracy’ was interpreted to mean acting locally to defend housing from developers, protecting and supporting the growth of public spaces and challenging institutions to be more publicly accountable. You could say that radical democracy was about applying the principle of democracy to everyday life. The next sequence shows videos which reflect this.

Sequence 3: Taking democracy closer to everyday life / 4.47

These videos show campaigners and artists eager to claim space in cities, disrupt its rules and replace the dominating influence of one group with a democratic spirit. In the second phase of the project we referred to this action as ‘reclaiming the commons’ – because for these struggles, protests and campaigns to be successful they would need to establish new common spaces, goods and resources in cities.

We will now look at this idea of ‘reclaiming the commons’ as expressed in the videos from three different angles which we focussed on in this second phase – reclaiming home, public space and political parties.

In this second phase the four media making hubs of Doc Next Network in Spain, Poland, Turkey and the UK worked with local campaigners. The clips we’ll see now tell stories in their own right but should also be seen as attempts to help campaigners and activists working for the commons.

The following clips are taken from videos made in London which aimed to support campaigners working to improve the conditions of tenants who rent privately in London. The first gives an introduction to housing pressures in London, the second shows the low status of property guardians who are like ‘legal squatters’ and the third clip is taken from a mocumentary drama which illustrates the socially destructive nature of London’s rental market.

Sequence 4: Homes / 9.15

These films show that it’s possible for governments to fulfill their legal responsibility to provide people with shelter, but what results can often be far from what might be called a ‘home’. For these video makers, thinking of housing as part of the commons, may not necessarily mean ‘sharing your home with other people’ – but it does mean that homes in cities are not possible if housing is left to be part of the market like any other commodity. Housing, in other words should be seen as a common good.

Videos which celebrate new urban community culture – bicycle fixing workshops, people who act, play and educate in public spaces & social centres – featured strongly in the original media challenge. In the second phase in Turkey and Poland the hubs supported local activists who are campaigning for better public spaces in the city.

In the next sequence the first two videos are from Turkey – they have both been used to publicise an online platform for artists and designers which seeks to improve public spaces in cities. The last video shows Open Jazdow – one of two initiatives the Polish hub supported which aimed (successfully) to preserve some unloved but unique wooden houses and support the growth of a thriving public space around them.

Sequence 5: Public Spaces / 13.37

 The Urban Movement in Poland has been effective in influencing mayoral elections and has also campaigned against the Krakow 2022 Olympic games. But it’s worth mentioning too that what began as a call for green space – a green commons – has become a call for more democracy. Both Lodz and Sopot have recently introduced participatory budgeting in response to pressure from the urban movement. It probably wasn’t a coincidence that the participatory budgeting video we saw earlier was made by someone from Poland.

In Spain new parties have formed in cities with the aim of claiming politics with the same principles they have used to claim spaces and buildings during protests and occupations of recent years. At the end of May candidates from new municipal parties – keen on collective decision making processes, openness and mistrustful of free-market economics – stood in elections all over the country. In Spain the municipal government is now controlled by Barcelona en Comu and Ada Colau. You will now see two films from Spain – the first captures the spirit of the municipal movement, the second shows candidates from these municipal parties talking openly to one another. The first part shows them talking about how they came to form political parties – the second part shows them discussing discussing how they will deal with being part of and changing institutions they do not trust.

Sequence 6: Political Parties / 19.15

So to wrap up: in the video challenge phase of the project, radical democracy meant applying ‘democratic’ principles to everyday life in the city. Taken to their logical conclusion, these principles mean an urban commons, or urban common goods need to be established. That’s why the project focussed on this in three areas – housing, public space and better democracy. The criticism of these movements perhaps is that they lack legitimacy as the people involved are unaccountable, self-appointed interest groups, but there’s been much to suggest in the project that a desire for ‘reclaiming the commons’ is less about rejecting institutions and more about renewing them.

 

 

Doc Next Media Collection: new content organization

We are developing a new strategy for the DNN Media Collection, starting by a total reorganization of the content by themes, purpose and form.

The Doc Next Media Collection is a living archive of videos produced during various Doc Next Network projects. There are about 600 documentaries, short films, homemade videos, remixes, pieces of mixed media, music videos, animations, artistic and humorous films about life in Europe and at its borders. We are currently developing a new strategy for this archive, starting with a total reorganization of the content by themes, purpose and form.

To re-think this categorization in terms of content we are happy to have collaborated with Charlie Tims, an independent researcher who works in communication and policy development. As a result of his work, we now have a new set of themes: Social Struggles, Identities & Interests, Everyday Life, Watching Places, Memories, Youth and Moods. Within each theme we have created different lists that link videos around a more concrete topic (Urban Change, Migrant Experiences, Authoritarianism, Transgressions, Hybrid Identities, etc). The aim is to facilitate the use of the Media Collection by researchers, festivals, media-makers, educators or policy-makers according to their own social interests. We have also categorized the videos by form (documentary, drama, mixed media, music video, spoof, video art) and purpose (statement, portrayal, portrait, thought, appeal) along with more concrete tags that facilitate search and exploration of the whole archive.

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On top of that, we offer different playlists selected by guest curators that provide different paths to explore the collection according to a more particular issue or story. We are also curating videos for the DNN’s latest project, Radical Democracy: Reclaiming the Commons, by creating playlists for our media labs in each country (Poland, Spain, Turkey and the UK) related to the topics and social agents they are working with.

At this moment our collection is available on two platforms: Vimeo, with public access for anyone to view our videos and playlists, and Resource Space, an archive platform with private access that can be requested if you need any of our videos to be screened or re-used. We want to develop a new platform that is both an online archive and a portal to further our Media Collection, to harness the potential of this large catalogue of films. This content reorganization is one of the first steps. We hope that it is helpful, either for people that already know our work or for newcomers to discover compelling videos through our lists.

Our next efforts will focus on creating new tools and expanding the reach of our archive. We imagine the media collection as the beating heart of the Doc Next Network, dictating the rhythms, setting the tempo and supplying energy and new ideas to a network of video makers and activists.

  • Take a look at the updated Media Collection page on the Doc Next Network website.

Reclaiming the Commons: MODE Istanbul in The Guardian

Doc Next Network partners MODE Istanbul recently had their work with Sokak Bizim, a Turkish NGO dedicated to making cities more liveable, displayed on The Guardian Witness. Here we explore some of their project’s themes through a curated playlist from our Media Collection.

In light of Istanbul’s insistence to continue plans to redevelop Gezi Park, The Guardian Witness recently put out a call for content about civic movements seeking to defend public space. Our partners at MODE Istanbul responded to that call, and you can currently see their work with Sokak Bizim (“Streets Belong to Us”) displayed on their page.

The goal of Sokak Bizim is to engage in placemaking activities that breathe life back into the public spaces that are so rapidly being devoured by the Turkish government’s ferocious pursuit of urbanisation. As streets are cleared of people to make way for capital, the city’s pulse quickens. The pace of human life struggles to catch up, but rarely does. The constant sense of urgency only adds to the anxiety, in a feedback loop of personal stress and social tension. Genuine moments of peace become fewer and further between:
Mobile Inner Peace (Mobil İç Huzur) is just one selection from a playlist of content from the Doc Next Network archive that was lovingly curated by María Yañez to explore some of the themes underlying Sokak Bizim and MODE Istanbul’s campaign to make their city more liveable. There are curated playlists for each of our local Reclaiming the Commons campaigns (in Poland, Spain and the UK, in addition to Turkey), which we will highlight here over the coming weeks. We invite you to explore these videos and make them yours by playing with them, chopping them up, remixing them or integrating them into your own DIY creations. Like our public spaces, they are there to be shared.

Radical Democracy: Reclaiming the Commons

A new project seeks to amplify the message of local struggles between citizens and urbanisation processes in Poland, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

The world seems to be flooded by an unending wave of indignation and political unrest. The media sphere extends beyond the printed press and television news, into our personalised social networks, evoking a constant stream of images: fluctuating markets, stagnating economies, vibrant multitudes, insurgent violence. It is all too overwhelming to take in, as the simultaneity of events reduces voices to indistinguishable frequencies in a wall of noise. It’s as if anything can spark widespread revolt, like a park in Istanbul, a squat in Barcelona, or the price of a metro ticket in Rio de Janeiro.

The Radical Democracy: Reclaiming the Commons project tunes out the broader context of global unrest and tunes in to the local level at which the protests take place, so we may hear the common theme that binds them. That theme is citizens seeing their right to decide what kind of communities they want to live in denied by faceless processes far-removed from local reality, and certainly not accountable to it. As social ecologist Murray Bookchin once put it, “city space, with its human propinquity, distinctive neighbourhoods and humanly scaled politics—like rural space, with its closeness to nature, its high sense of mutual aid and its strong family relationships—is being absorbed by urbanisation, with its smothering traits of anonymity, homogenisation, and institutional gigantism.”

In the midst of the wildcat general strikes and decentralised occupations that defined May 1968 in France, the sociologist Henri Lefèbvre wrote that these types of protests were claiming peoples’ “right to the city”, which he defined as a demand for “a transformed and renewed access to urban life”.

In more recent years, David Harvey has revived the concept, writing that:

“The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right, since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanisation.”

These concepts, together with the understanding that protest is fundamentally a form of caring for our communities, are what guide Radical Democracy: Reclaiming the Commons. With support from the Open Society Initiative for Europe and the European Cultural Foundation, the project highlights and empowers social agents who are proposing radical changes in the way society participates in common spaces. These social agents come from Poland, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The goal of Radical Democracy: Reclaiming the Commons is to increase the visibility of their local struggles and maximise their social impact using the networked medialabs of the Doc Next Network to produce socially engaged media with a lasting impact on public debates.

14296731209_ed74d90edb_o.jpgThe People’s Assembly in Parliament Square, London. Lee Nichols.

Poland: Opening the heart of the city

In the heart of Warsaw, tucked away in the lush green tangles where John Lennon Street meets Jazdów, lies a community of small rural houses. Established by the USSR in 1945 as a part of Finnish war reparations, they form an enticing island of tranquility in the capital’s urban landscape, and a living monument to the city’s 20th century history. Yet in recent years, city officials have decided that they would rather replace this area with the glass skyscrapers so typical of large city centres. In response to this, social activists responded by organising Otwarty Jazdów (Open Jazdów), a grassroots initiative that includes current and former Jazdów residents, community organizations, local activists and young politicians trying to stop the demolition of the houses by promoting Jazdow as a common space for the city’s inhabitants. It is a process that is similar to what activists are doing in the neglected, formerly industrial Ursus district. Starting in 2012, people in this district have been organising actions that criticise the urban decay it has been subjected to, informing the public of residents’ unmet needs and promoting the district’s history through the bottom-up creation of a Social Museum. As each of these campaigns uses the institutional and grassroots tools at their disposal in their disputes with city officials, Radical Democracy: Reclaiming the Commons will help amplify their message so that they can achieve their goals.

Turkey: Making the city liveable

The neoliberal city is the motor of Erdogan’s Turkey. Its booming economy is the result of a massive construction bubble fed by mega-projects operating on a city- and even country-wide scale, and the increasing surveillance and repression of dissent are constant reminders of the authoritarian impulse behind this urbanisation. It is a transformation that is having profoundly inegalitarian results, with middle-class flight into gated communities, deteriorating public facilities and increasing insecurity in the streets beyond the gates. In these circumstances, making the city liveable can be a form of dissent. Sokak Bizim (“Streets Belong to Us”) is an NGO focused on human-centred cities and streets in Istanbul, which they engage from the perspective of pedestrians, cyclists, children, elderly and disabled people. They are best known for their “Streets Belong to Us Once a Month” events, in which they transform lifeless spaces subsumed by the functionality of neoliberal urbanisation into festive ones, to promote community-building activities and create common spaces for citizens. Radical Democracy: Reclaiming the Commons intends to amplify Sokak Bizim’s message through the work of its networked medialabs and interaction with the other local hubs.

United Kingdom: Finding a home in the city

In London, urbanisation is pricing citizens further and further away from the places they called home. Housing prices have soared recently by up to 20% from one year to another, yet nearly 12% of residents have too few rooms in their dwellings for the number of people living in them. As waiting lists for council housing grow endless, council housing itself is being privatised along with social housing. Though some policymakers and urbanists consider this to be just another part of a process of “urban regeneration”, many citizens are fed up with their powerlessness and the lack of rights for renters. In some cases, they have begun to organise and disobey. In Hackney, squatters occupied the Central Police Station citing that they simply could not find affordable housing. And many of the squatters who occupied Carpenters Estate in the fall of 2014 cited a lack of social housing as the motive behind their occupation. As London’s housing and renters’ rights movement progresses, Radical Democracy: Reclaiming the Commons seeks to both champion and connect London’s often disparate tenants organisations, and respond to the city’s increasingly polarised housing market.

Spain: Taking back the city

For the last several years, Spain has been a laboratory for bottom-up organisation and empowerment. The 15M movement that began in 2011 not only managed to set the political agenda by framing the euro crisis and austerity as contrary to democratic principles, but also generate countless neighbourhood assemblies and amplify pre-existing assembly-based movements, such as the multicoloured mareas (tides) for social rights and the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (the PAH or Mortgage Victims’ Platform). However, the ability of these movements to gather support from the vast majority of the country’s population did not translate to much in the way of institutional change, despite their efforts to use all of the formal mechanisms at their disposal. As people grew increasingly frustrated with the indifference of the political class, many began to perceive an institutional glass ceiling. Thus, 2014 saw the emergence of new electoral experiments that not only spoke the language of the post-2011 social movements, but also contained some of their most familiar faces. This is especially true in the case of Guanyem (Catalan for “Let’s Win”) Barcelona and Ganemos (Spanish for “Let’s Win”) Madrid, municipal candidacies composed of prominent activists, community organisations and some political parties, which seek to activate citizen control in Spain’s two largest cities through a bottom-up politics of proximity and direct democratic practices. Radical Democracy: Reclaiming the Commons will document this process as experienced by the ordinary citizens it engages.

Over the coming months, Radical Democracy: Reclaiming the Commons will act as a microphone for the voices involved in all of these local struggles. By doing so, and by offering a common framework for interpreting what these apparently local struggles mean at a more global level, the project hopes to lower the volume on the noise that currently dominates the media sphere to offer the clarity needed to take steps towards making radical democracy a common reality.

10 things about democracy every MP should see

Spanish journalist, Deputy Director of eldiario.es and Remixing Europe contributor Juan Luis Sánchez presents Ten things about democracy in videos every MP should see.

ECF EUROVISIONSTake a video, ten actually: the winning entries of the Radical Democracy video challenge (disclaimer: I was part of the jury), all exploring the theme of democracy and our understanding of how European democracy works.

Enter ‘full screen’. Lie down and watch. (more…)

WINNERS & SPECIAL MENTIONS Radical Democracy

On May 18 our Jury awarded the 5 Winners and 5 Special Mentions of Radical Democracy: European Video Challenge 2014 in Warsaw. Watch their films and read their director’s statements here.

WINNERS, each receiving an €2500 award

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Line-up of finalists

Ayce Kartal | Tornistan (Backward run)
‘During the Gezi Park protests, we couldn’t get any information from the main national broadcasting channels, from our newspapers, from Turkish radio. It was very tragic that we watched what was happening on our streets via live camera broadcastings from Norwegian and German TV channels. Worst of all, our elderly people who have no access to internet, couldn’t get any information from their own country. They didn’t understand what was happening, why thousands of people were out protesting, shouting and dying in their country.’ (more…)

Radical Democracy Stories | Failections

In May 2004 ten countries joined the EU in a spirit of hope, solidarity and expectation. We had left the Cold War days behind us and things were looking up for a united Europe. Ten years on this bright picture is tainted by renewed tensions, economic crises, austerity cuts, high unemployment and rising xenophobia. Who is to blame? In the category Failections, media makers took on their politicians and leaders – and with gusto.

Lucía Muñoz can hardly be blamed for apathy: in I HAVE A PLAN, this feisty lady is ready to kick some ass.

Lucía Muñoz can hardly be blamed for apathy: in I HAVE A PLAN, this feisty lady is ready to kick some ass.

Slovenian collective Today Is a New Day for example, mimicked the words of their so-called leaders in(S)LAUGHTER. ‘People should take responsibility for their own opinions. Words are deeds and they create realities. The words our leaders speak are often downright offensive, hostile, arrogant, and, well, quite silly.’ Dutch Stéphane Kaas made a campaign video for the PARTY AGAINST CITIZENS: ‘Finally, a politician doesn’t make any hollow promises and tells the public the truth.’

Hungarian collective Hello90 ironically adresses the perceived superficiliaty of young people in DON’T VOTE UNDER 25! According to them, ‘our generation may seem to lack interest in politics but it is because political campaigns and decision-makers don’t address us.’ On the other hand, Lucía Muñoz can hardly be blamed for apathy: in I HAVE A PLAN, this feisty lady is ready to kick some ass. Says Lucía: ‘We believe in parody as a way to communicate the really awful message that advertising and media represent. Through humor, we deconstruct those messages. Because laughter is important in every healthy revolution!’

Meanwhile Polish quartet Agata, Anna, Mateusz and Piotr found the solution to failing politicians everywhere: ‘We are the generation of transformation, one that increasingly sees politicians as selfish buffoons. Is there a way of making politics that could satisfy us?’ Meet BOXER, a perfect candidate!

For these and more Failections films about the sorry state of European politics and alternatives, go to the Videos section and click on the ‘Failections’ button.

About this project

Radical Democracy Video Challenge: Award Ceremony + Screening

On May 18, the ten best videos of Radical Democracy: European Video Challenge 2014 will be screened at the Planete+ Doc Film Festival in Warsaw, Poland – in the heart of Europe. The Award Ceremony marks the highlight of the Radical Democracy Challenge, which was launched three months ago.

Finalist #6: THE TREES OF GEZI by Italo Rondinella amongst others. It's Gezi through the eyes of 10-year old Selma.

Finalist #6: THE TREES OF GEZI by Italo Rondinella amongst others. It’s Gezi through the eyes of 10-year old Selma.

On February 17, Doc Next Network called on media makers, social activists and critical thinkers to take a stand: to share their views on ‘Europe’, reflect on alternatives, and create new narratives for an open society. A total of 212 media makers from across Europe responded and submitted their work.  (more…)

Today in NRC, but not on Facebook

We posted this ad, which celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) on Facebook but Facebook found it offensive.. ;-( So we gave her a skirt and bikini. If you want to see her as she was painted, have a look here!

O la la! It is only culture, Facebook!

The ad pays attention to €urovisions and other ECF activities, on the Day of Europe (9 May) and in the weeks leading to the European Parliament Elections. Tickets for €urovisions in Eye (20 May) here, by the way 😉

NRC_advertentie_M_corr_nieuw_quote_v9.1_fin

213 Videos uploaded for Radical Democracy!

Yes! We have 213 uploads for our Radical Democracy Video Challenge! Thank you, contributors! Now is the time to vote.

1795555_629239550474702_2091515686365138131_n As with real elections, we’re inviting the audience to cast their votes for their choice of videos – and for the bright ideas and thought-provoking creativity of the media makers. Between April 14 and 27, a Selection Committee composed of the representatives of the Doc Next Network partner organizations will evaluate all entries and pick the Finalists. Online audiences can vote for their favourite videos during the same period: The 5 videos that receive the most votes by the end of this period will each win a wild card, which means they will be included among the Finalists.

Selection
A professional jury (panel of judges) will then view the Finalist videos and select 5 Winners, each receiving an award of €2,500, and 5 Special Mentions, each receiving an award of €1,000. The total awards for the challenge are €17,500.

The jury
The jury is comprised of members representing different areas of expertise related to the call: Artur Liebhart(Festival Director of Planete+ Doc Film Festival in Poland) and İmre Azem (director of Ecumenopolis: City Without Limits from Turkey) are to be included among the jury.

Deadline
The voting will close on April 27 at midnight CET. All Finalists, including the audience favourites, will be notified and announced by April 30. The winners will be publicly announced during the Awards Ceremony and Screening to be held in May at the Planete+ Doc Film Festival in Warsaw, Poland.

Go to the voting guidelines.

About

Radical Democracy 2014: European Video Challenge promotes the creation of an open and inclusive European society. Against the background of the 2014 European Parliament Elections, it is an open call to media makers, social activists and critical thinkers to submit audiovisual media works about the Europe they would like to live in. An invitation to think about the role they play in decision-making processes and to challenge prevailing notions of democracy, governance and participation.

The aim of the challenge is to collect, share and discuss genuine views on open society values and democratic representation – just like the forum in our design. European audiences will be invited to cast their votes and to share their opinion, contributing to the creation of new narratives for Europe. Offline, Radical Democracy will be present at various festivals and platforms where selected media works will be screened. All selected videos will become part of the Doc Next Online Media Collection. The winners of the video challenge will be announced and screened at Planete+ Doc Film Festival in Warsaw, Poland – in the heart of Europe.

European Alternatives and Cafebabel are communications partners of the project.

For more information about the project please contact us at challenge@docnextnetwork.org.