By Jamie Hurcomb

First and foremost I’d just like to say how excited I am that Ryerson University is fostering a hub for alternative media and counter-hegemonic discourse. In the words of Rinaldo Walcott, The Ryerson Studio for Media Activism is a way in which we can working within the state, against the state. The university is part of a system which quite often regurgitates social, historical and political norms- offering few marginalized voices or alternative opinions. To use Scott Uzellman’s article as example, we must work against the heavy flow of mainstream media content to allow room for counter-cultural views and stories. A well rounded mix of discourse is so essential in shaping the ideologies of young creators such as myself and many others in the RTA media production program. As Rinaldo claimed- artists and artwork forces us to think about what it means to be a human, living in a “constant state of emergency. “ I truly believe that new media and media art says a lot about the state of respective democracies around the world. Those who fight against oppression often will use art as a powerful tool to encourage social and political discourse. !
! To challenge mainstream media is not an easy task, however. Biased as I may be due to his respective field, I was truly inspired by Amar Wala’s documentary The Secret Trial 5. Not only was it an informative and engaging film, Wala’s piece also emphasized the problematic ways in which popular Canadian media outlets use dissociative tactics to alienate the public from anything perceived as “other”. A perfect example of this is the naming and titles given to the 5 incarcerated men who were subject to the secret trials. Sensationalist headlines reading “terrorist suspect goes on hunger strike” flooded mainstream news networks across the country- all while removing any trace of being consciously aware of the human condition. If these men have not been charged with anything- why keep referring to them as terror suspects? Those kind of sensationalist titles are used solely for the purpose of inciting fear into the public, rendering them powerless to counter-opinion in hesitation to come across as anti-nationalist. Scott Uzellman explains the way in which consumers of mainstream are put in the place of th passive viewer, rather than empower them as an active member of the system with the ability to incite change or make a difference. This is why alternative media organizations are so key in the empowerment of society- for they allow consumers to see the reality of the situation and then allow them to respond respectively using their own, self-constructed system of values. !
! All in all, a fantastic opening to the much needed Ryerson Studio of Media Activism, with an inspiring panel of artists whose works challenge hegemonic discourse and encourage alternative perspectives and stories to be heard. I am very excited to see a system “within the state” working towards an open conversation on news and current affairs, activism and the human condition.