This article was originally published at WireTap magazine.
With Detroit’s auto industry in decline, activists argue for a media-based economy to change the city’s fortunes. Detroit: Arsenal of Creativity
February 9, 2009
“Michigan will be the next film capital of the world,” Clint Eastwood said in a recent interview following the release of his new film Gran Torino, shot in Detroit. The state’s generous tax incentives for film production have spurred a boost in jobs in a year that’s seen declines in nearly every other industry. While it’s exciting to see the rise of film-based enterprise in Michigan, we can’t rely on it, or any single industry to fill the enormous hole left by the decline of the auto industry. Amid the current crisis we have an opportunity to fill the gap in our region’s economy with diverse local initiatives, including community-based media, which thrives off the city’s creative past and present.
Allied Media Projects (AMP) is the local host of the annual Allied Media Conference in Detroit, which attracts North America’s most creative and skilled media makers and social justice organizers. Launched in 2002, AMP relocated to Detroit in 2007 because of the vibrant media-based activism here. Though we’re a small nonprofit, we bring jobs and visitors’ dollars to the city.
Through the conference, AMP has fostered conversations about community media potentially transforming Detroit and other “dying cities” throughout the world. Folks in Detroit–or anywhere that requires a hustle to survive– know that creativity is an abundant and renewable resource. We can build on that. Here are some key steps we can take to use community media to rebuild Detroit’s economy for the 21st century.
Build Community-Owned Broadband and Wireless Infrastructure
Ensuring that every household in Detroit has access to affordable, high-speed Internet has the potential to transform everything from education to public safety. Every year, the Allied Media Conference showcases new forms of collaborative learning through the Internet–from environmental justice Google maps to digital storytelling exchanges between youth of color in the U.S. and youth in Palestine. These kinds of projects utilize the Internet to expand students’ belief in what’s possible.
Community-wide access to the Internet also expands our ability to distribute life-saving information during an emergency. Having access to local news and information online is now critical in Detroit as our local newspaper conglomerate, the Detroit News/Free Press will be cutting their home delivery service to three days a week. We need broadband and wireless infrastructure to ensure the most vulnerable populations in the city are not further marginalized. We also need creative minds dedicated to inventing the technologies that will utilize the Internet and the wireless spectrum to advance public safety and our human right to communication.