Channeling community: A case study of Squeaky Wheel/Buffalo Media Resources
Goldman, Ruth B.
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This dissertation presents a detailed case study of the history and practices of Squeaky Wheel/Buffalo Media Resources, a twenty-nine year old regional media arts center located in Buffalo, New York. The case study considers Squeak Wheel in the broader context of community media and focuses on four axes: 1) grassroots foundations; 2) the influence of socio-cultural and economic geography; 3) communicative and participatory democracy; and 4) diversity. This project uses a wide range of primary sources including interviews with founding to current staff, volunteers, members, Board members and program participants and archival writings, drawings, and promotional materials included in the twenty-year publication history of Squeaky Wheel's esoteric print and cultural production vehicle, The Squealer. Buffalo, New York is one of the poorest and most racially divided cities in the United States yet it is also home to SUNY-Buffalo, an historic mecca for experimental and alternative cultural and media arts and social activism. The juxtaposition of and tensions between these geocultural facts and an antagonistic yet productive relationship with New York City have produced both a creative and resourceful localized media aesthetic and media arts center. Illuminating the story and inner and outer workings of individual media arts centers like Squeaky Wheel can help community media scholars and practitioners more thoroughly understand the complex history, practices and current state of community media initiatives in the United States. Furthermore, such localized case studies offer an antidote to inequities in scholarship on community and/or local media in the larger fields of media and cultural studies. Given its longevity and unique and diversified story, Squeaky Wheel provides a noteworthy example of the necessary dynamism and pertinent challenges that small, non-profit grassroots community media initiatives must cultivate and confront in order to remain both financially solvent and communally relevant during a period of pivotal economic, technological, socio-cultural and organizational changes in media production, media arts and community formation in the United States.
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