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Democratising print? The field and practices of radical and community printshops in Britain 1968-98

Baines, Jessica (2016) Democratising print? The field and practices of radical and community printshops in Britain 1968-98. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Alternative media studies is a rapidly expanding field, particularly since the emergence and uptake of digital technologies and their potential to facilitate the articulation of alternative and contestatory voices. As previous scholarship has shown, aspirations to this end, deploying various communication technologies are not new. However the histories of these earlier activities can be elusive. This thesis examines one such case, typically absent from litanies of pre-digital attempts in democratising media/cultural production; Britain’s late 20th century radical and community printshops, particularly but not exclusively those in London. Field theory approaches (Bourdieu 1994, Crossley 2006, Fligstein & McAdam 2012) are used to map and analyse the trajectory of this heterogeneous field of printshops; from its emergence in the 1970s to its dissipation by the 1990s. The thesis identifies the combinations of material, cultural and political conditions, internal and external to their fields of operation (fields of movement and civil society activity), that variously enabled and challenged their growth and survival. The field approach is linked with Shove et al.’s (2012) synthesised practice theory to analyse how the printshops democratised internal organisation and production, and the challenges in doing so. The methods undertaken to conduct the study are a combination of archival research, the instigation of a ‘radical printshops’ open wiki and 55 in-depth interviews with printshop members. The research demonstrates how the printshops activities did not exist in isolation but as part of, and dependent upon, wider webs of culture, politics and influence. It shows how their participatory practices were contingent on wider field recognition of their value, and how ‘habitus’ can play a role in their uptake. The research also found that the heterogeneity of printshop memberships kept them open to diverse movement struggles and internal selfcriticism, but how this could also be a source of internal instability and conflicts about aims. Lastly, the thesis reveals how the influence of the alternative left field on municipal socialist policy of the 1980s both enabled and undermined the activity of the printshops. Generally the thesis contributes to alternative media studies by bringing the printshops to attention and connecting them into a larger history of democratic experiments in the amplification of contestatory ideas and marginalised voices.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Jessica Baines
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Supervisor: Cammaerts, Bart

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