Past, future and change.
Contemporary analysis of evolving media scapes.

Title chapter: Quality Discourses: Community Media Articulations of Democratic and Negotiated Quality
Author: Nico Carpentier
Keywords: quality, discourse theory, aesthetics, professionalism, community media, democratic quality, negotiated quality
Abstract: Quality is a pervasive notion that can be found in a wide variety of societal domains. Within the cultural domain, its intrinsic articulation with aesthetics, beauty, civilisation and culture as such has produced a Gordian knot that is virtually impossible to untie. In this chapter, quality is defined as a discourse, in line with Laclau and Mouffe’s (1985) discourse theory. Their theoretical model provides a toolbox that can be used to analyse the articulation of the quality discourses within the dynamics of fixity and fluidity, emphasising the contingent while allowing sufficient space for its (temporary) fixation. The first part of this chapter will focus on two quality discourses that can be considered hegemonic and universalised: the aesthetic and the professional quality discourse. The second part of this text uses a small group of interviews with community media producers in Austria and Switzerland to argue that, through the participatory cultures of these radio stations, other (alternative) quality discourses can be observed and theoretised. The producers first of all deploy a democratic quality discourse and a rearticulated (deprofessionalised) professional quality discourse, but they also use a discourse on quality which can be termed negotiated quality. The interviews with the radio producers show that the universalised quality discourses can be deconstructed without destroying the notion of quality, opening up the way for rethinking it.
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