Hacktivism and Alternative Journalism: The Case of the French YouTube Channel Thinkerview

Hacktivism and Alternative Journalism: The Case of the French YouTube Channel Thinkerview

Christophe Emmanuel Premat (Stockholm University, Sweden)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9715-5.ch023
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The article deals with the creation of a hacktivist channel in France in 2013. The channel pretends to evaluate the information and invite critical guests that are not considered in traditional media. The aim of the article is to study how this channel presents the guests and the topics to see if there is a journalistic innovation. By using the tools of critical discourse analysis and conversational analysis, it is possible to describe the way the guests are presented and connected to the topic promoted by the article. The scenography is also worth being described as the guests have long interviews with a hidden journalist without any montage. In reality, the technique is all the more interesting as it allows the guest to correct his/her reputation. The development of a prior ethos to a discursive ethos is important as the channel can take an advantage of its original position in the sphere of media. Last but not least, the focus on those techniques helps to see if this kind of critical media is a new form of alternative journalism.
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At the end of 2012, a new YouTube channel named Thinkerview was created in France. This channel only contains interviews, between guests and a journalist who does not appear in front of the camera. The frequency of these interviews notably increased between 2013 and 2018. As of 30 November 2018, 126 interviews had been recorded and posted, with durations of between 16 and 140 minutes. The existence of such channels was made possible because of the creation of the YouTube platform in February 2005 (Jarboe, 2011, p. 2), a platform that allowed people to create and edit videos, and make content available immediately, online (Burgess, Green, 2018). Furthermore, it is possible to archive and show old interviews on the platform, thus creating a historical background, which is necessary in order to show a long-term perspective1. By means of self-generated YouTube channels, new media actors have emerged on the scene, regularly publishing content (Al Nashmi et al. 2017, p. 169 ; Bärtl, 2018, p. 30). Thinkerview describes itself as a web channel designed to establish a new model of interviewing. Thinkerview’s self-description refers many times to the existence of a “community”, as if there is an “anonymous collectivity” (Castoriadis, 1975, p. 433) that supports the programmes and proposes the questions addressed to the guests.

This chapter analyses the positioning and format of a channel that claims to have a close relationship with, and to represent, hacktivists. Here, hacktivism is not seen as a form of criminal manipulation, but rather as referring to the hacker culture, within which people share information and promote full transparency. At the same time, hackers are people who have strong computer skills, and understand the script sources of the Internet (Frichot et al., 2014, p. 8). The interviews are conducted with people who were engaged in sensitive matters, such as the intelligence services, security, hacktivism, investigative journalism, criminal justice, and geopolitics. Lawyers, journalists, and former French Senior Defence staff have been interviewed, and they’ve provided details about their fields of experience.

What are the characteristics of the YouTube channel Thinkerview that distinguish it from classical media in France? In order to describe the work of that channel, it is important to use the concept of Critical Discourse Analysis (henceforth CDA), that focuses on the interactions between the medium, the actors, and the scenography. In other words, CDA does not limit itself to the words pronounced by the actors, but analyses the context and social position of the actors. The scenography is also very important, as it creates a specific atmosphere. Scenography is a word borrowed from the theatre, that focuses on performance: “Exploiting the physical power of the performer in the space can illuminate the text, especially if the performers feel confident that they are the primary storytellers” (Howard, 2009, p. 33).

In analysing scenography, it is important to focus on the concrete details, such as the construction of the interview, its announcement, and the preparation of the guest. The guests have up to two hours to answer all kinds of questions regarding their jobs, salaries, activism, and political and philosophical backgrounds. Our hypothesis here is that this channel institutionalizes a new critical medium, offering another perspective on the current situation. Thus, these channels can be seen as a form of alternative journalism (Atton, Hamilton, 2008, p. 123), with the aim of uncovering and exposing aspects of contemporary reality that are not covered by classical media. The channels give a voice to investigative journalism and critical thinking, in order to question the dominating discourses. This chapter analyses this “posture” (Panier, 2008, p. 73), in order to see whether the interactions between the guests and the journalist tend to develop a critical discourse on the methods of conducting journalism (Peters, Broersma, 2013). CDA is useful here, as it offers a critical approach to a discourse that pretends to be critical. Hence, it is important to question whether the characteristics of this channel fit its initial intentions.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Conversational Analysis: Study of the frame of the conversation with specific attention paid to interactive details (interruptions, reformulations).

Scenography: Study of the scene frame (concrete location, definition of the setting).

Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence refers to the creation of an intelligence which is different from human intelligence.” by “The creation of an intelligence, different from human intelligence, usually from computers.”

Transhumanism: Ideology that promotes the development of human beings through their interaction with artificial intelligence.

Critical discourse analysis: Field of research that compares the social role of the speakers and the scene of enunciation.

Discursive Ethos: Image of the self that appears during an interview or a discussion.

Collapsology: Set of theories that assumes that the Western societies are about to collapse” by “A set of theories that assume Western societies are about to collapse, and that the global crisis.

Prior Ethos: Image of the self before the discussion (perception of the self by others).

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