Week 5: Digital Media and Emerging Technologies

Sarah Virani

The podcast from Africa Past and Present discussed media systems and communication in Africa, focusing on Nigeria. Ogundiumu mentions how the media has had a significant role in Africa’s story of revitalization and has been influential in the popularization of democracy, acting as a way for Africans to regenerate from the institutional forms of oppression. I was surprised to learn that the advancement of the private development of the press in Sub-Saharan Africa was not led by foreign ownership but instead indigenous African capital, which relates back to how Ogundiumu mentioned at the beginning of the podcast that Africa is portrayed in the media in stereotypical ways. His discussion of local language presses highlights how the liberalization of the politics surrounding the media has fostered the growth of indigenous language presses, which are more successful than stations broadcasted in the colonial language. He also brings up the medias relation to politics and raises the question of whether the press is an agenda setter or an agenda follower, mentioning that we need to improve capacity. I agree with Ogundiumu as we need to teach people how to be critical thinkers, we need to teach them how to think rather what to think, and teach them the necessary skills to become active participant in society.

In “The Media in Social Development in Contemporary Africa” Zeleza, discusses the many uses of media and the various roles that it can have with spreading information. This article expressed media as a dynamic force that is always changing depending on various factors such as the existing ideologies of the current political economies. The articles provides a more in-depth context for media development today in Africa, discussing the implementation of media as well as the impact that it has on the identities of African. I thought that the articles discussion of the challenges that the media faces beneficial as it exposes some of the challenges that Africa faces in their development. Zeleza discusses the implications surrounding corporate pressures, which is similar to Ogundiumu’s discussion in the podcast concerning foreign ownership.

The article, Twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria: Investigating Pragmatic Acts in the Social Media examines tweets on Twitter and comments on media reports by Africans and how these pragmatic acts function within social settings, especially within the Boko Haram revolt. The articles brings up the notion of citizen journalism and how social media inspires this type of journalism as it is a way for Africans to express their thoughts. This is significant when discussing media in Africa as it as a way for Africans to become involved in current issues as well as communicate their perspectives.

These pragmatic messages can be interpreted in more than one way as the authors highlight. The article mentions that they had selected the Tweets and comments that met the common goal of the six groups they had chosen such as a group for ones that support and identify themselves with Islam and Boko Haram and ones the blame the West. This could be problematic, as the ones that were not chosen could have had pragmatic messages that could have been interpreted in a different way in comparison to the author’s perspective.  Nonetheless, the podcast and the articles do an adequate job of explaining how media in Africa has been affected by democracy and the roles that the media has in African identities. The articles debunk the traditional stereotypes that the West has a profound influence on Africa but rather expresses how the growth in Africa is attributed to the indigenous populations rather than foreign operations, which I believe needs to be examined more in literature.

Despite that this picture is from 2011 and is a few years old, I believe that it gives a good representation of how many Africans are using Twitter and their location within the continent. I can only imagine how many more users there are now!



Discussion Questions

  • Do you think that in the years to come the state will have a more significant role in regulating the media? (i.e freedom of the press)
  • In what ways can social media platforms be used in Africa in order to produce change other than expressing ones beliefs? Do you think it is beneficial that indigenous presses are more popular than foreign owned ones? If it were to be heavily dominated by foreign ownership, how would the media change?
  • Do you think that the media in Africa will encounter the same revolutions that we did (i.e. moving from paper to electronic)? What do you believe the future of independent media in Africa looks like?

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