Week 5- Digital Media and Emerging Technologies

Naomi Pearson

I found this week’s readings a fascinating connection to many questions around the spread of technology which I have been pondering recently. After stumbling upon -one-too-many Peshmerga or ISIS twitter/Instagram accounts  (i’m not joking) while conducting research, I have been asking myself just how relevant social/digital media has become in the modernized world?

Therefore, I was interested in how the readings focused on the way in which modern social media technology can influence democracy, speak out against oppression, or simply voice displeasure against a government where this once was impossible. Kimani Njogu and John Middleton discuss how media itself is very central to the idea of African identity, and how the rise of cell phones as a status symbol became a normality.  Additionally,  Folu Ogundiumu’s “Mass Media and Democracy,” podcast discusses how the rise of the media and technology has grown to influence democracy in certain regions of Africa. Certain elements of his podcast reminded me a great deal of the Arab Spring (and I do believe he mentioned it more than once) due to the fact that citizens were able to mobilize because of their social media technology. It was this technology, allowing them to express their thoughts, feelings, and plans, on an instant basis; that made the spread of the uprising and more mobile. Likewise, in the podcast, they are discussing how the media is allowing Africans to share their own thoughts and opinions in a very democratic way, across vast distances. There is a more diverse array of news channels, and people have a larger selection of opinions with which to debate. Though the podcast also stated that they wished the media was more responsible in their reporting, and in their actions at times, they had to acknowledge the ground that had been made.

Lastly, the article  “Twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria: Investigating Pragmatic Acts in the Social Media” investigated the rise of twitter in response to the violent acts committed by Boko Haram in Nigeria. The article found that once again, there was a diverse reaction in the responses people had to Boko Haram’s attacks, and this was reflected in taking to social media and free speech. However, due to social media, citizens had the opportunity to feel connected in their displeasure with the government in ways they previously hadn’t. When the people of Nigeria were angry, they could come together and communally express their anger instantly, in a non-violent way. Social media provided an outlet for the emotions the country was feeling. Though this is a simplistic way of putting it, this rings true for many people from many countries. I know that I myself often express displeasure at government action through social media. This is engaging in the democratic process, because I am allowed to express my displeasure with others and am not thrown in prison for doing so. Therefore, I can see how the rise of social media in Africa is such an important phenomena, I highly value it myself.

1) What do you think could be the possible negative impacts of the social media situation in Nigeria and Boko Haram?

2) Do you think the academic community values the impact social/digital media has on democracy too lightly?

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