Week 5: Digital Media and Emerging Technologies

This week we are focussing on the emerging role of new media technologies within Africa and their role in providing an avenue for social and political expression. As an introduction to this topic we listened to a podcast by Africa Past and Present entitled Mass Media and Democracy. For this podcast the producers welcomed professor Folu Ogundimu to discuss the transformation of mass media in contemporary Africa and its role in revitalizing and strengthening the freedom of expression for African people. The podcast touched on many different aspects including the current trends in media today, as well as the emergence of modern forms of media such as the social media and the Internet compared to traditional sources such as radio and newspapers. At large, it focussed on how the media has contributed to advances in the liberalization of African politics as a result of the continued privatization of media sources and the ability for greater stability and development of the freedom of press and expression within African societies. Overall, Ogundimu states that there is still a lot of room for growth in terms of the capacity of media sources in developing their own critical voice, as well as the need for media sources to focus on local politics as opposed to national politics.

The article by John Middleton and Kimani Njogu largely builds off of these ideas by examining the intersection between media and development in Africa. In this article the authors discusses the rising trends in media within African societies and how it has played a role in facilitating the growth of information/knowledge societies and economies through the emergence of new digital spaces where people have the ability to share their idea, images and knowledge. As a result, media has been critical to the growth of democracy in contemporary Africa through the promotion of freedom of speech and human rights. Overall, the authors see that both media and democracy are mutually enforcing in the way that they create space for expression and the exchanging of information and support.

Lastly, the article by Chiluwa and Adegoke provides a direct example of how new media technologies are being used in Africa as a form of social and political expression. In their article, the authors examine people’s reactions to the recent Boko Haram attack in Nigeria through Twitter. The study found that the top three themes behind people’s Tweets were a) in support for the attack and Islamic extremism, b) condemning the acts of violence and denouncing Islam, and c) accusing and blaming the Nigerian government for the violence. I found this article really interesting in the way that it exemplified people’s perceptions and opinions around the Boko Haram events. As well as the information it provided on the Boko Haram group in terms of their history, goals and actions. Overall, this article showed how social media provides a medium for people to express their opinions and attitudes towards significant events through an informal but widely viewed means of communication.

– M. Thwaites (110305660)


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