Week 5: Digital Media and Emerging Technologies

This week contains very interesting information regarding social media and how it can be a useful tool during times of strife. In Chiluwa and Adegoke’s article ‘Twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria’ we learned that growing access to technology has allowed citizens to use their twitter platform to express themselves without fear, report and respond to ongoing events and to join the online discussion. We have seen how twitter and social media can contribute to social movements through the Arab Spring, which was coined ‘The Twitter Revolution”. It allowed people to connect with each other and organize demonstrations, as well as its use as an alternative press – reaching out to the global community and providing firsthand truths and photos. In the Nigerian case, twitter is being used as a political platform as well as a news platform to discuss support or rejection of Boko Haram and report about the uprisings and bombing attacks.

There were many parallels that could be drawn between the article discussed above and the assigned podcast ‘Mass Media and Democracy’, episode 4 of Folo Ogundiumu’s series Africa Past & Present. The podcast explains how mass media is reforming the way African countries, specifically Nigeria, have popularized democracy. Africa is often shown in a stereotypical frame and media reports can often be seen as politically motivated, which is why the use of social media is so detrimental. Social media platforms have allowed Africans to speak for themselves, and specifically Twitter has allowed people to connect, organize, and express their own opinions publicly.

Although social media and freedom of speech have proven to be powerful in terms of achieving democracy, it can also have negative effects. An example that immediately comes to mind is the KONY 2012 campaign that beat a number of records of views/shares/retweets, but dwindled out as quickly as it arose. If people rely too heavily on social media, we end up with more ‘click-tivists’ than activists. Also, due to freedom of speech, terrorist groups are equally allowed to share their opinions and plans on social media, potentially recruiting more supporters. We cannot be selective about who is allowed freedom of speech and therefore anyone and everyone can say what they please, sometimes resulting in violent or negative behaviour. On a lower scale level, there is an all time high of cyber-bullying and heated debates through social media, which gives people the confidence to say terrible things behind the comfort of a keyboard and screen. Although the latest advancements in media have given people a platform to share their voice, it is important to look at both sides when determining its power.

Do we give too much credit to social media in terms of achieving democracy?

Is there a way of restricting the negative impacts of social media, which are often overlooked, without infringing on people’s freedom of speech?

Emily McManus 100674760

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