Week 5: Emerging Technologies

The theme of this week’s class focuses on the emergence of digital media in Africa and how such technologies have played a role in the spread of democracy and freedom of political expression. The article written by Innocent Chiluwa and Adetunji Adegoke called Twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria, examines the responses of Nigerian citizens to the actions of an Islamic terrorist group in Nigeria, Boko Haram, through social media forums such as Twitter. This is a very interesting topic and immediately reminded me of the use of Twitter during the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, which the authors eventually reference in comparison. The term “citizen journalism” is used to describe this use of social media to voice opinions of situations such as this. The ability of citizens to express their feelings and opinions is extremely important in this day in age where so often voices are silenced or warped by media conglomerates. The pragmatic messages that have been put out their by Nigerian citizens demonstrate exactly what the people living within the country are feelings, what they want and need. In this case it was their dissatisfaction with the Nigerian government, the condemning of the terrorist group’s actions, and a call for help that was being voiced. By engaging with social media outlets that allow for people to have a voice they are partaking in democratic activities and practices, which is something that is further explored in the podcast that was also a part of this weeks readings.

Episode 4 of the podcast labeled Mass Media and Democracy, which featured Folo Ogundimu, Peter Limb, and Olabode Ibironke focus on how mass media in certain regions of Africa have created a space for democracy to be “revitalized”. Ogundimu talks about the portrayal of Africa in Western mass media as very stereotypical; however there has been a development of very successful media presses that are local and use local languages instead foreign or colonial presses. This allows for Africans a greater freedom to express themselves in ways that they have never been able to before due to the powers of oppression. The podcast pushes even further urging the focus to shift away from even national politics and towards more local issues and politics. There has been great progress in liberalizing African politics, promoting a transformation of the media sector into a more democratic means of operation, but Ogundimu argues that the development of critical voice is still needed. It is extremely important that people have the ability to express themselves and social media has become the most popular and easily accessible place for people to do so, however I wonder how much of the population actually have access to social media forums? Do you think that beyond the ability to express opinions, there is value in social media? What are, if any, the negative impacts that could arise as a result of the use of digital media technologies?

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