Week 5: Digital Media and Emerging Technologies

The materials for this week allowed for a slight change in the tone of the discourse of contemporary Africa in this course thus far, in my opinion, because the readings and the podcast focused on a perceived area of African development that is not as frequently complicated as others. In other words, for instance, the Zeleza chapter “The Media in Social Development in Contemporary Africa”, was centred on the connection between media an developmental paradigms in Africa. It assumed the perspectives of media as a vehicle, a form of discursive communication, as sign-interpretations and as processes of social identity. By the end of this highly pragmatic and statistically-supported text, rather than a more anticipated conclusion that would problematize the effects of media on African development, Zeleza simply concluded that all forms of media is integral to Africa’s social development. I noticed however, that some of the statistical data from this text was drawn from the World Bank, which I found interesting as the data was highlighting the growing popularity of certain media outlets in Africa over the last few decades as if they were as indicative as economic measures of development. This allows for an alternative set of questions for readers in terms of the significance and meaning of a robust media and technology sector/industry in developing African countries today.

Similar to the podcast, this reading discussed media as a service sector or “market” in accordance with economic angles of development. Folu Ogundimu was broad in his mentioning of a long list of African countries who are yet to have stable media sectors. It was interesting to note the implied connections he made between political stability or a lack of conflict with the development of the freedom of press across African countries. I was hoping for a more in depth analysis of this relation, however the first step is to identify patterns and I am sure there have been more conclusions on this linkage since 2008.

With regards to the last reading entitled, “Twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria: Investigating Pragmatic Acts in the Social Media“, the more expected controversial kind of discourse arose in discussing new developments in Africa. As it is known, the simplified meaning of the name “Boko Haram” translates to “Western education is forbidden” and this speaks quite clearly to the contradictory nature of this organization since its’ terrorization often thrives through Western-invented vehicles of communication i.e. Twitter, and the greatest irony, I find, is the fact that it is inevitable that Boko Haram is a topic of study in Western educational settings like our class. Nonetheless, I think that the development of mass media in African countries is allowing for greater positive outcomes, such as a culture of technological entrepreneurship among African youth, more than it is feeding in to negative, extremist avenues of thought. The latter does exist as we have seen in this article for example, however some things are inevitable but are worth investing in when the large scale benefits outweigh the isolated detriments.

One of the most interesting Vice documentaries I have watched to date is about the history of internet scamming or “Sakawa” in Western Africa and the health and environmental repercussions of international technological waste disposal in Ghana. Video: Internet Scamming in Ghana


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