Week 5

Keira Gagne

This week’s focus is on the role social media plays in contemporary conflicts. Innocent Chiluwa and Adetunji Adegoke discuss how people have utilized social media to express their reactions to Boko Haram’s action in Nigeria in the article “Twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria: Investigating Pragmatic Acts in the Social Media.” The  article provides actual examples of tweets and compares the content of the tweets to what the writers are feeling about the solution. The article asserts how people are able to express their opinions of Boko Haram and why the group is committing these acts. The article provides a good description of what Boko Haram is and how it began. The article is interesting because it presents various suggestion on stopping Boko Haram from  committing more violence and various theories denouncing the group. The article is interesting in comparing the various tweets, however, it does not provide an in-depth analysis of how social media is utilized in conflict situations.

Question: Are those who utilize social media in discussing Boko Haram in Nigeria educated about the current situation or providing opinions without any previous knowledge of the conflict?


Week 5 – Digital Media and Emerging Technologies

Breeanna Campbell – 110671150

This week was a particularly interesting topic, regarding the media and “emerging technologies” in contemporary Africa. More specifically, concepts of social media and their relation to democracy and developement are explored.

The podcast Mass Media and Democracy with Professor Folu Ogundimu, Peter Limb and Olabode Ibironke discusses how social media (and other mass media) may be linked to the development and progression of democracy. There are many debates around this topic, however. How much can social media and its outlets really do in creating lasting change? Given the numerous restricts (such as character limits in Twitter blogs), it is unclear if these tools are able to make a difference in a positive manner, and not add to societal gaps and facilitate disorganized, unproductive programs… But rather, facilitate a platform to increase freedom of speech and amplify citizen’s important voices.

This concept is further addressed in the article Twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria: Investigating Pragmatic Acts in the Social Media. This article illustrates the importance of social media for the purpose of citizen empowerment and political development (in the form of platforms, and political education/knowledge). Social media is also able to help organize, facilitate, report on and navigate through social movements and social “revolutions”.

As the last article suggests, the media can play a large role in social development in contemporary Africa (as the title of this next article also proposes – The Media in Social Development in Contemporary Africa). Media is a driving force towards the mobilization of information and ideas in Africa. This article raised many questions for me, including: how would Africa change if all the media was privatized?

Is social media really making footprints in the right direction? The realm of social media is built upon fast moving data and information, with virtually no revisions or proof to provide context or positioning for the notions addressed. Perhaps, in one sense, this can be compared to large media outlets in the West – for example – who are criticized for publishing articles and issues without fully understanding the context and religious background that is it positioned within. Is this moving towards a more democratic world?

Week Five

The materials this week are centred on digital media and emerging technologies, and their links with Africa. In episode 4 of Africa Past & Present, Folu Ogundiumu chats mostly about press freedom in Africa. He laments about the extent to which the press in many African countries are not truly “free,” citing that they are often used as tools to further the agendas of political hegemonies. Nevertheless, he recognizes that this challenge is not one peculiar to African countries alone (a direct allusion to the antics of Rupert Murdoch). Furthermore, as Ogundiumu says, the little press freedom that exists is more as a result of indigenous African capital ownership, than as a result of foreign support. This, however, is not to suggest that foreigners do not play a role: much of the technicalities associated with the press do come from abroad. The questions that lingers on from Ogundiumu’s podcast become: how does the African press become more independent of national political factors and international pressures? Is it premature or unfair to conclude that the African press, when compared to the press in more developed countries, lacks the sophistication needed to attain an ideal level of independence?

In Twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria, Innocent Chiluwa and Adetunji Adegoke write about the ways in which Nigerians have used Twitter, a microblogging site, to report and discuss the Boko Haram insurgency. We learn from this article about the recent history of Boko Haram (up to 2011), and we learn about the exact processes through which Nigerians use social media, particularly Twitter, in relation to the insurgency. Adegoke and Chiluwa put forward a theory, so to say, of citizen journalism and “pragmatic acts”. Citizen journalism, as its name might imply, refers to the ease with which ordinary people can act in certain situations as journalists. This accessibility and reach of social media makes it easier, as the authors point out, to “champion and mobilize offline social and political protests around the world…” They cite that access to social media has certainly increased citizens’ political participation; I would submit, however, that social media has not increased political participation so much as it has made it “visible.” That is, social media platforms are simply an extension of African oratory culture; the difference, however, is that, especially with sites like Twitter where thoughts and reports are written down and can be revisited and accounted for, it was and is quite difficult to account for things that are spoken. In Nigeria, there is a culture of gossiping and “gisting,” a culture that creates a grapevine through which ideas and sentiments are easily spread. Today in Nigeria (especially for young Nigerians), Twitter serves as the navel of this “gisting” culture. It serves, more importantly, as a contemporary grapevine. The shortcoming, then, is that just as it is likely for a revolution to be sparked from the sentiments expressed in the grapevine, it is also equally likely for mischievous, perilous, and fictitious sentiments and ideas to spread. Hence in that sense, social media serves as a double-edged sword.

One need not look further than the reactions of Nigerians to the Boko Haram insurgency. Many rightfully condemned the terrorist acts and the government’s inefficiency in dealing with it; however, a great many people submitted instead to petty conspiracies that have unfortunately become, through the grapevine, the prevalent rhetoric about the situation.

With social media, Twitter in particular, there is very little room for individual thought to manifest, and it is not difficult for people to detract from the important aspects of a situation, focusing instead on the mundane and frivolous.

Nevertheless, there are ways through which social media can be used creatively and positively. A prominent example is of Teju Cole, a Nigerian-American writer who chronicles the experiences of ordinary Nigerians in informative and creative ways (Google: Teju Cole AND Small Fates).

Moyo Arewa

Week 5: Digital Media and Emerging Technologies

Usually on the topic of Africa, the media and technology are not generally discussed but only recently has the issue of social media been bought up within many world conflicts. These weeks’ articles investigate online feedback through media outlets such as Twitter. The article twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria, looks at activities of Boko Haram, and a terrorist group in Nigeria while Muslims and non-Muslims as they express varied feelings and opinions mostly condemning the activities of the terrorist sector.  From Iran to Tunisia and Egypt and beyond, Twitter and Facebook are the power tools of civic upheaval – but social media is only one factor in the spread of democratic revolution. In the podcast ‘Mass Media and Democracy’ the rise of technology in Africa recently is discussed. It was very fascinating to learn that the rise of media actually contributes significantly to democracy. The access to technology is allowing citizens of Africa to express their feelings in a very diplomatic and protected way. The freedom of expression is encouraged at a local level. Personally, I find social media to be a very liberating thing for the citizens of Africa as well as the rest of the world. It is something that has allowed the world to be connected on many different levels and enables rapid formation of networks and ideas are shared.

Previously with Arab spring, social media proved to be something that can facilitate rebellion and even topple regimes.  The effect of social media specifically the global reaction to Libya would not have been so fast and would have been very much delayed. Two years ago, Iranian pro-democracy activists protested against the re-election of the Iranian President, as the world watched its Twitter feeds. In a country with so few foreign journalists on the ground, and where information was so tightly managed, the Green Revolution was quickly dubbed, “The Twitter Revolution.” It was not until recently the online media outlets were used so vicariously. In reference to the Boko Haram, the tweets allowed citizens to express emotions through informal means of communication. Whether it is similar to Arab spring where the social media was used mainly to report the events taking place or Boko Haram where citizens were given the opportunity to express their emotions in times of stress, the media has helped significantly. Though, times such as the Kony movement which was one of the biggest social movements experiment, the movement was criticized for oversimplifying the events in the region and providing misleading information. Despite the problems with the movement, it still allowed the world to become more aware of the issues and brought this to many people’s attention.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Can social media help contribute to building a new government?
  2. The people who use social media have deep social divisions and with the constant changing of social media access, could this ever produce a significant social divide between the worlds

J. Flood 110271250

Week 5: Digital Media and Emerging Technologies

This week’s articles and podcast focus heavily on the role of media and the advancements of technology in the development of Africa. Folu Ogundimu’s podcast Mass Media and Democracy is an interview discussion on the conditions and trends of media in Africa, and goes into detail about his views of the democratization of Africa and the role of media in its revitalization. Yes, there were huge obstacles to the popularization of democracy within Africa, but with media people were able to resist institutional forms of oppression and express their own liberated views and concerns regarding their countries state and its actions. This is emphasized because Ogundimo believes that the real story being missed is the extent of influence the media sector had on the revival of the African sector. A growth of the private world began in the 1990s with early transformations of modern media, and has allowed a space in which individuals with access to some sort of social media platform can voice their opinions, and use it as a means of communication with few to no retributions. Freedom of the press revolutionized an era of personal opinion, and a private sector in media that has significantly stabilized in improvements. The point that I found stuck out the most to me during the podcast was when Folu says that without a portion of press under foreign ownership, Africa would continue to lack behind in terms of development of press in comparison to the rest of the world. Although they pride themselves off of Africa’s recent private development of press, there is always foreign influence in news coverage and information distribution. Another question is raised in regards to whether or not the press is “an agenda setter, or an agenda follower?” I find this extremely relevant in not only analyzing media’s role in the democratization of Africa, but also observing whether or not democracy was a driving force of technological advancement and press improvements.

I drew a lot of connections between Folu Ogundimu’s podcast and Zeleza’s The Media in Social Development in Contemporary Africa, which analyzes the media’s influence on the development, construction, and articulation of collective identities within African society. There are four main conceptions of the media that are summarized as serving as a vehicle of transmission of ideas, information and images, it is a space for public communication, sign of communication and communities, and lastly they constitute a means to perform social identities and identify social performances of others. In relation to the podcast, Ogundimo says that sometimes there is a glorification of foreign politics that does not focus on political action or crisis within their own country, which can be classified as ‘mass communication media’. This could in large part be an explanation for the statement that democratization has been critical to the growth of the media, and the media have been critical to the growth of democracy in contemporary Africa.

Do you feel as though democracy in Africa was a result of technological advancement and the introduction of a private sector for public opinion and communication, or do you think that strategies of mass media communication promote an independent voice by the press to promote the popularization of democracy?

Do you think that with the commercialization of mass media, private media corporations within Africa will be able to compete with foreign corporations and increasing commodity?

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?

Week 5

Mary Crawford – 110209140

The podcast assigned for the week introduced the transformation of mass media in Africa and how it has empowered the population to speak out and demand change. Mass Media and Democracy was hosted by Folu Ogundimu on Africa Past and Present to discuss social media creating a platform for the public to express themselves and voice their opinions. This ties in with the article by Chiluwa about Nigeria and its role on the social media network, Twitter. This has backfired as many terrorist groups and extremists have begun using this opportunity to spread hate and recruit others to join them. For example, Boko Haram has a twitter account and regularly posts confusing but aggressive tweets to induce terror onto the public and demonstrate their power. They attach videos posted on youtube to show off their stock pile of weapons and growing numbers of “soldiers”.  This easily can get out of hand as others from around the world can chose to retweet, favourite, hashtag or tweet at them only encouraging the behaviour and extends the reach of their posts.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 5.07.28 PMScreen Shot 2015-02-02 at 5.08.40 PM

Although there are negatives to the fast growing media sources in Africa, there are some positive aspects as well. Ogundimu believes it has provided the African people with a freedom that would otherwise be non-existent without this new created outlet but there is still a great need for stability in order for this to gain some political influence on an international scale. The introduction of digital media gives a voice to those who would otherwise not have one, but not all voices are positive ones.

Through globalization the world has become a much smaller place and mobile technology has made the world accessible. In the article Linking Africa, the author ties the growth of mobile money to the development of Africa and provides agency to the people. Western companies now turn to Africa for inspiration and look to invest in many of the technological projects all over the continent. With this accessibility to the internet comes the growing awareness of the international community which will than lead to the more aid and partnerships with developed nations. Creating a way in which the world can build relationships and connections with others in Africa, could create a more prosperous and stabilized economy for the countries within and improve the already existing investments. Projects such as SimbiHaiti are a good example of design and manufacturing done in one country and marketing and sales done in another works well and can create a prosperous business. SimbiHaiti creates small bracelets and head bands in which the materials are made in Haiti, providing jobs and income to the people and than sold in North America for a profit in which the partner shares with the Haitian-based company. Through websites such as Etsy, Ebay and Amazon, it is easy for mobile money and small business to grow with the large international market. This than stimulates the economy and brings money into Africa.

Discussion Question:

– Should Twitter monitor and control what is posted in order to prevent the spread of terror despite it being an infringement on freedom of speech?

Week 5: Emerging Technologies

This weeks readings and podcast were on the development of media in Africa, particularly the effect of media on development in Africa. On the podcast Mass Media and Democracy, Folu Ogundimu talks about media in Africa and its role as a democratic tool. He speaks to the idea that there is a freedom in media, but also that there is a political control often in these forms of media. This is seen around the world and is expected in mass media especially, as media is developing the ideas it portrays will sway towards more specific agendas. Also discussed is the importance of national/local media and international media. Is international media necessary in developing countries media? Is development of local/national media more important to create social and political development within a country?

As Paul Tiyambe Zeleza writes in The Media in social development in contemporary Africa, media is expanding development and development is expanding the media. He explains that media has a great effect on society (politically, socially, and economically), while society effects the media. There is the question as to what controls what, Does the media shape and control the whole of society, and does all of society control the media, even the ‘worst’ off? The theory as a country develops so does the media brings up the point as to how far the development goes. As development reaches the ‘worst’ off in a country does the media do the same. Through the reading it seems that media follows more of a development to help economies and gain profitability, rather then the  people whose voices should be heard. The media will be shaped towards the ideas in the podcast and readings, democratization and development. Freedom of speech will be accessible to those who can easily access the media, the people that can only consume mass media will then be shaped by it. Those who cannot access the mass media easily will be then left behind, it will be more difficult for them to be part of a society that is shaped by this media. They will continue being the ‘worst’ off in society because the society they know is evolving and they aren’t because they cannot access the media. The media is almost always owned by the elite and will therefore create society that benefits themselves.

The most interesting part of this article was the huge popularity of the radio and radio stations in Africa. The discussion on the use of radio to bring back the culture and traditions of oral stories. Meanwhile in the video shown about Accra Street the radio could be heard playing Reggae music. The radio not only globalizes, it also localizes, maintaining African culture as well as expanding it. The idea that the medium is the message could suggest that that the radio’s message is hybrid culture. Could the hybridity of culture also be present in television and other new forms of media?

The last article by Chiluwa and Adegoke looks at the use of twitter in the midst of conflict, between Boko Haram and the western, as well as the people and Nigeria. Twitter creates citizen journalism and is a way for the people to be heard, they can also comment on news stories using social media to refine or correct mass media. Again the question becomes as to who has the access to really use twitter to their advantage. The voices of many cannot be heard because their circumstance to make and publish their own 140 character news story is not present.

Thomas Knoops – 100693640

Week 5: Digital Media and Emerging Technologies

Sarah Virani

The podcast from Africa Past and Present discussed media systems and communication in Africa, focusing on Nigeria. Ogundiumu mentions how the media has had a significant role in Africa’s story of revitalization and has been influential in the popularization of democracy, acting as a way for Africans to regenerate from the institutional forms of oppression. I was surprised to learn that the advancement of the private development of the press in Sub-Saharan Africa was not led by foreign ownership but instead indigenous African capital, which relates back to how Ogundiumu mentioned at the beginning of the podcast that Africa is portrayed in the media in stereotypical ways. His discussion of local language presses highlights how the liberalization of the politics surrounding the media has fostered the growth of indigenous language presses, which are more successful than stations broadcasted in the colonial language. He also brings up the medias relation to politics and raises the question of whether the press is an agenda setter or an agenda follower, mentioning that we need to improve capacity. I agree with Ogundiumu as we need to teach people how to be critical thinkers, we need to teach them how to think rather what to think, and teach them the necessary skills to become active participant in society.

In “The Media in Social Development in Contemporary Africa” Zeleza, discusses the many uses of media and the various roles that it can have with spreading information. This article expressed media as a dynamic force that is always changing depending on various factors such as the existing ideologies of the current political economies. The articles provides a more in-depth context for media development today in Africa, discussing the implementation of media as well as the impact that it has on the identities of African. I thought that the articles discussion of the challenges that the media faces beneficial as it exposes some of the challenges that Africa faces in their development. Zeleza discusses the implications surrounding corporate pressures, which is similar to Ogundiumu’s discussion in the podcast concerning foreign ownership.

The article, Twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria: Investigating Pragmatic Acts in the Social Media examines tweets on Twitter and comments on media reports by Africans and how these pragmatic acts function within social settings, especially within the Boko Haram revolt. The articles brings up the notion of citizen journalism and how social media inspires this type of journalism as it is a way for Africans to express their thoughts. This is significant when discussing media in Africa as it as a way for Africans to become involved in current issues as well as communicate their perspectives.

These pragmatic messages can be interpreted in more than one way as the authors highlight. The article mentions that they had selected the Tweets and comments that met the common goal of the six groups they had chosen such as a group for ones that support and identify themselves with Islam and Boko Haram and ones the blame the West. This could be problematic, as the ones that were not chosen could have had pragmatic messages that could have been interpreted in a different way in comparison to the author’s perspective.  Nonetheless, the podcast and the articles do an adequate job of explaining how media in Africa has been affected by democracy and the roles that the media has in African identities. The articles debunk the traditional stereotypes that the West has a profound influence on Africa but rather expresses how the growth in Africa is attributed to the indigenous populations rather than foreign operations, which I believe needs to be examined more in literature.

Despite that this picture is from 2011 and is a few years old, I believe that it gives a good representation of how many Africans are using Twitter and their location within the continent. I can only imagine how many more users there are now!



Discussion Questions

  • Do you think that in the years to come the state will have a more significant role in regulating the media? (i.e freedom of the press)
  • In what ways can social media platforms be used in Africa in order to produce change other than expressing ones beliefs? Do you think it is beneficial that indigenous presses are more popular than foreign owned ones? If it were to be heavily dominated by foreign ownership, how would the media change?
  • Do you think that the media in Africa will encounter the same revolutions that we did (i.e. moving from paper to electronic)? What do you believe the future of independent media in Africa looks like?

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)