Panel 19

Social media and mobile communications: Gender identities in Sub-Saharan Africa in transition

Panel organisers: Lynete Lusike and Joyce Omwoha, Moi University, Kenya

E-mail to panel organisers: lusikem@mu.ac.ke

The panel seeks papers that draw from critical theory approaches to engage in discussions on how social media users appropriate online platforms in reconstructing gender identities. It will address the theme of new media and evolving gender identities; mobile communications and social change among rural communities and the urban poor in Africa; gendered social media discourses about ethnicity, violence, corruption and politicians in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The opportunities afforded by social media are immense and therefore, what is being witnessed today are online users adapting identities and roles that challenge the prevailing dominant patriarchal society that draws its ideals from a culture that dictates gender binary opposites of male and female identities. Social media has undoubtedly become a core issue in Sub-Saharan Africa with a focus on female users who are appropriating these spaces as avenues of self-expression and emancipatory narratives.

In light of rapid technological advancements in Sub-Saharan Africa, the panel hopes to draw references to the dynamics of power and technology in the society and the subsequent role of technological advancements in power dynamics and positioning of public expression and discourses by female users within the prevailing gendered world view. The main emphasis being on drawing a distinction between theory and praxis by researchers who seek to engage in the analysis of technologically mediated gendered discourses. We hope to engage in discussions on how for instance, online platforms can be aggregated as sources of social capital in creating online networks of followers who can then reaffirm one’s identity and in some cases propel one to fame in cases such as viral videos on you tube or users who have substantial followers, which then converts to fame and monetary returns though paid appearances at events, advertising and endorsement of products.

The panel welcomes papers seeking to critically engage in analysis of emancipatory gender identities and discourses with regard to analysis of emerging technological structures and their evolving relationships within a postmodern critical theory approach.

Approved abstracts Panel 19

1. New media and the reality of Abla Fahita’s tweets: Is she a fictitious character or a secret agent?

Author: Mai Samir El-Falaky (Arab Academy for Science and Technology, Egypt) maismf@hotmail.com

Social Media along with linguistic manipulations play an inevitable role in commenting on and communicating socio-economic and political ideologies to wide range of audiences especially in Affrican countries. The study seeks to infer how social media in Egypt plays an important role in representing and investigating the ideologies of social groups. The answer to this question is sought in the content analysis of a famous twitter Account called Abla Fahita or ‘Auntie Fahita’. The study seeks to explore who is the feminine character Abla Fahita, how her tweets are structured, and for what purpose. The ideological implication of the analysis is determined through a linguistic description of the tweets which are targeted to a large number of audiences who follow the tweets of this fictitious character.

Key words: Content analysis; new media; discourse analysis; linguistic; language use; social networks

2. The role of social media in communicating gender identity: The contradiction between cyberspace presence and the reality in Africa

Author: Juliet W.Macharia (Karatina University, Kenya) juliemach@yahoo.com

The development of technology in the 21st century has enabled global communication enabling the senders and receivers of messages to be visible in the communication process. The social media ,accessed through the mobile phones in Africa have created visibility of populations who would have remained voiceless in the vast world ,governed and regulated by a patriarchal worldview .Research shows that for adults who have social media accounts ,more than 50% users are female except for those ones that attract a mainly male users. The female communicators create identities that seem to defy the social stereotypes of females as invisible, powerless, voiceless and in the African continent as receivers of development .However ,this visibility seem to remain virtual and the identities created live in cyberspace This paper discusses the role of the social media in Africa’s development. The availability and use of social media through mobile phones is examined in relation to the role of the media in communicating female identity in a globalized Africa .Issues of the hidden chains in the females perceived empowerment are highlighted ,focusing attention on how despite the cyberspace visibility ,most females in Africa have not used the opportunities offered by social media to transform their lives and those of others in the continent .What have the females achieved through social media ?.That is the question.

Key words: Cyberspace, development, gender , identity ,patriarchy and socialization

3. Moving health campaigns to new horizons: a paradigm shift towards digital health care

Author: Alfred O. Akwala (The Technical University of Kenya, Kenya) akwala08@yahoo.com

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every minute, at least one woman dies from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, translating to about 585,000 women losing lives each year due to child-birth related complications. In Kenya, it is approximated that 6,000 women die annually during childbirth, with infant mortality approximated at 488 for every 100,000 live births. There is urgent need for intervention, and one such strategy is effective health communication which can help raise awareness of health risks and equip communities with skills to reduce these risks.

Modern information and communication technologies (ICTs) have a pivotal role to play in tackling health-related problems, by empowering individuals and equipping decision makers with timely information about critical health issues. There is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates the potential for mobile communications to radically improve healthcare services among the rural poor populations. Traditionally, mobile phone was restricted to making calls and send text messages to single individuals at a time, but now with the prevailing mobile phone developments, content of various media types such as text, audio, picture, video can be shared with many individuals across social networks within a very short time. Maternal health information can be created, distributed and consumed through the use of the mobile phone. This study aimed to evaluate the appropriation of mobile phone applications in enhancing Maternal-Child health knowledge in rural areas in Kenya with special focus on Busia County. The study through the Social Cognitive Theory interrogated the value of mobile phone technologies in reshaping and revolutionizing communications among communities in maternal-child health campaigns in Kenya. Using data based on a review of the relevant literature as well as information obtained through discussions with patients and health service providers from a survey conducted in Busia County, we examined how mobile phone technology can be mainstreamed in maternal-child health campaigns in rural areas. Findings indicated that mobile phone dissemination of maternal health knowledge has a possibility of accelerating access and utilisation of skilled facility services. Therefore emerging technologies can offer real opportunities to communities by enabling them get reliable and timely information on maternal –child health issues.

4. Reading Bandura’s Social cognitive theory: Social media’s portrayal of sexuality as popular culture?

Author: Joyce Omwoha (The Technical University of Kenya, Kenya) joyceomwoha@gmail.com

In the recent past there has been an “evolution” of sexuality as the thought and understood gay and lesbian to transgender, transsexual and “they” identities. The media have perpetrated these sexual contents through reality shows and online campaigns held by celebrities who have moved away from the “norm” to ensure that people understand the challenges and need for acceptance by these individuals who try very much to be understood and accepted as members of the society. American Celebrities have been portrayed in Africa as the voice of sexuality both on mainstream and on social media. Popular media networks like E! airs a program , I am Cait whose content is meant to illuminate the life of a once world athletics champion (Bruce Jenner)’s battle with his sexuality, raising a family as a man and eventually deciding to come out and live as a transsexual. Amber Rose, a celebrity who earned a living working as a stripper has gone an extra mile to popularise her feminist movement ‘Slut walk” which aims at identifying marginalized groups including women of color, transgender people and sex workers that are victims of sexual workers. The Kenyan audience have received these images and texts and are using the named celebrities’ actions to establish their own platforms on social media for identity creation/formation and identity expression. Considering the above, this paper will utilize Bandura’s Social cognitive theory, which suggests that individuals will observe, imitate, and learn from others, including characters in television and film, in a way that provides a monitoring system for their own behaviors, attitudes and values. Individuals will look to others as a way to reinforce their own perceived accomplishments, behavioral patterns, or inadequacies (Bandura, 1986). The paper will answer the questions: Is a choice of sexuality a cultural minority issue in Africa? Are portrayals of sexuality popular culture?

5. Social media and mobile communications: Gender identities in Sub-Saharan Africa in transition

Authors: Lynete Lusike and Joyce Omwoha, (Moi University, Kenya) lusikem@mu.ac.ke

The opportunities afforded by social media are immense and therefore, what is being witnessed today are online users adapting identities and roles that challenge the prevailing dominant patriarchal society that draws its ideals from a culture that dictates gender binary opposites of male and female identities. Social media has undoubtedly become a core issue in Sub-Saharan Africa with a focus on female users who are appropriating these spaces as avenues of self-expression and emancipatory narratives.

In light of rapid technological advancements in Sub-Saharan Africa, the panel hopes to draw references to the dynamics of power and technology in the society and the subsequent role of technological advancements in power dynamics and positioning of public expression and discourses by female users within the prevailing gendered world view. The main emphasis being on drawing a distinction between theory and praxis by researchers who seek to engage in the analysis of technologically mediated gendered discourses. We hope to engage in discussions on how for instance, online platforms can be aggregated as sources of social capital in creating online networks of followers who can then reaffirm one’s identity and in some cases propel one to fame in cases such as viral videos on you tube or users who have substantial followers, which then converts to fame and monetary returns though paid appearances at events, advertising and endorsement of products.

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