Mobile Journalism, Cellphilms, and the Use of the StoryMaker Multimedia Software at a Zimbabwean Media Training University

Mobile Journalism, Cellphilms, and the Use of the StoryMaker Multimedia Software at a Zimbabwean Media Training University

Nhamo Anthony Mhiripiri (Midlands State University, Zimbabwe) and Oswelled Ureke (Midlands State University, Zimbabwe & University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0256-2.ch014
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Abstract

This chapter deals with the teaching of students in the use of a smartphone application for cellphone filming and mobile journalism at the Media and Society Studies Department Midlands State University (MSU) in Zimbabwe. The smartphone and Storymaker multimedia software application used for training was provided by a Zimbabwean non-governmental organisation – Her Zimbabwe – which is affiliated to the Netherlands-based media civil society group Free Press Unlimited. MSU is a state university. Its administrative culture is intricately linked to the ZANU PF led government of President Robert Mugabe. The training offered to media students is conducted with caution. Students make cellphone films (cellphilms) and practice mobile journalism (mojo) to produce media content. The chapter critiques students' media content, especially why it appears apolitical. Self-censorship arising from socialization and interpellation is implicated in the restrained nature of students' productions, and lecturers and the civil society organisation involved are also cited as oblique gatekeepers in the production chain.
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Introduction

This chapter explores and critiques how the Department of Media and Society Studies at the Midlands State University (MSU) in Zimbabwe, with the assistance of some local and international partners, has started using mobile devices in the form of smartphones for cellphone filming (cellphilming) and mobile journalism (mojo) as part of their extra-curriculum, but with the future possibility of full incorporation into formal curriculum. The use and application of smartphones in media and journalism training curricula in Zimbabwean tertiary institutions is a fairly recent phenomenon. The inclusion of mobile devices in mainstream formal curricula offers new changes, challenges and opportunities. The smartphone and Storymaker multimedia software application used for training was provided by a Zimbabwean non-governmental organisation – Her Zimbabwe – which is affiliated to the Netherlands-based media civil society group Free Press Unlimited. MSU is a state university. Its administrative culture is intricately linked to the ZANU PF led government of President Robert Mugabe. Since its controversial land reform program starting around 1999 the country has been under sanctions and in constant diplomatic conflict with ‘Western’ countries such as the USA, European Union and Australia. The Zimbabwean state has traditionally been suspicious of civil society and donor agencies that have western links. The ‘citizen journalism’ training offered to media students at a state university is, therefore, conducted with caution. Students make cellphone film (cellphilms) and practice mobile journalism (mojo) producing media content. The chapter critiques students’ media content, especially why it appears apolitical. Self-censorship arising from socialization and interpellation is implicated in the restrained nature of students’ productions, and lecturers and the civil society organisation involved are also cited as oblique gatekeepers in the production chain. The latter approve or discourage openly subversive content’. On the surface students’ cellphilm and mojo productions seem largely embedded in human interest stories and depoliticized, notwithstanding Zimbabwe’s recent political history. Much as new media is expected to democratize communication and representation, it can also rearticulate and reproduce dominant hegemonies. Interestingly the same innocuous content has a way of critiquing both the local status quo and larger global political dynamics. The chapter observes that an epistemological vigilance is required if mojo and cellphilming are to be incorporated into the Zimbabwean media curriculum. The double bind of resisting an overbearing local regime and not playing into the hands of self-interested international capitalism cannot be ignored. The dilemma is striking but cannot be preoccupied with condemnation of ZANU PF or totally embracing the liberal human rights discourse. Much as social media is potentially a force for democracy and emancipation, it can also be used for destabilisation and the suspicions of the ZANU PF regime cannot be easily dismissed as merely self-interested given the outcomes in some countries after the Arab Spring.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Reflexivity: The scholarly activity of revealing the background and context of a researcher or producer in order to best understand the circumstances and dynamics around a produced text.

Subaltern: A marginalised or disadvantaged social group.

Smartphone: A mobile cellular phone with the capacity to record sound, still and motion pictures.

Mojo: Mobile journalism.

StoryMaker: A multimedia software accessed at no cost as part of the culture of creative commons, and it can be used for editing print, audio and audio-visual stories.

Cellphilming: This is filming using a cellphone, and the word combines both the semantic and phonological signification of the filming activity.

Advocacy Journalism: A type of journalism that lobbies for specific issues or interests.

Interpellation: This is a concept popularised by Louis Althusser to explain the process through which subjects are hailed by those in authority in order for subjects to comply with authority or be subjective.

Epistemological Vigilance: This is an attempt to produce scholarship that is critical and capable of discerning and avoiding over-grasping or manipulative socio-political or cultural forces.

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