Mobile Phones Influence on Journalism Practice in Africa

Mobile Phones Influence on Journalism Practice in Africa

Goretti L. Nassanga, Brian Semujju
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch089
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This article reviews current research on mobile phone appropriation by journalists and how this has transformed journalism practice in Africa. Based on Marshall McLuhan's Medium theory, the article explores perspectives from various research studies on how the medium, or the mobile, is shaping media practice, guided by the concept of ‘technological determinism.' As Africa moves towards becoming part of the information society, the mobile or ‘The New Talking Drum of Everyday Africa' (De Bruijn et al., 2009), has become an essential multi-purpose tool for journalists. Several challenges in assessing the impact of mobiles on journalism that are peculiar to Africa are highlighted, including the digital divide that is translating into the mobile divide. Pointers are given for future research directions that should facilitate the harnessing of the potential of ‘mobiles 4 development,' thereby contributing to overall development in African countries.
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Journalists do not operate in a vacuum, but work within a social context. So, when assessing usage and impact of mobile phones on journalists’ performance, it is important to analyze the other end/audience or the social context by considering the community access and participation using the new digital media (Carpentier et al., 2003). As De Bruijn (2009) notes basing on her study in Mali, Chad and Cameroon, the Internet and mobile phone in principle have the power to drive a society towards a knowledge and information society within the conceptual framework of ‘technological determinism’. However, technology is not leading to the progressive development that it might have had in a neutral world (Semujju, 2013), so instead of aiding development, technology is leading to increasing divides, like the digital divide and now the ‘technology divide’ or ‘mobile divide’ (De Bruijn, 2009; Hudson, 2006; Rice & Katz, 2003).

Under the Mobile Africa Revisited project, WOTRO (2007) points out that the focus on technological determinism in analyzing ICT impact is positing studies in a historical vacuum, overlooking the history of communication technologies in Africa and conceptualizing ICTs in terms of linear technical progress, with an assumption that individuals are passive consumers of ICTs. This view is supported by De Bruijin (2010), who argues that ICT impacts cannot be assessed in terms of ‘effects’ as these are processes of mutual interaction between people and new tools.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mobiles For Development: The idea that mobile phones can aid the development process by facilitating both access and dissemination of useful information.

User-Generated Content: This is text that comes from the audience, which has now increased in amount due to the audience’s access to mobile and other technologies of information gathering and dissemination.

Mobile Journalism: The mobile phone has enabled journalists to access their work stations everywhere they go, for example a journalist who sends a story idea to the editor, who in turn approves several ideas on his phone when far from office.

Mobile Divide: The gap between the people who have access to mobile phones and those who do not.

Citizen Journalism: Community-originated journalism facilitated by the new information and Communication technology like mobile phones.

Technological Determinism: The idea that technology is the fabric of the material world, thereby determining its very survival and continuity.

Mobile Phones: A hand-held communication device that offers access to voice, text and video content from everywhere one might be.

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