20th May2013

The intensity of New Media

by admin

Joan Madiba looks at the intensity of New Media.

jm1Over the past years, the concept of media has been evolving by new technologies. Having said that then, the concept of new media may not necessarily mean that “it’s new” but rather new technologies are being fused with the so-called traditional media. New media then refers to the demand of content, anywhere anytime on digital devices which then allows participation and interactive feedback. For example, the Internet can influence users to be active participants and at the same time be interactive with other users despite geographical location. With the introduction of smart phones, people are now able to do a lot of things without leaving their homes. This includes online shopping and banking amongst other things. The new media technologies have allowed a certain range of things to be done by users without leaving their comfortable spaces.

jm2Following the news of BlackBerry introducing its own application BlackBerry Messaging to other platforms like Android and iOS, this has proved how intense the development of new media has been and continues to be.With this development of the application being on different cell phone brands, BlackBerry will make an even greater profit and obviously attract many users. BBM the key operating application of the smart phone has raised a lot of eyebrows, with many critics arguing how this will improve the falling brand of BlackBerry. However, the CEO Thorsten Heins has noted on Tuesday after the announcement that this move will be crucial to the development of the brand. This is as an obvious attempt to remain relevant in the mobile phone game by attracting larger numbers of users both within and outside the Blackberry user group. The smart phone with its BlackBerry Internet Service has allowed users to constantly use this operating system without the need to spend a lot of money. Then again this move does not mean that it will work because judging from the way people have been complaining about the brand, a lot of people will most likely to shift and still utilize the BBM application on other phones and so forth.

New media and all its advances has allowed such a move to be possible. We have and continue to see how new media allows different media forms to come together to either create a greater amount of users or to innovate. Media consumption has, with the influence of new media proved to be growing every day.  However, there are limitations of new media in that some people are unable to access these technologies based on numerous constraints. But then again, as significant these new technologies are, they also have negative constraints.  All in all to the lucky individuals that have access to the luxuries that are new media technologies, seek balance and enjoy.

18th Sep2012

Al Jazeera Africa Bureau Chief speaks on the future of journalism

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The suave-looking Bureau Chief of Al Jazeera Africa, Thembisa Fakude, delivered a compelling guest lecture about the future of journalism in the Wits Department of Media Studies. He highlighted key areas to consider looking into such as the rise of citizen journalism and the fall of print journalism. Eloquent and well-informed, Fakude left the second year SLLS2004 Sociology of News Production class with a new way of looking at the future of media in the world and how this will affect the industry.

Print journalism is a medium that has endured the advent of digital and online media. Fakude is adamant that print journalism is at its wits end and is suffering a slow and painful death. He analyzed the bottom up approach that citizen journalism uses to disseminate information from and to common citizens such as students as ourselves. Fakude stated that the impact of social media networks facilitates citizen journalism and this has influenced traditional forms of media reporting. The editor has lost autonomy over the subject matter of reporting information to the common citizen who has become an aggressive consumer of social network content. Fakude educated the class on how brands have been built via the platform of social media networks. Print journalism is coming to an end as Fakude vehemently stated; digital media will soon replace the expensive and rudimentary tradition of print journalism.

It is not to say that traditional journalism reporting will no longer exist but he believes journalists and editors will continue to play a role in editing information to ensure it is professionally reported. Fakude is certain about the death of print journalism and repeatedly stressed that it is merely a pending reality. Essentially, the editor no longer sits ‘on his high horse’ and dictates the agenda that is set by media owners and professionals of the news organisation. According to Fakude, the citizen journalist has risen in power and is able to influence the process of gate-keeping to determine what can be considered news value.

Interestingly, recently released information by The Times newspaper, ironically, serves to offer a different dimension to Fakude’s belief. Electronic media have taken off in the media reporting world and have much to offer but it has not yet taken the baton out of the hand of traditional reporting media, i.e. print journalism. Digital media are not even a potential threat to the dominance of print journalism. In fact, the in-depth reporting of newsroom print media creates most of the content found online – it is birthed in the newsroom. The two platforms complement each other. Electronic media have been slow to take over the news reporting distribution channel that it has caused a group of high level ranking media owners, editors and professionals to team up and formulate a news technology innovation competition that hopes to discover ‘disruptive’ digital creations that will facilitate news reporting to adapt to current times of intense technology usage.

I believe Mr. Fakude. Print journalism is not necessarily our friend anymore, perhaps not as close a friend as it was and electronic media will take the reigns. For the meantime, social networks have aided the influence of citizen journalism which has eased the stranglehold that news organizations, media owners and editors once had. Citizen journalists, though they comprise a minute portion of it, are a source in news reporting. People are consuming information in different ways and not solely through print journalism. Journalism as a profession is not under threat; it is the legacy and autonomy of the media organisation and its business model that faces extinction in the wake of the bottom up approach that social media networks are facilitating. The African News Innovation Challenge seeks to bring new ways of consuming reported news to markets by allowing innovators to enter their ideas and receive anything between $20,000-$100,000 in seed funding.

Essentially, the journalist of the future has a prominent role to play, and it is that of organising information rather than gathering information. The media industry is empowering the common citizen to be a news and change agent. The innovation competition is looking for digital media innovation that will create a platform where users can consume information that is hyperlocal and hyperpersonal which is what will help digital media thrive.

Thembisa Fakude is right on track with regards to his prediction of how consumers may ultimately consume information. As end-users and potential media technology innovators, it is important for us to be aware of the fact that consumers digest information through different means. Perhaps integration of all these platforms is the ultimate innovation.

Nzuzo Nowazi is a second year student in Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.

* Please check here for a schedule with upcoming guest lectures by South African media professionals.

08th May2012

Wits Media Studies @ WALE

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WALE 2012 is about to kick off tomorrow! Students and staff members of the Department of Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand are participating in a number of events at the Wits Arts and Literature Experience (WALE). We hope to see many of you there! For a full programme of WALE, please click here.

Wednesday 9 May, 12h00, AMIC Deck, Wits East Campus

exPress imPress participation in WALE parade

Thursday 10 May, 13h00-15h00, Humanities Grad Centre Seminar Room, South-West Engineering Building, Wits East Campus

Launch Micampus Magazine with Mabogoshi Matlala, MA student in Media Studies, Wits University

Friday 11 May, 13h00-15h00, Humanities Grad Centre Seminar Room, South-West Engineering Building, Wits East Campus

ITCH Magazine Showcase and Indaba with Dr. Mehita Iqani, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies, Wits University

Friday 11 May, 16h00-18h30, Humanities Grad Centre Seminar Room, South-West Engineering Building, Wits East Campus

exPress imPress roundtable debate: Digital apartheid: is the smartphone age segregating South Africans?

Chair: Welcome Lishivha, third year student in Media Studies, Wits University and exPress imPress member

Speakers: Professor Nathalie Hyde-Clarke, University of Johannesburg, representative BlackBerry South Africa (TBC), and Leenesha Pather, BA Hons student in Media Studies, Wits University and exPress imPress member

Refreshments will be served!

Saturday 12 May, 12h30-14h30, Pentz Bookshop, Matrix, Wits East Campus

Book launch of Rethinking Eastern African Intellectual Landscapes (Africa World Press, 2010), edited by Professor James Ogude, Dr. Dina Ligaga (Lecturer in Media Studies, Wits University) and Dr. Grace Musila

01st Feb2012

Braving the cold: debating diaspora and new media in Ireland

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Shepherd Mpofu, a PhD candidate in Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, reports on his attendance of a conference on diaspora, migration and media in December 2011 in Ireland.

I arrived in Maynooth, 40 minutes out of the Irish capital, Dublin, on the 1st December 2011 and the weather was not as bad for me as I had been warned. I have always been one to prefer cold winters to hot summers. But the idea of carrying my entire wardrobe on the streets (in terms of dressing) is not something I fancy. When I arrived I was booked into student accommodation (this was partly due to my low budget) and I had to put up with blocked shower basins. I had the joy of having my feet literally immersed in water.

But that’s besides the point. The conference I attended was held at the National University of Ireland. It sought to look at the scale and density of migration and migratory pathways, the centrality of transnational networks to the lives of multitudes, and the profound impact of ICTs on the experience and nature of migration and transnational lives. These issues have led to an intensive research focus on the field of diaspora, migration and media. The gathering attracted mostly European academics and young scholars who discussed the ‘keywords’ and how the diaspora and transnational communities use the media for self reflexivity, identity construction and as alternative public spheres where they negotiate the politics of being.

I presented a paper entitled “Diaspora identities and the virtual discussion of the taboo: A critical analysis of how Zimbabweans use diasporic media to discuss ‘taboo’ issues” in the first panel which addressed the theme “Diasporic Identities: Place, Politics, Practices”. The paper I presented was an empirical analysis of the way Zimbabwean communities based in the diaspora and homeland use a diaspora-based medium, the website NewZimbabwe.com, to discuss issues that are considered taboo in any public sphere in their homeland. Taboo topics in this case are issues that have to do with the 1980-87 genocide that left about 20 000 people dead at the hands of a newly elected majority government. In addition, the conferral of national hero status to former liberation fighters is a hot issue and taboo to discuss in Zimbabwe and especially in state-controlled public media. In discussing these issues, the paper probed how identities were constructed in the process.

My paper was well received and aroused a lot of curiosity precisely because of the interesting aspects in the African diaspora and new media which is a relatively new area of study. My paper implicated the criminalization of ethnicity as problematic both in the homeland and the diaspora leading to an argument that there is no cohesive Zimbabwean national identity. This and other issues were taken up in the sidelines of the conference where I engaged with renowned diaspora and media scholars Olga Bailey and Ben Pitcher, the keynote speakers of the conference. Sharing the platform with renowned scholars like Sonja de Leeuw, Jose Carlos Sendin, Ben Pitcher, Anne Mulhall and Olga Bailey afforded me an opportunity to network and also learn about their ongoing research.

As I flew across Africa on my way back I thought to myself “some of the research was interesting and maybe worth replicating from an African perspective.” For instance, Natalia Khvorostianov’s research on internet use among the aging was thought-provoking. As I thought about it in the African set-up I looked down and the continent was dark, literally, save for Arab Africa and South Africa which seemed to be in light. Can we talk of new media in a place where there are electricity challenges? Is new media therefore a luxury?


27th Sep2011

Topics in Media and Cultural Studies Roundtable: 28 September 2011

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The Department of Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand invites you for the fourth roundtable this semester in the Topics in Media and Cultural Studies series. Please join us this Wednesday 28 September 2011 between 14.15-16.00 hrs in CB8 (Central Block, Wits East Campus).

The following speakers will give papers:

Dina Ligaga

“Virtual expressions”: Alternative online spaces and the staging of Kenyan Internet cultures

Kate Skinner

Can civil society save the SABC? An assessment of civil society’s power to effect change during the ongoing turmoils at the national broadcaster

Enquiries: janeske.botes@wits.ac.za or 011 717 4161

27th Jun2011

The ET (extra-terrestrial) gatekeepers of new media

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As you will have noticed, exPress imPress has been busy with exams so our posts have not been as frequent recently. But in between exams, Matshidiso Omega Moagi has found time to reflect on the emancipatory nature of the internet. Is it really a technology of freedom?

For a long time I unashamedly professed that I owed much of my emancipated self to new media. Critical as I am (or try to be) of commercial trademarks, when it came to blogs, social networks, online publications and all sorts of online representations of the social realm, my conscious Witsie self just could not resist the sting. My sole quarrel with this innovative ‘futuristic genie’ (I believed) was the injustice of the digital divide. As much else under capitalism, the poor and (therefore) marginalised were robbed of yet another great freedom and human right. The fact that only 10% of the South African population in 2008/9 had internet access is just not fair. It is not fair that a 45 million people, in Africa’s most developed and advanced country, don’t get to enjoy the euphoric body rush manifested in the energetic typing of one’s fingers and reflected in the final curve of a smile (or more) on one’s face as we attentively consume –erm– use (we are not consumers, we are users) the contents presented on that glowing computer screen.

Ok, so the above description is an exaggerated personal experience. Nevertheless though, other media technologies are still yet to match the freedoms allowed for by new media. New media is TV, radio and print combined and beyond. It is efficient. It is effective. As I’m sure most students will agree, scrolling down through Google books beats grappling with heavy library books with that old fatiguing, never mind nauseating, smell any-day. Socially awkward beings like me get to revive their inner beasts on social networks. Moreover otherwisely unpublished, unbiased ‘real’ voices all over the world find refuge in a citizen-journalism-like way during historical political (chaotic) moments, as Naledi illustrated in “Talkin’ bout a social networking revolution” (forgive me if this was not your point). Who would have known about the Illuminati had it not been for new media? And of course there’s just no denying the emancipator role played by the (anonymity allowing) “comment” section of many online publications. Right?

Wrong. On many occasions I have enthusiastically added my valuable contribution to these sections only to find them mysteriously disappear a few minutes later. Even Facebook sometimes slams me with a “you are not permitted to do that” when I attempt to post innocent jokes on my friends’ walls. Alright, I’ll admit, sometimes some of my jokes are a little on the politically incorrect lane and perhaps some of my comments are really just uncalled for irreverent ribaldries. But isn’t new media suppose to be the liberal platform where even the Kuli Roberts of this world get to share their sensitive, politically incorrect jokes and not get fired for it?

Personal grievances aside, a new trend online is censoring or ‘filtering’ of information for users. I am not referring to ‘social stability’ tactics in China. It is true that websites and blogs are not shut down when they go against nation-building agendas. Tokelo was certainly not jailed for his article on Schabir Shaik’s ‘medical parole’, despite its apparent ‘challenge to political authority’. However two people searching the same topic, say China, will (without the interference of the Chinese government) receive different results, depending on ‘who they are’ (i.e. where they are searching from, what the search history of their computer displays etc.). This is called the personalisation of search results and it is for the same reasons that some of your friends’ status updates have mysteriously disappeared from your Facebook newsfeed.

Speaking at the annual TED conference, Eli Pariser called this phenomenon the ‘invisible algorithmic editing of the web’. As he warned, the human gatekeepers of traditional media have been replaced by ‘robotic’ instantaneous ones ready to snatch up any information that is supposedly not relevant to you personally. Exclusivity (differentiating it from myspace and other prior social networks) is said to be one of the main reasons for Facebook’s phenomenal success. However I don’t know about everyone else, but this ‘filter bubble’ trend, as Pariser puts it, has kind of burst my new media mascot balloon.

17th Mar2011

BBM me baby!

by admin

Signed up to the new BBM revolution yet? BlackBerry convert Leenesha Pather shares her thoughts on how BlackBerry is making its inroads in South Africa.

Being part of the generation that does basically everything online, from shopping to video blogging, it is no wonder that our interactions are interwoven into technology. The BlackBerry cellphone is definitely part of this new age hype of online interaction and changing the way we communicate. Showing the need for cheaper and quicker online interactions, the BlackBerry came to the youth’s rescue! Most people who have a BlackBerry today have it for the unlimited internet usage that is included in a small subscription fee and also because of the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service that is free but limited for use only with other BlackBerry owners. Hundreds of thousands of South Africans have recently purchased a BlackBerry. We hear it every day, people saying “if you have a BlackBerry, you are a sheep” or “I don’t want a BlackBerry because I am not a conformist”.  But the many that have the cellphone do not care about these labels because of the benefits it offer.

This BlackBerry craze has become so extreme that people ask for your BBM pin instead of your cellphone number to contact you. This shows how technology has drastically changed our lives, from telegrams that took weeks to arrive to BBM-ing someone sitting right next to you. Another feature that definitely contributes to helping us save airtime and money is the fact that one can communicate to family members and friends that live overseas without breaking the bank. As long as you and your favourite people have a BlackBerry, communicating is a much more efficient affair. No longer do those with BlackBerries have to hear or say “my airtime cut so I couldn’t get hold of you” or “airtime is low, I couldn’t SMS you back”.

The BlackBerry sensation is not only popular amongst the youth but we frequently see older people carrying their BlackBerries around in their hip holsters, keeping technology not to far from hand. Today it has become a necessity to have a cellphone and no longer a luxury so move over MXit and Facebook chat because BBM is rapidly winning the instant messaging competition because of its efficiency and no cost aspects.

But for those of us who do not want to be conformists and technological sheep, there is always Whatsapp, an instant messenger for almost any other phone with the perk of being free after the download cost. So those with BlackBerries, happy chatting and those without I suggest you get on the cheap and progressive train soon. At least this is one way moms can get their children to like fruit!

16th Mar2011

SLLS research seminar on mobile phones in South Africa

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The School of Literature and Language Studies (SLLS) at the University of the Witwatersrand invites you to a research seminar tomorrow afternoon on mobile phones in South Africa by Dr Innocentia Mhlambi from the Department of African Languages. Full details are available below.

15th Mar2011

Radio, convergence and development in Southern Africa

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A new regional research project in the Department of Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand investigates the way in which the Internet and mobile phones are changing the face of radio in Southern Africa.

Southern African countries are still caught up in a complex web of social, political, and economic challenges. While the independence of South Africa in 1994 symbolised the end of colonialism in the region, the twenty-first century has been largely characterised by the intertwined challenges of development and democratisation. Decolonisation was not an end in itself but a means to developing participatory democracy and development systems that are not only characterised by popular participation, but also stronger notions of citizenship and human rights.

As the most widespread medium in Southern Africa, radio has the potential of galvanising the development and democratisation processes by becoming a participatory platform for citizens, an engine for progressive social change, and a watchdog against the abuse of resources by those in power. Radio in Southern Africa is slowly being transformed in terms of its form, content, distribution, and consumption by new information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as the Internet and mobile phones which have rapidly gained ground in the region in the past decade. New digital opportunities are emerging in the way radio is produced and disseminated, and it is argued that ICTs have offered citizens more opportunities to participate in radio content production.

A new regional research project within the Department of Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand will investigate how public, private, and community radio stations in Southern Africa are using ICTs to promote bottom-up, interactive, and participatory communication. Specific areas of investigation include, among others, how radio stations and audiences use mobile phones in terms of texting, voice calls, mobile radio, online audio streaming, podcasts, blogs and chat forums.

The project researches these issues in four specific case studies in the region: Malawi (Dr Last Moyo), South Africa (Dr Dina Ligaga and Dr Sarah Chiumbu), Zambia (Dr Wendy Willems) and Zimbabwe (Dr Dumisani Moyo and Dr Last Moyo). It is led by Dr Last Moyo and is part of a larger project on radio, convergence and development in Africa coordinated by the Centre for Media and Transitional Societies (CMTS) at Carleton University in Canada and funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Canada.

Some of the research findings will be published in a special journal issue of Telematics and Informatics on ‘Radio and new participatory journalisms around the world: Understanding convergence in news cultures’. The guest editor, Dr Last Moyo, is currently inviting interested scholars to submit abstracts for additional contributions by 30 April 2011. A full call for papers is available for download here.

14th Mar2011

Public lecture on ‘Hate Speech and Threats in the 21st Century: Comparing How Social Media is Used as a Communications Tool in the United States and South Africa’

by admin

The School of Law and the Transformation Office at the University of the Witwatersrand invite you to a public lecture tomorrow evening by Dr Joshua Azriel, Assistant Professor of Communication Kennesaw State University, entitled Hate Speech and Threats in the 21st Century: Comparing How Social Media is Used as a Communications Tool in the United States and South Africa.

Azriel teaches Media Law and journalism courses at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia in the United States. His research focuses on U.S. First Amendment freedom of speech issues related to online social media. Specifically, Dr. Azriel examines how online media such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter are used as forums for hate speech and threats. He also compares and contrasts the American legal approach to freedom of speech with Canada and South African laws. His academic articles have been published in several journals including Communication Law and Policy, The John Marshall Journal of Computer and Information Law, and Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal. He is working with the Wits School of Law Lecturer, Karmini Pillay comparing the legal functions of the South African Human Rights Commission with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

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