September 21, 2020

Media and Citizenship

Mellon Project Focus Area


2013 Media & Citizenship Roundtable at UNISA with Prof Viola Milton

Think!Fest 2012

One particular focus of public engagement last year was the panel discussion and installation at Think!Fest 2012, part of the National Arts Festival, which was extended to run during the annual SchoolsFest to also engage a younger audience.

The first Think!Fest exhibition was an interactive multi-media installation entitled “Being and Belonging: mediated citizenship in South Africa” and included the work of Roelof van Wyk, Sophie Smith and various journalism students. Viewers were encouraged to engage with the exhibition by leaving comments and responding via social networks.

Think!Fest also focused on film reviews and hosted open lectures and panel discussions by roleplayers in the journalistic and social sphere in South Africa. These included: Steven Friedman (director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy), David Holwerk (director of communications of the Charles F. Kettering Foundation), Xolela Mangcu (Business Day and Sunday Independent columnist), Bongi Bozo (co-ordinator for the Eastern Cape Communications Forum), Steve Robins (professor in the Department of Sociology/Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University) and Niren Tolsi (senior journalist at the Mail and Guardian).

Another aspect of Think!Fest which ran during SchoolsFest was a World Café seminar, inviting participants to debate what they had been exposed to in the multi-media exhibition seen at this same seminar and then produce their own media to represent their ideas of citizenship. A final lecture entitled ‘That sucks! What can we do about it?’ hosted by Professor Anthea Garman and Mellon fellow Dr Vanessa Malila aimed to engage learners with the issues that affect them as citizens and provide them with tools to become agents of change in their communities.

The research leaders believed that coupling the focus on participation in public debate with a focus on the uses of media in everyday life, would add depth to our understanding of how media are used to make meaning around citizenship and democracy. Such understandings may enable media institutions to articulate more effectively the needs of citizens and enhance their experience of democratic participation.

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