Posts Tagged ‘citizenship’

Citizenship, engagement and universities

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Dr James Arvanitakis recently addressed Rhodes University staff on issues which are part of his research and part of the academic culture in Australia – engagement with communities, engagement with students and creating an enabling environment for active citizens within the university. Here are some snippets of his talk.

Dr Arvanitakis’ research areas include hope, trust, political theatre, piracy and citizenship. James has worked as a human rights activist throughout the Pacific, Indonesia and Europe. He is currently working with the Whitlam Institute looking at issues confronting Australia’s democracy. His latest book, Contemporary Society: A sociological analysis of everyday life, was launched with Oxford University Press in February 2009 which gave rise to ‘socio-logic’ – a weekly radio show on FBI Radio (94.5fm). A regular media commentator he has published widely including The Punch and New Matilda. James was a former banker and advocate for free trade, but having witnessed child and indentured labour, has worked  to develop sustainable, socially just and equitable economic policies with organisations such as the Centre for Policy Development, where he is a research fellow. James has worked extensively with a number of non-government organizations, including Oxfam International Youth Partnerships and Youth Engagement Program as well as Aid/Watch, as well as working extensively with a number of other justice-based organisations.

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Disengaged citizens


The Mellon Media & Citizenship Project at the School of Journalism and Media Studies was recently host to Dr James Arvanitakis, senior lecturer in the Humanities at the University of Western Sydney and member of the University’s Institute for Cultural and Society.Dr Arvanitakis spoke to the School of Journalism and Media Studies about his research on citizenship amongst marginalised Australians, and you can here snippets of that presentation here.

Dr Arvanitakis’ research areas include hope, trust, political theatre, piracy and citizenship. James has worked as a human rights activist throughout the Pacific, Indonesia and Europe. He is currently working with the Whitlam Institute looking at issues confronting Australia’s democracy. His latest book, Contemporary Society: A sociological analysis of everyday life, was launched with Oxford University Press in February 2009 which gave rise to ‘socio-logic’ – a weekly radio show on FBI Radio (94.5fm). A regular media commentator he has published widely including The Punch and New Matilda.

James was a former banker and advocate for free trade, but having witnessed child and indentured labour, has worked  to develop sustainable, socially just and equitable economic policies with organisations such as the Centre for Policy Development, where he is a research fellow. James has worked extensively with a number of non-government organizations, including Oxfam International Youth Partnerships and Youth Engagement Program as well as Aid/Watch, as well as working extensively with a number of other justice-based organisations.
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Voting Void


Voting Void – will young people vote in the 2014 National Elections?

South Africa’s Born Free’s (the people born after 1994 in South Africa) will be voting in their first national elections in 2014 – or will they? These young citizens have been characterized as many things – hopeful, optimistic about their future, and better racially integrated than previous generations. However, politically active is not a feature of this group of South Africans. The research conducted by the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University (with partners from around the country) shows that young people in South Africa are disaffected, disengaged and disempowered. Their lack of engagement in the political arena should be of significant worry to all South Africans in terms of the state of our country’s democracy. Even more so now, with the national elections (to be held between April and July 2014) looming, their political identity should be of particular concern over the next few months. The question that needs to be asked by political stakeholders including the ANC, opposition parties, the media and civil society is how to better engage young people in political activity, including the ritual practices of political democracies, the habitus, such as voting (one of the foundations of democratic political participation), but also the alternative acts of political engagement.

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Media & Citizenship 2013 Roundtable

The Mellon Media and Citizenship Project recently presented a paper at the Media & Citizenship 2013 Colloquium hosted by Unisa’s Department of Communication Science. Here are recorded snippets of all of the presentations made at the Colloquium. The full papers will be published later in the year in a special edition of Communicatio: The South African Journal for Communication Theory and Research.

The following presentations were made at the colloquium, click on the link to hear short audio excerpts of each presentation, with the abstract of each paper below the title.

Making meaning of citizenship: citizens’ use of the media in South Africa’s democratic evolution – Prof Anthea Garman, Prof Herman Wasserman, Dr Vanessa Malila, Marietjie Oelofsen
In 1994 South Africans embarked on a project to create new meanings of citizenship in order to transcend the disenfranchisement and divisions created by apartheid. This paper will look at the context in which new forms of citizenship are evolving in South Africa and how South African citizens use the media to give meaning to concepts such as “an active public sphere”, “civic agency” and “participatory politics”. The objective of the research is to provide information about the way in which the media contribute to the quality of democracy in South Africa through mediating citizenship in a way that improves prospects for citizens to “exert influence over public decisions by combining with others who share their values or interests” (Friedman, 2010:117). Robins, Cornwall and Von Lieres insist that to research citizenship and democracy the starting point must be the ‘the perspectives of citizens themselves’ (2008: 1069) and whether active citizenship is realised in their everyday lives. Despite the ‘normative vision’ of citizenship that asserts engagement with the state via the mediated public sphere, in reality citizens do not always manage to acquire new political identities by claiming their democratic rights (2008: 1071). As has been the case in other post-colonial settings, the continuation of existing unequal relationships to government persist even when new democratic spaces have opened up.
In order to engage with the attitudes and perceptions of young South Africans on their relationship with citizenship and the media, and the relationship between these two, the Media and Citizenship project conducted focus groups using the the Afrobarometer and Sanpad survey findings, which were largely quantitative, to draw out qualitative data from the focus group participants. The focus groups have been conducted in contrasting environments across South Africa in order to draw in participants from a range of geographic, socio-economic and political backgrounds. The majority of the focus groups took place in the Eastern Cape, within four towns which have been selected on the basis of the fact that they all have a university, as well as an informal location/township. Within these four towns there are also rural and urban divisions so that two of the towns are largely urban (Port Elizabeth and East London) and two are largely rural (Grahamstown and Alice). Within each town, two focus groups will be conducted – one within the university and one within the township. In addition to these focus groups within the Eastern Cape, four focus groups were conducted in Gauteng in order to widen the scope of the research and the data set.
The notion that the media are central to citizens’ political and civic engagements is a central question within this research. This research aims to move away from the assumed notion that the media are central to individuals construction of citizenship and that through consumption and use of media, audiences are influenced in their participation and engagement with democratic processes. Instead, it will evaluate participation, agency and voice within democratic processes to find out whether this has any relationship to media consumption.

Formation of citizenship through talk radio participation – Joyce Omwoha
Citizenship is an evolving idea and practice. Nonetheless the citizenship situation in Kenya, as in the world, is evolving but remains controversially state-centric. Citizenship thus remains a less understood practice as a concept of belonging; contested in practice. This paper aims at investigating the relationship between the concept of mediated citizenship and participation through talk radio deliberation. It offers an analysis of the
content mediated through public discourses by determining the way in which participants draw their identities through different topics articulated in Jambo Kenya talk show aired ion Radio Citizen in Kenya. It also focuses on how the call in listeners gain access to this media space, referred to as a “mediated arena of contestation” Pinto J and Hughes S. (2011, 1).
The concept of citizenship has brought lots of debates in both the electronic and the print media in Kenya. These citizenships, although subconsciously, are formed through Jambo Kenya as a mediated public sphere for articulating issues of democracy and good governance. The audiences are like minded people creating citizenships as identities through themes debated out in the show. These themes are those surrounding
citizenship and their lived experiences.
The findings of this paper, carried out through a thematic content analysis, suggests that participation is important when government officials take audience debates as a means to social change because it is an important aspect that citizens need in a democracy. This is evident in the similarity of the caller’s comments and thoughts on different themes articulated in the show. Wahl-Jorgensen (2006, 199) believes that citizenship
should be thought about as a national thing (not universalistic). As problematic as the idea of citizenship might be, “citizenship cannot merely be an empty vessel into which we pour all our hopes and dreams-or alternatively, our nightmares. We also ought to retain the principle that political efficacy matters to citizenship”. This is how talk radio Jambo Kenya offers an avenue for participation as a right to achieve democracy and offering knowledge, despite its shortcomings.

Media, citizenship and identity: The challenges for journalism education and training in the digital future(s) – Dr Gabriel Botma
This article evaluates the particular challenges that journalism education and training are facing in an era to which Hartley (2012) refers as (the) “digital future(s)”. Particularly the traditional dual role of journalism schools, to prepare students to became industry workers and servants of the public interest, will be assessed in light of changes to and the reconceptualising of journalism practice and theory.

On the use of play theory in analyses of online public commentary – Prof Marc Caldwell
This paper contests empiricist (as in ‘natural science’) and instrumentalist biases that prevail in sampling evidence of public opinion in studies of citizenship and identity on grounds that they derive from an implausible philosophical anthropology. As such, the paper offers an argument for Stephenson’s Play Theory that may be a viable alternative to those given in the literature of communication methodology generally, and public opinion
in particular. The paper posits that appeals Huizinga’s ludenic influence in Stephenson do not offer good enough reasons to take him as seriously as his theory deserves. Instead, the neglected influence that Thomas Szasz had on Stephenson offers far more cogent reasons, particularly in critical scholarship that draws on the Romantic legacy in modernity. To support the argument, the paper provides a discussion of Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor’s criticism of epistology and other similar elements that make up Stephenson’s
intellectual history.

The nation, nation-building and diversity: What is the role of the media in all this? – Prof Elirea Bornman
This paper explores the concepts and discourses regarding the nation, nation-building and civic solidarity in particular with regard to diverse societies. Attention is given to different conceptualisations of the concept “nation” which coincides with diverging viewpoints on nation-building and how nation-building should be approached as well as different models on how civic solidarity could be achieved in heterogeneous societies. A distinction is drawn between Jacobinistic and syncretistic approaches towards nation-building as well as
between constitutional patriotism, liberal nationalism and deep diversity as models for achieving feelings of belonging, patriotism and social cohesion in heterogeneous societies. Attention is furthermore given to diverging viewpoints of sub-national groups (ethnic or racial groups) within these approaches as well as the implications of the concomitant strategies for such groups. Nation-building in Africa and South Africa – and the
implications thereof for sub-national groups – are furthermore considered. In the last instance the role of the media in nation-building, on the one hand, and the accommodation of diversity, on the other, are considered. The article ends with a number of conclusions and recommendations for South Africa as well as other heterogeneous societies in Africa.

Who is South African/Who is African? A re-reading of Thabo Mbeki’s ‘I’m an African’ speech in the context of the banned (later unbanned) Nando’s TV commercial – Dr Nyasha Mboti
On the 1st of June 2012 flame-grilled chicken company Nando’s released a 52-second advert under its so called ‘Diversity’ campaign. The advert shows people of various races and ethnicities vaporising into thin air one after the other, leaving a lone San Bushman in traditional clothing who declares ‘I’m not going anywhere. You f*#@ng found us here’ and runs off into the distance with his bow and arrows. SABC, DStv and eTV initially banned the advert, citing fears of xenophobic backlash. In May 1996 South Africa’s former president Thabo Mbeki, who was deputy president at the time, delivered a speech at the adoption of the South Africa Constitution Bill in Cape Town. The speech, which has become known as the ‘I am an African’ speech, begins with the words ‘I am an African’, a phrase which is repeated five times during the speech. In the speech Mbeki
appears to codify ‘Africanness’ into a consciousness not just of history but a shared history: he is a child and grandson, he says, of the Khoi and San from the Cape, migrants from Europe, Malay slaves from the East, ‘warrior’ men and women whom Hintsa and Sekhukhune led, the ‘patriots’ that Cetshwayo and Mphephu led into battle, soldiers of Moshoeshoe and Ngungunyane; remembering that he is a child of Nongqause, he
mentions Isandhlwana, Khartoum, Ghana, Ashanti, the Berbers of the desert, the Boer graves at St Helena and the Bahamas, India, China, Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, Burundi and Algeria. The conceptual reach of his speech seems to imply that everyone who may share South Africa’s history is somehow South African and African – men, women, children, the old, the disabled, taxi drivers, farmers, migrants, the dead, the living,
ancestors, warriors of old, the formerly enslaved and colonised, the former colonisers, liberators, liberated, former foes, beggars, prostitutes, street children, people across the oceans. In short, everyone is South African and African! The paper argues that the Mbeki speech and the Nando’s advert, taken together, force us to explore the richness and poverty of citizenship in South Africa and Africa, and the potential benefits as well
as the potential pitfalls and contradictions of claiming South African and African citizenship in this way. The paper uses textual analysis of Mbeki’s speech to read the Nando’s commercial and vice versa. The context is supplied by a sampling of twenty-two randomly selected online comments from the News24 website.

The media and the projection of Africans as the “child race” – Dr Simphiwe Sesanti
For enslavers and colonialists to justify the degrading and dehumanizing treatment of Africans in Africa and abroad, they had to invent the notion that Africans were irrational sub-human beings. While the struggle for freedom enabled a discourse that sought to repel such misconceptions, the task of eradicating the misrepresentation of the African image and personality was not fully accomplished. The coverage and analysis following the Marikana massacre, whose reportage revealed that a certain muti had man encouraged South African mine workers to confront police guns with the assurance that the muti would make them invincible to police bullets, exposed that some in the media continue to see Africans as uncritical superstitious beings. The South African media, failed to embark on a mission to unmask the “medicine man”. Instead the media exposed Africans to appear as gullible and irrational. This article argues that an initiative on the part of the media to investigate the “medicine man” would have revealed whether or not the “medicine man” existed. Beyond that an investigation would have given the media an opportunity to interrogate the basis of these claims if they existed at all.

‘Fatty Boom Boom’: Die Antwoord’s Blackface misogyny – Dr Adam Haupt
I will interrogate what the concepts of democracy and social justice mean in relation to neo-liberal economics in SA as well as arguments about social media’s assumed potential for democratisation. I will argue that Die Antwoord’s global appeal tell us a great deal about the continued appeal of colonial discourse and I will also contend that newer forms of media technology do not necessarily narrow divides, but potentially widen them.

Toward a measurement tool for the monitoring of media diversity and pluralism in South Africa and other developing countries – Prof Jane Duncan & Dr Julie Reid
In September 2011 the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications held the first of a series of indabas on diversity and transformation within the print media sector of South Africa. The second such indaba was hosted in March 2012. Discussions focussed on a perceived lack of plurality of ownership of the South African print media sector, and a resultant lack of diversity of content. In 2012 the portfolio committee began to
voice commitment to the notion of the development of a print media charter in order to assist in the facilitation of the transformation of the print sector and to encourage a more pluralistic and diverse print media within the country.
In response to these debates, the Media Policy and Democracy Project (MPDP), a collaborative research initiative between the Department of Communication Science at UNISA and the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, conducted an analysis of media diversity measurement tools and metrics developed in foreign countries, with a view to developing a tool which would be appropriate for the
South African media environment. Before media policies, regulations or a charter on print media diversity can be drafted for South Africa, it is important to reliably and accurately assess the actual levels of print media plurality of ownership and diversity of content, if the interventionist measures of a charter or new regulation are to be of significant effect, of benefit to media users and best serve the public interest. Resultantly, a media
diversity and plurality measurement tool must necessarily be developed which would determine and reflect the level of plurality and diversity within the South African print sector, and one which is sensitive to the contextual nuances of the South African media landscape and particular media audience socio-economic conditions.
A number of foreign research initiatives have already developed detailed and rigorous media diversity and pluralism measurement monitors, and the MPDP endeavoured to glean from such research activities strategies which could be put to potential use in the analysis of the South African media sector. All of the foreign media diversity measurement tools and metrics which were investigated as part of this project, operated according to the normative understanding that a diversity of content in the media is important to
society and to democracy, and should reflect the widest range of cultural and political ideas possible, because the media is integral to the individual’s formulation of ideas and opinions. The competing of divergent information, opinions and ideas within the media landscape are widely considered a valued method for the promotion and preservation of a healthy democratic socio-political space within society. Additionally, the media,
and the news media genre in particular, are understood to be at the nucleus of society(ies) because of how they disseminate information to mass audiences, thus informing and enabling the citizenry with the information that it needs to actively participate in political or civic action. Such normative understandings of the importance of media diversity and/or pluralism within a democracy highlight the media policy maker’s concern with the
monitoring of media diversity.
However, if we are to operate from this theoretical starting point, then a markedly different approach to the measuring of media diversity may be required in developing countries such as South Africa. All of the media diversity measurement tools and metrics assessed for this study originated in developed (mostly European) countries, where audience barriers to mass media access are far lower than in developing countries, and were constructed for use in mature democracies. While many aspects and tactics for the
monitoring of media diversity can be appropriated from foreign media diversity measurement tools, there are also many local complexities which such foreign-developed tools do not address. The MPDP’s ongoing study therefore aims to develop a media diversity measurement tool which addresses aspects which may not be necessary to consider in developed countries, but which are imperative within the context of developing
countries, particularly from the position of the citizen’s ability/inability to engage with the media. Crucial to such concerns is an inversion of the view from which to assess media diversity. While the foreign models assessed for this study, without exception, begin with an appraisal of media ownership and market share, in developing countries it may be more appropriate to begin at the opposite end of the media value chain by considering audience access to media, and media availability. It is one matter to measure the
diversity of content within a particular print media publication, but the importance of that analysis must be jointly determined by the accessibility (in addition to the availability) of the publication to which/what audience. Furthermore, the accessibility of print media publications is traditionally low in developing countries amongst large sections of the citizenry, who rather depend on the free-to-air broadcast media for most of their information needs.
Therefore, it may be nonsensical in developing countries to measure the plurality and diversity of the print media sector in isolation of the rest of the media landscape, as many foreign measurement metrics have done, and which the parliamentary portfolio committee of communications in South Africa has suggested. Increasing the diversity and plurality of the print sector only, will potentially have limited benefits with regard to
the normative ideals of increasing the citizen’s access to a divergent collection of competing ideas/opinions, if the widest portion of the citizenry does not have access to much of the print media. A holistic view which involves an assessment of all available media, and each media platform’s availability and accessibility (and to which audiences), is necessary to address concerns over the extent to which the citizenry is enabled to
receive a diverse range of opinions and ideas via media platforms.

@SOS_ZA_#SABC: Civic engagement and the negotiation of media policy – Dr Viola Milton
Much have been written about the SABC – the South African Broadcasting Corporation – over the years and scholars such as Ruth Teer- Tomaselli (1995, 1998, 2001, 2008) and Pieter J Fourie () and Jeanette Minnie (2000) provide a comprehensive overview of its development and significance as South Africa’s public (service) broadcaster. This paper takes a slightly different approach towards historicising the SABC by exploring the ways in which civil society – through social media networks – makes sense of the SABC’s
cultural, industrial, economic and legislative encounters. It deals more with “talk about” the SABC and the laws that govern it, than it does the broadcaster itself, arguing with Newcomb (2000, p. 13), that these discourses reveal how changes in television (in this case public (service) broadcasting) have exposed the multiple mechanisms and practices that go into the making and distributing of television in any historical moment, and
that one result of this exposure is the discussion of television-making as a complex process of cultural, industrial, economic, aesthetic, legislative, and individual encounters. Looking at media and citizenship from the vantage-point of civic engagement, this paper argues that social media act as a central site for the production, management and sharing of media activism and the negotiation of media policy. It therefore considers the changing legislative framework for the SABC from the viewpoint of social media, civil society and
civic discourse, asking in short, “how are transformations in the Broadcasting Act and recent crises at the SABC explored and discursively constructed by civil society through their involvement in social media networks?24” To this end, the focus here will be primarily on the negotiations regarding amendments to the South African Broadcasting Act as it pertains to Public (Service) Broadcasting.

Young citizens World Cafe


Last year during the National Schools Festival (which runs immediately after the National Arts Festival) we ran a World Cafe for school goers. What a fantastic opportunity to engage with young people from all over the country about their ideas of citizenship, their responsibilities and how they feel about the future. We were fortunate to have Fortune Gamanya to facilitate the sessions, which allowed the young people to interact with each other, bounce ideas off each other and to share their very fresh and exciting ideas about the future of South Africa.

Here is a snapshot of what took place and what some of the outcomes were:

world cafe.ppt

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