By Nwachukwu Egbunike (in Nairobi, Kenya)
Being both a citizen media activist and social media student, can have it’s advantages and also posses some demerits. As a author with Global Voices, I encounter through my work the amazing reality of the awesomeness of the social media platform.
In a country like mine – Nigeria – the disparity between marginal and empowered voices is obvious. Digital conversation is still steeped with an elitist toga. Not so many are hooked to the internet. Not that they do not want to, but they can’t just afford that luxury. Infrastructural challenges are still rife – electricity, broad band access, etc. However, a good crop of hitherto ’unheard’ voices are pushing the divide. Young Nigerians who prior to the democratisation of information via social networks are now not only being heard but also walking their talk. As such I have no doubt about the potential impact of the social media on Nigeria’s pubic sphere.
However, as a student of communication – with a love for development and social media – I still have to be pruned of my bias. This to use a phrase from Professor Anthony Olorunnisola one has to cultivate an ‘analytical consciousness’. This means that while guts or instincts may be permissible as a digital activist, it may not hold for a communication scholar. Events have to viewed through an in-depth prism that worships on the altar of facts.
Nonetheless, being a participant-observer in the 2012 Global Voices Citizen Media Summit in Nairobi has helped in resolving this conflict. One fact that dances so vibrantly is the fusion between immediacy and factual aspects of the citizen media practice. Both are not contradictory because the integrity of this medium lies in it’s ability to sticks to factual information and also jump gate-keeping. And luckily both forms the core of my dual mission.
Besides the GV Summit has helped a long way in marrying both sides of the divide. The conversations have been taken up from different angles – communication scholars from different parts of the globe and digital activists/writers/translators. I have a better view of the ‘present’ of citizen media and perhaps may contribute to it’s future. Who knows? Time would tell!