Some of Map Kibera Team at work. Photo credit: psfk.com
The examples of social media use in development work are endless; from promoting organisations’ external communications, to fundraising, to campaigning for raising public awareness and engaging the masses. In recent times, we find that the most applied uses in development have been related to increasing civic engagement by facilitating the process of participation in social change initiatives. There is a general consensus on the contribution of social media to social change and democracy processes although this discussion is still in itself evolving.
In the development field we have seen the tremendous use of social media for organisational purposes during the Egyptian Revolution. Projects such as Map Kibera shows how new and social media is used by citizens to create free and open digital maps in the largest slum communities and how such initiatives provide spaces for interaction and access to information and basic services. Ushahidi demonstrates how social media and ICTs are used in real time data collection and in web based election monitoring although some cases such as the recent elections in Liberian have received much criticism and unveiled important challenges in this field.
In the upcoming posts we will continue the discussion by sharing some of the projects, programs and initiatives on the use of social media in development and social change processes, as well as media discussions and coverage on the topic.
A citizen uses his mobile phone to capture events during a demonstration on June 22nd in Tehran Iran. As foreign correspondents, traditional media and local reporters were restricted on their ability to report news during the Iranian presidential election demonstrations; social media and the use of ICTs such as mobile phones played a key role in bridging the information gap. (Photo credit: Reuters via Your View)
The Revolution of Social Media has transformed the way citizen media is functioning by increasing the speed and accessibility of information across borders, escalating the amount of information produced independently, and providing audiences with opportunities to interact and share their opinions. In places where foreign corresponds have been expelled, Syria being a perfect example, and local reporters and traditional media have faced abuse and imprisonment, social media and citizens have played a huge role in bridging the information gap. However, this new form of communication is not short of criticisms. Social media is still criticised for its ability to offer journalistic (investigated) content, peer review, or professional credibility. It is feared that social media may also have no way to identify and filter biasness.
While social media remains in its infancy there are some indications to how it will evolve in the future. This can be seen in the broadcasts of major news organizations, which have tapped in to social media sites and use its contents in its reporting. Take the capture and killing of Moammar Gaddafi in Libya as example. A soldier had recorded and uploaded a video of the event an soon after major media houses, including Al Jazeera and CNN, were playing the footage. The reporters were clear to state that the information was unconfirmed. As more and more videos were uploaded the major news channels were busy piecing all the stories together to create a clearer picture of the events on the ground. This indicates that major media organizations are finding their niche in new world of social media, quilting together all the bits of information. In all, social media has exploded on the scene and already has an impressive resume of revolutions and social change that it has inspired and/or facilitated. Basically, anyone with a smart phone and a Twitter account produce content that makes news globally and do so almost instantly.
What is needed to strengthen to role and credibility of citizen journalism and social media in the communication field?
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Current events and on-the-ground realities imply that new media, also referred to as ‘social media’, has developed into an influential channel of communication that is altering the way society develops, receives, sends and reacts to information. Proponents of social media credit it for increasing freedom of speech; creating spaces for interaction, organization and mobilization. Political upheavals, such as the Arab Spring, that saw popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, have been attributed to the new advances in social media. Authoritarian regimes that had so easily controlled the media for decades surely see it more as media guerrilla warfare for which they are helpless to control the flow of information. Every “flash mob” is an erosion of its power. While they try to punish and minimize the damage, imprisoning the Google CEO who became a hero in Egypt as an example, the tsunami of information is too much to hold back. That said, there is still a lot of scepticism regarding the power of social media and its contribution to democracy, social change and development processes. While there seems to be numerous examples and praise for the role of social media, concrete research assessing its effectiveness is still in its infancy.
Welcome to our blog. This blog is put together by Jwani, Tanushree, Sergiy and Valeria to present key findings from a literature review assignment on social media. The review assessed how this new form of communication has transformed traditional forms of citizen media, democratic movements, social change and development processes.