Like in the developed parts of the world, both positive and negative impact of digital media can also be observed in the African context. Although the pessimistic accounts of connectivity levels may often be highlighted, digital media have been appropriated and adapted to the African context with such speed and width that it becomes clear that vibrant digital cultures and practices have grown in the continent despite numerous challenges.
Though earlier approaches to digital media on the continent have often been biased towards a technologically deterministic attention on development impacts, recent studies of digital media on the continent have tended to shift the attention to the lived experiences of African digital media users and their appropriation, domestication, and adaptation of these technologies to suit their economic, political, and social circumstances (Mutsvairo B., 2016). Thus, the illustration given in the paper shows how digital media is being employed in the everyday life to achieve a worthy course.
The kidnapping of more than 200 girls (shown in the picture below) from their school compound in Maiduguri Nigeria in April 2014 by the terror group Boko Haram resulted in a campaign (that included rallies, discussions, workshops, and an online message awareness) to rescue the girls from their captives. The organizers of this campaign being fully aware of Nigerian government notoriety regarding its attitudes toward the worth and treatment of the lives of its citizens; were not prepared to entertain the government’s usual lacklustre behaviour, had thus started a campaign to keep the authorities on their toes.
The campaign had started with a march on the Nigerian Parliament building in Abuja on 30thApril, 2014, and two weeks later a Social Media campaign with the hashtag # BringBackOurGirls # was commissioned online (The Guardian 2014/05/07). The campaign and the hashtag would go on to catch the attention of the rest of the world with international personalities and public figures like Michel Obama and Oprah Winfrey quickly identifying with the hashtag and supporting the campaign.
Within two weeks of starting the online campaign, the said hashtag had been tweeted and retweeted more than a million times and several mass rallies took place in the country and around the world, including those staged in front of the defense headquarters in Abuja; the Nigerian seat of government and the embassies of the country in London, Los Angeles and New York.
“The question that pops up every time mass mobilizations ripple through the social media is: ‘Do social media help to lift up the awareness of political causes or simply make users of these social networking sites feel good about themselves?”
Like in the illustration above, the debate often compare the daring minority of core protesters like those who brace the sun and rain and go all out to be physically present in places of protest, with the majority of online followers who only risk little through posting messages from their comfort places. What is however not considered is the realization of the complex forces that play out in contemporary media environment, such as the synergies that both core and peripheral protest participants create in the process of starting and scaling up visibility of the protest movement (Barbera et al., 2015).
Research on collective action has for long underscored the importance of resource mobilization in understanding the success of social movements. General discontent is the reason social protests arise, however; the ability to reach, recruit, and organize participants is what makes initial sparks to spread very quickly in contentious politics. Resource mobilization theories help to measure success of protests by the number of participants reached which is assumed to increase in tally as a function of participants who are already active. On its part Critical Mass theories targets the identification of factors that cause participation to become self-sustaining by placing emphasis on how and why the number of participants reaches a tipping point.
In their published research paper, Barbera et. al. (2015) helped shed light on the question posed by this write up maintaining that Social Media provides the structure of interdependence that shapes individual decision making (i.e., whether to join a protest), and they channel the propagation of activation signals (i.e., how many other people are already participating). Put in simpler words, Social Media Networks hold the key to decoding the social logic of protests. Suggesting that Peripheral users in online protest networks may be as important in expanding the reach of messages as the highly committed minority at the core. Peripheral users possess potentially valuable mobilization resources that greatly increase the number of online individuals who are exposed to protest messages initiated by core participants.
This research findings can therefore be aligned with the illustration given in this paper. The number of tweets, Facebook posts and other online messages regarding the # Bringbackourgirls # campaign had helped mobilized and increase the number of people who got reached with the message and eventually turned out to the big rallies thereby keeping the Nigerian authorities on their toes and alive to their responsibility of finding and reuniting the kidnapped girls with their parents.
The Guardian, ‘Bring back our girls: global protests over abduction of Nigerian schoolgirls’ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/07/bring-back-our-girls-global-protests-abduction-nigerian-schoolgirls
Mutsvairo Bruce (2016), Digital Activism in the Social Media Era: Critical Reflections on Emerging Trends in Sub-Saharan Africa. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.proxy.mah.se/lib/malmo/reader.action?docID=4769281&ppg=3
Pablo Barberá, Ning Wang, Richard Bonneau, John T. Jost, Jonathan Nagler, Joshua Tucker, Sandra González-Bailón (2015), The Critical
Periphery in the Growth of Social Protests