This piece looks at the impacts of social media in creating awareness among people in developing countries politically. The central theme of the study is to explore and examine critically the extent to which Facebook provides opportunity for people to send, receive and perceive messages relating to politics and politicking. The essay also looks at the impacts of social media in creating political awareness with particular reference to Nigeria as an area of the study. This is as a result of the popularity of the country among African countries. Its popularity may be subsequent to its vast population, heterogeneity, multi-ethnicity and above all, its efforts to ensure sustainable democracy as other countries did, especially Western and European countries. The research carefully makes a close contact with relevant sources that include academic books, and websites.
This piece looks at the impacts of social media in creating awareness among people in developing countries politically. The central theme of the study is to explore and examine critically the extent to which Facebook provides opportunity for people to send, receive and perceive messages relating to politics and politicking. The essay also looks at the impacts of social media in creating political awareness with particular reference to Nigeria as an area of the study. This is as a result of the popularity of the country among African countries. Its popularity may be subsequent to its vast population, heterogeneity, multi-ethnicity and above all, its efforts to ensure sustainable democracy as other countries did, especially Western and European countries. The research carefully makes a close contact with relevant sources that include academic books, and websites. Likewise it succinctly presents its major arguments and shows how the various sources relate to the topic under study.
Meanwhile, following the recently concluded general elections in Nigeria, it appears clearly that media have contributed in creating awareness politically among the citizens of the country within and in Diaspora. Most importantly the social media and to be more specific, the Facebook has played great role. In order to be most specific, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Radio service is chosen for the study in order to explore and examine the extent to which Facebook impacts on the political behaviour of people. The reason for choosing radio may not be unconnected to the nature of the medium in terms of immediacy, how its metamorphosis manifests on messages using other media platforms and the nature of vast population in the chosen country as they do listen more than they read.
Baran & Davis, (2000) attempt to make understanding of the media theories easier considering the cost of understating the media and their messages especially within the revolution of technology. Baran & Davis, further argue that the media have impacts, positing that scholars can consider how the media industries came up from the historical perspective, and use current developments, so that they can interpret what obtains at the moment.’
MEDIA DEBATE: THEORETICAL FOUNDATION
Carey (1989: 87 cited in Meikle 2009:170) argues that reality in the present world is only determined by simple push of buttons through variety of ways that include, speech, listening, writing, reading and viewing. Furthermore, Carey, in Meikle opines that if one only receives messages without participation, he/she is a mere “passive recipient.”
The era of media effects has come and gone, however, the ‘remediation’ or rather metamorphosis of the media still exert great impacts on social, cultural and political spheres in society. Baran, & Davis, (2000) in their work, explore media theories based on their phases with an attempt to distinguish between scholars’ views in the past and the present time. However, history is important as it keeps its followers abreast of past occurrence which enables better understand of what is obtainable for prediction of what is likely to happen in the future. It is based on this view that it is deemed expedient to relate any media study to the past in attempting to build a plunging stone or a peephole that serves as panorama of viewing the future of the media.
Despite the fact that there is huge debate on ‘digital divide’ among countries of the world; the most vulnerable being the so-called ‘Third world’ countries, there are still advances in the widespread of the internet development in such nations. In addition, Nigeria is a country that is considered as the largest, which is why it is nick-named as ‘Giant of Africa.’ Nigeria therefore, is doing well in terms of media including the social media since their debut. Therefore, like the conventional media, the social media are also used to achieve so many objectives, socially, culturally, and politically. Recently, Nigeria held its general elections which normally usher in new leadership in the three tiers of the government in the country. A part from the other sources of information, like the newspapers, magazines, radio and television, the internet was used as one of the viable media that are interactive in nature.
Therefore, this essay examines the extent to which the social media especially the use of Facebook by the BBC radio (Hausa service) influence political awareness among Nigerians. This is because consumption of News according to Meikle (2009:171) was made possible online since the first decade of the internet due to changes that result in an “interplay between old and new media systems.” This interplay in the words of McNair (2006:119 in Meikle 2009:171- 172) gave birth to four types of online news producers, these are:
- Professional – institutional actors: These include the BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera, and other satellite broadcasters, newspaper websites, national broadcasters, websites of internet-only journalistic organizations like Slate;
- Professional –individual actors: these include Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, The Baghdad blogger;
- Non-professional – institutional actors: including government agencies, NGOs, Political parties, campaigning and lobby groups, and terrorists organizations such as al-Qaida and the proliferation of web-savvy Islamic groups that support them; and
- Non-professional-individual: actors or private bloggers, numbering in their millions
In essence, the media in general face new era of diversification and multi-platform pattern that requires more research as a way of coming out with more ideas on the issues bordering on the influence of emerging trends. For example Meikle (2009:174) the new change in the media industry has seen what he calls “Three dimensions of online news.” This platform for instance, gives media the opportunity to present messages to the public in three folds thus “words – video clips – audio.”
The BBC Hausa Facebook therefore is a forum where members interact and share information regarding a particular story from the BBC Hausa radio programme. The broadcast programmes in the morning, afternoon, and evening. The programmes are news and current affairs around the globe with a particular interest on African countries. The audiences of the programmes normally listen to the station at the broadcast hours. The introduction of the Facebook link allows listeners to access all the programmes of the station at any time they want via the internet. With a link to the Facebook, one can as well see comments by different people, make their own contribution and also listen to the programmes if they want. Here is an example: you can link to the following and view how the BBC Hausa Facebook is used by both the BBC and the audience:
Above link shows how the new media, the Facebook per se dominate politics in Nigeria. If one carefully observes, the events covered by the BBC Hausa service are majorly from Nigeria. This may not be unconnected to the country's popularity in population, political movements among African countries as stated earlier in this essay. It can also be observed that people are getting more politically concsious via the use of the BBC Hausa Facebook. It therefore provides a platform for discussion, consumption of information, sending messages across the globe among others.
HUMAN COMPUTER INTERFACE: BEYOND WEB 2.0
Human computer interface simply denotes the interaction of human beings and the computers and how the human beings perceive computer message. Interface or rather the border line between human and computer relations; include among other things the ability of human beings to exert efforts in utilizing the opportunities in a globalized world of internet revolution.
Human beings therefore can use the social media such as the Facebook in order to receive, retrieve, and send information via the socially networked medium. By so doing, human beings get empowered as their views are heard, most especially in a democratic society.
Web 2.0 is seen as that development of the internet to the extent that users not only consume content generated on the internet but also use it as new, interactive medium which enables collaboration and sharing as in the case of social media like Facebook, user-generated sites like You Tube, and group sites such as wikis (Dominick, 2009). The internet therefore, could be used as another form of medium of communication between sender and receiver. This is seen in the case of feedbacks and comments audiences make using the internet. Radio listeners presently do not have to carry the conventional transistors around or keep to the broadcast time because with the aid of the internet, they can listen to their favourite programmes when they like, this however, spells out social implications.
To this effect, Dominick, (2009: 293) identifies some of the implications of the internet and its features, then prophesises the future of the internet and refers it as “evernet.” The implications he says include a situation where the internet will become supplementary component of the conventional media fulfilling their roles in the society for instance blogging, Facebook, which allow users to pour comments based on their various interest. Dominick likewise, identifies the internet as wiping off functions of gatekeepers.
This implication can result in having all sorts of information transmitted to the audiences unfiltered. There is according Dominick, increasing information overload, threats to privacy and creation of distance among people. A good example of the last point is the friendship that exists on Facebook. So, the question is, in the next ten (10) years or so, what will the future of the internet looks like? To what extent will the social media make or political awareness among people especially the Third world countries and Nigeria to that matter?
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
The social media or inther words the new media according to Flew (2008:4) sprang up following the development of the internet, which “bring together computing and information technologies, communications networks and media contents.” This in accordance to Flew’s view, when talking about the internet, the major things to carefully study includes the technology involved i.e. computer technicalities and the content, meaning the information; in-between these two occurs interaction. The social media therefore, have social impacts through the interaction that exists between human beings and the social media.In attempting to explain the extent of the criticisms surrounding the impacts of the social media, which are in a way, aspects of the internet.
Similarly, another prophesy beyond that of Dominick and of course other scholars on the future of the socially networked media is that it will be assumed or rather prophesized that technology may advance in the next ten (10) years or so to the extent that users may only require to "recite" some "incantations" or passwords in order to have access to variety of information across the globe. The technological infrastrctures will be further miniaturized to the degree that users may find the smaller computers too cumbersome. It may appear that by mere use of a small button which might be hung like wrist watch, the users may access network and for the hardware, an illusionary or imaginary screen may appear which serves like the conventional computer screen remotely controlled by mere touch of the keys on a wrist-watch-like apparatus.
It is based on the background above that the focus topic of this essay will be treated using relevant literature to underpin the argument raised in the title.
Baran, S. J. & Davis, D. K., (2000). Mass Communication Theory, Foundation, Ferment and Future. U.K.
Brenda, L. (1990). The Art of Human Computer interface Design. Wokingham: Addison Wesley
British Broadcasting Corporation (2011). BBC Hausa Link, available on http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/bbchausa?sk=app_2309869772 [accessed 28/05/11]
Cox, G. et al (2004). Data Browser 01. Economising Culture on 'The (digital) Culture Industry. New York: Autonomedia.
Dominick, J. R. (2009).The Dynamics of Mass Communication, Media in the Digital Age (10th Edition). London: McGraw-Hill.
Dix, et al (1998). Human Computer Interaction. London: Pretence Hall.
Estes J., Schade, A. & Nielsen, J. (2009). Streams, Walls, and Feeds. Available on:
http://www.nngroup.com/reports/streams accessed on 07/05/2011
Flew, T. (2005). New Media, an Introduction. U.S: Oxford University
Gauntlett, D. & Horsley, R. (2004).Web Studies. New York: Oxford University Press.
McQuail, D. (2005). McQuail’s Mass Communication Theory. London: Sage Publications.
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