Tyre burn­ing is me­dia’‒ ap­par­ently


“The role of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in net­work­ing, build­ing col­lec­tive iden­tity, mo­bil­is­ing and protest­ing is cen­tral to col­lec­tive ac­tion,” said Li­nah Nkuna, who is com­plet­ing a PhD at the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg. As part of the par­al­lel ses­sions for 31 Au­gust- 1 Sep­tem­ber High­way Africa – SACOMM con­fer­ence, Nkuna’s re­search the­o­rises the var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tion prac­tices of so­cial move­ments with spe­cific ref­er­ence to #Abahlal­ibaseFree­domPark, #Wit­sFeesMustFall and #SaveSouthAfrica protests.

It fo­cuses on the use of dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ca­tion meth­ods in the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of dif­fer­ent so­cial causes and is­sues of ser­vice de­liv­ery.

Nkuna traced her re­search back to the apartheid era when protests were the only re­course for the ma­jor­ity of the South Africans to dis­play their dis­sat­is­fac­tion.

Nkuna said that in West­ern coun­tries protests are the do­main for dis­ad­van­taged mi­nori­ties, yet in South Africa protests are used by dis­ad­van­taged ma­jor­ity.

Nkuna men­tioned that cur­rent re­search on so­cial move­ments and protest fo­cuses on on­line and off­line meth­ods of or­gan­is­ing which nor­mally takes place over so­cial me­dia plat­forms like Twit­ter or Face­book.

How­ever, they are other ways in which ac­tivists com­mu­ni­cate is­sues of ex­clu­sion, ex­ploita­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion that are marginalised in South African dis­course.

For in­stance, the use of tyre-burn­ing and loud speak­ers in com­mu­ni­ca­tion have not been ex­plored in South Africa lit­er­a­ture. Her re­search thus aims at fill­ing this gap.

“Although the ex­ist­ing re­search is vi­tal to un­der­stand­ing how in­di­vid­ual prac­tices make up the com­mu­ni­ca­tion en­vi­ron­ment of South Africa activism,” said Nkuna, “the dan­ger of th­ese con­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tions is that they re­strict the fo­cus to only one of the man­i­fes­ta­tions of so­cial move­ments.”

Nkuna said that fo­cus­ing on only one of th­ese is­sues at a time re­sults in los­ing im­por­tant as­pects such as con­nec­tiv­ity among tech­nolo­gies and prac­tices; as well as the role they play within so­cial move­ment.

• Pa­tience Shawarira was re­port­ing for Open Source, the me­dia plat­form of High­way


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