chronotopes of media in Sub-Saharan Africa - Vokes and Pype (Ethnos, 2018)

Richard Vokes and Katrien Pype collected a special issue of the journal ETHNOS in which contributors propose ethnographies of electronic modernity in Africa. They also wrote the introduction to the special issue - it is supposed to be out in print in 2018, yet now, we already have access to the online ahead of print publication by clicking here

The four articles collected in the volume which trace the movements of media and persons from the bedrooms of young women in Nigerian Calabar (Juliet Gilbert), through the living rooms of Kinshasa’s elderly (Pype), to the taxis of rural Uganda (Vokes), and to the virtual spaces of a live radio show in Uganda (Florence Brisset-Foucault) – offer rich ethnographic case studies of the temporalizing and spatializing work that various kinds of new media (electronic and non electronic) are allowed to do by their users. In these particular locales, mobile phones and radio sets are extensively used to experiment with new, sometimes virtual, identities, to initiate and deepen social relationships, and to open up new realms of the past and present. These same objects also facilitate new dreams for a better future. 

The particular assemblage of a media object in a space and associated with a new experience of time encourages us to think with the concept of ‘chronotopes’, as a useful tool for understanding how in different spaces and times, according to different generations, genders, religious groups and the like, the radio, the television, the smartphone bring in locally informed understandings of the here and now and the there and then (i.e. of the present, past and future). The introduction explores the analytical opportunities of the notion of the chronotope for our understandings of the experience of electronic modernity.

Innovative uses of our project's homepage

Informing the public about a research project, as well as keeping interested individuals and organisations oriented about the project’s ongoing activities are the principal functions of a project home page. These are important functions but not the only uses such pages can be put to. In Mediafrica we have taken the homepage’s functionalities a couple of steps further: First, we have now used it to launch a web survey in Botswana. And we have also opened the project's Facebook page as a platform for data collection.

On February the 19th 2016 we launched – with the very good help of Niels Theissen, the project's web editor – a survey by way of the homepage and our accompanying Facebook page. Such a task is not a walk in the park and a great deal of work was put into it. For one, the technical side must be functional and reliable; we must be sure that those taking part access the questionnaire and can complete it without much ado. Moreover, as it is a survey about and for people in Botswana we needed to make sure it only reached those living in Botswana.  It was also important that the questionnaire was designed and presented in ways that met sound methodological standards. And last, but not least, we needed to make the survey known and desirable to take part in. Two strategies were chosen; prizes were set up (three nice tablets) and solid PR. In addition to promoting the survey on Facebook, and making it public on the University of Botswana’s Blackboard, we chose to approach the largest privately owned radio station in Botswana, the Gabz FM. They met us with great enthusiasm. We wish to thank them for their very positive and creative response. Not only were they willing to give us airtime – on three different occactions actually – but they also gave advice to how to best promote the survey.

In addition, in order to spur the interest of possible respondents we launched 'teaserquestions' on our Facebook page every day for three weeks prior to the opening of the survey. The response to these questions have proved to be an interesting source of data for the project.

 As it is now nearing its closing date (18th of March), we can surely conclude that the web survey has been a great success. A lot of work has been put into it (and some trial and error) but it now seems that we will receive more than a thousand responses. Too early, of course, to say anything about the content but we look forward in anticipation to sit down and analyse the results.