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The Ethnic Heritage of Party Politics and Political Communication in Lusophone African Countries  

Susana Salgado and Afonso Biscaia

The processes through which ethnicity becomes visible are varied, and its impacts have not always been the same throughout history. Investigating the roles ethnicity played in Angolan, Mozambican, Cape Verdean, and São Tomé and Principean histories makes clear that colonizers themselves placed different emphases on the relevance and the role of ethnicity in these countries. Currently, partly due to the traumas engendered by decades of conflict in Angola and Mozambique, ethnicity is mostly a silent factor, operating in the ways people interact with one another but not overtly mentioned by politicians. The insular nations’ (Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe) history with ethnicity is different from that of their continental counterparts, – partly due to the influence of Creoleness – but is not devoid of tensions; nevertheless, politicians from both archipelagic countries tend to downplay the influence of ethnicity, even if its effects can also be occasionally but subtly felt. More recently, mainstream political discourses focused on the idea of the “unitary nation” are being paired with those of spontaneous movements advocating the valorization of local cultures and languages, which are being boosted by the use of social media.

Article

Cognitive Skills Acquired From Video Games  

Emma G. Cunningham and C. Shawn Green

Due to the massive engagement with video games worldwide in innumerable forms and iterations, researchers have sought to understand the impact playing video games might have on the human brain and behavior. Although research on video games resides in a vast array of disciplines, including social, developmental, clinical, and educational psychology, this work focuses on research specifically in the cognitive sphere. From early research providing sound evidence for the positive impacts of action games on perceptual cognitive skills, to recent work refining methodologies for differentiating the effects of a wide range of embedded mechanics within broader game genres, the field has addressed a number of increasingly complex and critical questions. Research in the field has explored the effects of many game genres’ unique mechanics and in-game goals. Specifically, studies have found that action games positively impact perceptual skills as well as higher-order attentional control and executive function skills, while game genres that utilize action-oriented mechanics including Action-Role Playing Games and Real Time Strategy games also induce similar effects, if to a lesser extent. These results have been observed both through correlational studies, where player status is an existing characteristic of participants, and through intervention studies, where novice participants are trained on a specific game to establish causality between game play and cognitive performance. Although less research has been dedicated to the effects of puzzle games, playing such games has been found to impact higher cognitive skills such as problem-solving and fluid intelligence. Building upon this body of work, future research should explore the cognitive impacts of a more diverse set of game types, in-game experiences, and cognitive constructs as well as the mechanisms through which they are impacted. This should include work dedicated to the effects of puzzle and mini games, and the impact of games on higher cognitive skills including planning, problem-solving, and fluid intelligence, where relatively little research has been dedicated in the past. Further, research should explore the differences in training outcomes from games, between immediate transfer of skills from training to test and the enhancement of the meta-skill of “learning to learn.” Together, such work will allow game play to continue to evolve from pure entertainment to a force for good.

Article

The Hierarchy of “Othering”: Belarusian Media Practitioners’ Accounts  

Galina Miazhevich

Belarus—a western periphery of the former Soviet Union—remains overlooked by the scholarly research. Regarded as the periphery to an integral Russian imperial state, rather than a colony proper, Belarus remains a blind spot in post-Soviet identity studies. Generally overlooked or overshadowed by the two larger neighboring states of Ukraine and, especially, Russia it attracts attention for the type of governance established by its current president, Lukashenka, or its “undeveloped” national identity. However, this article goes beyond this formulation of Belarusian identity in negative terms, which views the country as a “denationalized nation” or emphasizes its anachronistic “Sovietization” or Sovietness . It advocates repositioning “Belarusianness” at the core of the post-Soviet experience as a unique case illuminating the dilemmas of post-Soviet nationhood and the enduring legacies of Soviet multiculturalism. Belarusian multiculturalism is a complicated notion because it largely draws on the imperial/Soviet legacy of a multipeopled state (mnogonarodnoe) in a relatively homogenous Belarusian society and “a tolerant nation” mythology, devoid of links to western liberalism. Consequently, it is expected that the “hierarchy of othering” will include prejudices toward prime “post-imperial targets” such as Roma and Caucasians (in contrast to more distant foreigners). Pro-Western sentiment will be primarily associated with homosexuality. There will be a complex relationship with a “significant” other—Russia—which has more pronounced grassroots ethnic tensions. The tension between the state’s nation-building project and Belarusian revivalism (frequently treated as oppositional nationalism) will contribute to auto-xenophobia or “othering” of a (part of) titular Belarusian nation. The country’s particular multicultural context informed by the Soviet legacy and its current nation-building strategies can (a) illuminate broader trends also applicable to other neighboring states such as Russia, as well as (b) inform a wider discussion on the mediated populist othering in the post-Soviet region. By drawing on 15 interviews with the sub/editors of the key Belarusian state and independent media outlets, the article introduces an original “hierarchy of othering”—a distinct order of mediated populist othering where certain groups or differences are seen as more or less acceptable. The high level of the state’s involvement in media and the establishment’s mantra of “tolerant” Belarus make the mediation of populist othering problematic. In a situation of “weak hegemony”, the Belarusian establishment had to artificially instill a consensual power balance from above. As a result, media practitioners’ narratives combine a rigid reiteration of the establishment’s line of multicultural “tolerance” together with the contradictions and inconsistencies that expose grassroots xenophobia.

Article

Mediating Multiculturalism in Postcolonial Southeast Asia  

Jason Vincent A. Cabañes

A nuanced understanding of how media matter in the diverse articulations of multiculturalism across the globe requires one to have a transnational sensibility. This is a scholarly disposition that entails being attuned to the role that different media platforms and genres play not only in how racial hierarchies of different societies are articulated, but also in how these hierarchies get entangled with each other. Although the literature about media and multiculturalism is already well established, it is often situated in the context of the West. These works understandably tend to be concerned with the mediation of multicultural issues that are most relevant to their situation, such as the legacies of empire and of settler colonialism. A transnational sensibility consequently necessitates an expansion of current discussions about media and multiculturalism beyond the West. Doing so can allow for a better understanding of how media get entwined with the distinct issues of cultural diversity that have emerged from a wider range of contexts. It also opens up an important vista from which to explore how the mediation of multicultural issues in different parts of the world might be linked to each other, and sometimes intimately so. A productive site to think through such a transnational sensibility to media and cultural diversity is the global cities of the Southeast Asian region. These places are exemplary of postcolonial multiculturalisms that are distinct from the kind of multiculturalism that can be found in the global cities of West. This article consequently juxtaposes two urban contexts that represent divergent approaches toward the mediation of colonially rooted cultural diversity. One is the city-state of Singapore, where there are overt public policies about managing plurality. The second is the Philippines capital of Metropolitan Manila (henceforth, Manila), where there is a general elision of public talk about plurality. The article takes a comparative lens to these two cities, assessing how their different mediations of postcolonial multiculturalism are entangled with broader global dynamics, including with each other.

Article

Perceptions of the Childfree  

Elizabeth A. Hintz and Rachel Tucker

Being voluntarily childless (i.e., “childfree”) is a growing trend in the United States and around the world. Although most childfree people know early in life that they do not wish to become parents, the decision to forgo having children is an ongoing process that requires childfree people to construct a life that deviates from the normative family life cycle. Increasing rates of voluntary childlessness is a trend spurred by a variety of shifting social, economic, and environmental factors. Yet despite the increasing normalcy of voluntary childlessness, childfree people (and especially childfree women) face social sanctions for deciding not to become parents, being broadly perceived more negatively than childless people (who do not have children but want them) and parents. Such sanctions include social confrontations in which others (e.g., family members) question or contest the legitimacy of their childfree identity. Media coverage of voluntary childlessness forwards the notion that motherhood and femininity are inseparable and that voluntary childlessness is an issue that primarily concerns and affects women. Furthermore, childfree people face discrimination in health care contexts when seeking voluntary sterilization and in workplace contexts when “family-friendly” policies create unequal distributions of labor for those without children. Members of the childfree community use the Internet to share resources and seek support to navigate challenging interactions with outsiders. Beyond this, although some studies have begun to interrogate the roles of geographic location, race, and sexual orientation in shaping the experience of voluntary childlessness, at present, a largely White, wealthy, able-bodied, cisgender, heteronormative, and Western view of this topic is still perpetuated in the literature.

Article

Alternative Media and Ethnic Politics in Kenya  

Susan M. Kilonzo and Catherine Muhoma

The history of the use of alternative media in Kenya’s politics shows evidence that it was in use in 2007, when the country came into the brink of a genocide; and, prominently in use, in the recent 2022 general elections. The development of fiber optic cable, and availability of Internet connection, with expanded use of mobile telephony in the country, is a direct link to the change in political dynamics, and increased use of social media. Subsequently, the availability of alternative media has revolutionized political engagements by enhancing participatory approach while connecting marginalized populations to the political elite. The new wave of alternative media also strengthens the arguments that politics and political processes are no longer for the elite. Further, the new wave of social media can also be used to explain changes seen in the use of ethnicity as a card for mobilization as well as demobilization in political processes surrounding elections. Campaigning and canvasing is no longer bounded by geographical spaces. Ethnic coalescing is not just a physical phenomenon. Mobile telephony and the Internet, which facilitate connection to alternative media platforms allows for virtual spaces for ethnic meetings and discussions. Anyone, even in remotest areas of the country, is able to participate in political debates and forums so long as they can afford a smart phone, and/or Internet connection. The former physical political processes and engagements, especially during campaigns, elections, tallying and acceptance or rejection of results, and which were perceived to be highly sensitive given the ethnic politics that has characterized the country for several decades, are now neutralized through virtual representation of facts as well as propaganda. The vibrancy of these activities present the research arena with a rich field of vignettes from alternative media accounts in the form of Twitter, Facebook and Blogs, to exemplify how ethnic groups align to their preferred candidates, specifically the Presidential contestants. This kind of approach allows for unveiling of an era of e-democracy and e-politics, developments that were otherwise impossible a few years back. Such platform allows for an exposé of a discourse that shows that, social media platforms may be possible tools for reducing physical violence and neutralizing extreme ethnicity as seen in the surprising calmness witnessed after the Supreme Court of Kenya upheld the contested 2022 election results.

Article

Conflict and Newspapers (De)-Escalation of the North-South Polarization of Polio-Eradication in Nigeria: Implications for Sustainable Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding Initiatives  

Olusola Oyeyinka Oyewo and Ayanfeoluwa Oyewo

Since Nigeria’s inception as a nation in 1914, Nigerian society has been deeply polarized along a north-south dichotomy. This divide has resulted in a lot of conflicts between the north and the south. This divide manifested in various sectors of Nigerian society, including the media. The current media, especially the print media in Nigeria, are produced and published predominantly in the south, with a few in the north. As a result, the media constantly reproduce social norms, stereotypes, and prejudices from southern Nigeria to the chagrin of the North. Media researchers contend that the Nigerian media heighten the current pressure in the country through one-sided reporting dependent on religious, political, and social inclinations. Of the many conflicts that have plagued the nation, the focus here is the polio eradication crisis of 2013, which resulted in the deaths of health worker volunteers during a routine polio vaccine exercise. This violence was a direct result of vaccine refusals on religious grounds by people in northern Nigeria. These refusals were informed by claims that polio vaccines contained anti-fertility properties that were designed by the “West” to reduce the Muslim population of the world, beginning with northern Nigeria. Based on the peculiarities of the Nigerian print media, the coverage of the polio eradication controversy by two newspapers—Punch and Daily Trust—following the killings of the health workers is worth studying. Daily Trust is situated in northern Nigeria, while Punch is situated in the South. The decisions of these newspapers depend on the contention that the Nigerian press has been blamed for raising pressure in the country, since they see numerous parts of the Nigerian reality from the focal points of religious, political, and cultural biases. The locations of the newspapers determined their positioning in the struggle between the federal government and northern Nigeria related to the polio eradication initiative. Although Punch and Daily Trust newspapers are based in the South and North, respectively, by emphasizing the negativity of the North’s vaccine refusals and the killings of the health workers, they both contribute to the animosity between North and South in their representations. A study of the two may be useful to extrapolate the wider news media operations in Nigeria.

Article

Dark Participation: A Critical Overview  

Thorsten Quandt and Johanna Klapproth

The profound sociopolitical transformation processes that characterize the second decade of the 21st century have also led to a focus on new topics and a reconsideration of previously established approaches in communication studies. In particular, the academic discussion of online communication has drastically changed in tone and focus. While the new possibilities of online participation were initially described from a predominantly optimistic perspective stressing the high potential for deliberative democracy, work in communication studies at the end of the second decade of the 21st century paints a rather dystopian picture of the online world. The growing attention paid to problematic forms of user participation has led to various new concepts describing phenomena such as toxicity, disinformation, or hate speech. The concept of “dark participation” introduced by Thorsten Quandt takes up the profound change in perspective with a systematization of negative forms of participation in a unifying umbrella model. This generalistic model delineates the variants of dark participation according to five dimensions: the actors, the reasons for their behavior, the targets or objects of their participation, the intended audiences, and the structure of the process. In addition to this systematic categorization of negative participatory forms, the term dark participation also serves as a rhetorical device for commenting on the observable change in perspective: The original publication encourages a process of critical reflection on normativity in the discussion of participation and, by calling for more balance in the analysis of online participation, warns against reducing complex social communication phenomena to a one-sided positive or negative perspective. Since its initial publication, the concept of dark participation has served as a theoretical point of reference for various empirical studies. Due to its use as a rhetorical device and the critical examination of previous participation approaches, the original publication also stimulated an intensive discussion about the proposed concept. In addition to the critique regarding the theoretical assumptions and the distinction between “dark” and positive participatory forms, some authors also demand an extension, a different contextualization, or an elaboration of specific details. As a universal concept with a deliberate openness to such further delimitations, dark participation can serve as a starting point for theoretical extensions, especially in the research field of (digital) journalism and social media, and as an impulse for transfers to other related fields.

Article

The Ethnic Undercurrents in the Ethiopian Media  

Terje Skjerdal

The ethnic aspect of Ethiopian media development can be described in four phases: During the Ethiopian empire, a lasting media policy was established reflecting Amharic hegemony. In the years of the communist Derg regime (1974–1991), cultural origin was suppressed for the sake of political control. With the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) (1991–2018), the media sector developed through emerging ethnic representation and regional self-governance. After Abiy Ahmed came to power and transformed the EPRDF into the Prosperity Party (2018–), media markets became freer and ethnic frictions surfaced. Ethnicity transpires as an undercurrent in all of Ethiopia’s media history as well as in newsrooms. The situation is reflective of a society of more than 80 ethnic groups and a similar number of languages. The political history of the country can be read as a contestation between different regions and peoples and between ethno-nationalistic and unitarian preferences. Fault lines in the media sector can be understood in similar terms. Ethnification of the media augmented after 2018, witnessed not least by the rise of ethno-nationalistic media channels established by the returned digital diaspora. The armed conflict which broke out between the federal government and the Tigray region in 2020 amplified the ethnic discord in the media. The media in Tigray pledged allegiance to its region, while the federal media remained loyal to the central government. Various newsrooms and departments in Ethiopia news organizations appear as professional monocultures where groups among staff have a similar ethnic background. The identity question has gained little attention in Ethiopian media analysis, but recent studies have put the issue on the research agenda.

Article

The Impact of Televangelism on Christian Beliefs and Cultural Values in Tanzania  

Kaanaeli Kaale and Joyce Bazira

Religion is a collection of beliefs and rituals derived from societal and cultural norms and practices to create a bond with God. Africans practiced traditional religions before the 19th century, adopting modern Christian beliefs that spread via radio and newspapers. The development of information and communications technology enabled Christians in Africa, especially in Tanzania, to use the media to increase religious freedom and start modern African Traditional Religion (ATR) churches. the past two decades, African scholars have observed the proliferation of the media landscape from a more holistic perspective to understand both the positive and negative relationships between religions and the media, generally used to promote ATR. ATR combines beliefs from different African cultures, such as worshipping spirits, the sun, trees, stones, and other things based on their location. Televangelists, which mainly include prophets and apostles, have used the media extensively to persuade people to become more religious in traditional ways. Televangelism’s contribution to promoting ART beliefs among Christians has given rise to cyber churches, which have contributed to changes in church shape, structure, textual content, and social behavior. Scholars use culture and critical theories to understand the unique ways in which televangelists use the media to develop neo-Pentecostal groups that depart from the Protestant and Catholic Churches. Three critical concepts relate to a better understanding of televangelists’ media use: (a) televangelism’s promotion of African Indigenous religion among Christians, (b) televangelism’s influence on modernist changes in churches, and (c) Christians’ perception of the consequences of televangelism among Christians. In general, discussing the media’s impact brings ethnically diverse groups together to solve social–economic issues and advance ATR in Jesus Christ’s name.