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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.


Global Jihad and International Media Use  

el-Sayed el-Aswad, M. Joseph Sirgy, Richard J. Estes, and Don R. Rahtz

Globalization and international media are potent contributors to the rise of the Islamist global jihad. Widespread digital communication technologies that connect people all over the world are a substantial component of globalization. Over the past three decades, “virtual jihad” has emerged as a potent disseminator of radical religious-political ideologies, instilling fear and fostering instability worldwide. Western and global media, while often misrepresenting Islam and Muslims, have played a significant role in disseminating jihadist ideologies. The involvement of global jihadists (mujāhidīn) across myriad media outlets and platforms has allowed them to promote their agenda around the world. Using the Internet and media outlets, global jihadists are able to attract and recruit people to their ranks in an accelerated manner. Jihadists have engaged in media activities that have empowered and expanded the global jihad movement, even in the face of increased mitigation efforts.


The Politics of Translation and Interpretation in International Communication  

Elaine Hsieh

Traditionally, translators and interpreters are viewed as neutral intermediaries who facilitate communication between people who do not share the same language. However, because cultural consciousness is embedded in language, translation and interpretation do not simply transfer information from one language to another but are political acts that can define, shape, and resist norms and values of both the source and target cultures. The production of translation and interpretation cannot be separated from the analysis of knowledge, reasoning, and cultural consciousness—along with the tensions inherent in the (re)production of power and cultural hierarchies. There are four themes when exploring the politics and political nature of translation and interpreting as communicative activity: (a) the historical roles of translations and interpreters, (b) translation as a change agent, (c) language access as justice, and (d) technology as a solution to language barriers. Translators traditionally claim an invisible, passive, conduit role to legitimize their work. It is assumed that the translator role is akin to a bureaucratic function. Translators may not alter the contents of business conversations and contracts, diplomatic exchanges, literature, or religious texts. Nevertheless, researchers have found that translation is not only a product of cross-cultural interactions but also a process that cannot avoid changing the language, ideology, and knowledge of both the source culture and the target culture. Language itself harbors biases and perspectives. Also, translators’ strategies of foreignizing or domesticating translation can be the result of purposeful decisions, aiming to shape the cultural consciousness of the target culture. Early studies of the impact of translation centered on the use of translation in enforcing and imposing the hierarchical superiority and worldviews of the dominant culture of the colonizers, including proselytizing activities. Recent studies, however, have also argued that translations can be a form of resistance and activism. For example, the translation movement in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century was an important factor in Ireland’s independence. Because translation and interpretation are essential in shaping realities and defining identities in international communication, language access is viewed as the prerequisite to ensure a fair trial and due process in international courts. The history of the “language battle” in the Paris Peace Conference and the subsequent development of simultaneous interpreting demonstrate that interpreters are not passive participants but active collaborators, working with other participants to meet the objectives of both ideological and communicative activities. Finally, technology allows individuals, and not just nations or large institutions, to afford and have access to professional translation and interpretation services for the first time in history. The rise of machine translation and machine learning has transformed the landscape and possibilities of translation and interpreting activities. Technology has the potential to influence not only translation and interpretation but also the larger human/cultural consciousnesses in international communication. The perspective or worldview embedded in a language can be enshrined in artificial intelligence and machine programming.


Technologized Interaction  

Joanne Meredith

As the use of online technologies has grown in recent years, so has the study of computer-mediated communication. Online communication began in universities through the use of e-mail. Soon, spaces such as multi-user dungeons (MUDs), Listserv, and bulletin boards were developed, which not only allowed people who knew each other offline to interact but also enabled individuals who were not previously acquainted to communicate via the Internet. The development of Web 2.0, which allowed for more user-generated content, led to new and innovative ways of interacting online, most notably thorough social media sites. Social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, allow not only for text-based interaction to occur but also for image- and video-based interaction. Through all these developments, interactional norms and practices have developed. A key factor in these norms is what the medium enables, or affords, participants to do. Features such as whether an interactional platform is synchronous or asynchronous can impact the nature of the interaction. Similarly, the lack of visual or verbal contact when interacting may impact upon the interaction, through the potential for misunderstandings. Participants do, though, develop practices to suit the medium. If we examine these practices in detail, it is possible to also analyze the role which technology plays in the interaction. One method that has been used to do this is conversation analysis, which was developed for and using spoken interaction. Conversation analysis examines conversation in forensic detail to illuminate the norms and practices through which we conduct our everyday lives. In using this method for analyzing online interaction, we can not only understand the practices but also examine the affordances of particular interactional platforms. Various interactional features of computer-mediated communication (CMC) have been examined from a conversation analytic perspective, including sequential organization, openings, turn-taking, and repair. A common focus of these studies it to explore the interactional patterns but also to understand how these might be impacted by the technology itself. The development of norms for a variety of forms of technologized interaction demonstrates how individuals are capable of adapting their interactional practices for new contexts.