Social media as a heteroglossic discursive space and Kenya's emergent alternative/citizen experiment

Ogola, George Otieno orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4513-4550 (2015) Social media as a heteroglossic discursive space and Kenya's emergent alternative/citizen experiment. Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies, 36 (4). pp. 66-81. ISSN 2374-3670

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Over the past decade, Kenya's media landscape has witnessed a wave of transformative and disruptive technologies in the form of Web 2.0 applications, accessible through computers and now increasingly through mobile phones. These developments have since incubated two new critical media regimes. First, the country has seen the emergence of a new community of communication practitioners. Second, a new web-enabled communication infrastructure has made possible the broadening of the public sphere, encouraging public participation in news, with non-traditional journalistic platforms becoming important sites for ‘alternative’ journalism. This article critically reflects on how social media platforms such as Twitter (read here as a heteroglossic text and space) enable and encourage public participation in wider national conversations. The article explores this through the work of key bloggers/activists and citizen journalists, reflecting on how they construct as well as enable new participatory forms of civic/political engagement through Twitter. While the platform seems to have created its own hierarchies, horizontal participation is still much greater than with mainstream media formats. The discussion demonstrates the growing institutionalisation of the online space as an important platform for popular expression in Kenya, if at the same time offering an indictment of mainstream media's regime of ‘closure’ to outsider voices.

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