Response#11- N is for Namibia

One of the things I am noticing about the African blogosphere through the platform of Global Voices is that group formation is still in its infancy .  If Shirky is correct, and social tools’ strength comes from the informal collaboration of groups around activities that valuable to some but impractical for an institution, than this may be a reason that the type of group action (flash mobs) found in Belarus aren’t taking off in places like Namibia.  I don’t want this post to sound like online activism is not happening in Namibia or elsewhere on the continent, as clearly, they’re groups forming around female circumcision and government criticisms, Going back to the Brabazon criticism I pointed out a few weeks ago, there is a gap between an offline context from posts (here, here, and here) that maintain a journalistic and/or personal blog feel, and the group dynamic of social tools.  This gap could be attributed to issues of access, literacy, and anonmity from the perspective of potential African users,  and most certainly to my Western proclivity of lumping all African countries together.  I while I know that mobile technology is considered the burgeoning medium within developing countries, I think there is a difference between mobile activism which supplements traditional online activism (popular in Western countries) and restricted to mobile activism only (in many developing countries). Christian Kreutz has an interesting presentation on Mobile Activism in Africa that basically says that while the potential for mobile technology and the growth of its usage particularly in Africa are hopeful signs, there are still many obstacles for this type of group action driven by social tools to reach critical mass.  Interesting sidenote: Kreutz cites the group Azur which used both SMS technology and a local radio talkshow to hit both the technologically literate and illiterate regarding the issue of domestic violence.  I am starting to wonder if this type of cross platform (new and old technologies) collaboration may be the catalyst for group formation as it captures people’s curiousity about a particular movement who wouldn’t otherwise participate.  It makes me think about how the Dean campaign appeared huge on the blogosphere because the bulk of his most ardent supporters were on the blogosphere too. Rallies with hundreds of people seemed great for the darkhorse candidate but it was roughly the same narrow niche who were finding out about campaign activities through the internet.  The blog posts from Global Voices in Namibia seemed siloed by individual and the activities relegated to those narrow few who visit the site.

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