The relationship between new media technologies and African popular culture

Analyze, with subtlety, the cultural, social, institutional, and political networks fundamental to understanding the relationship between new media technologies and African popular culture

In the years of colonialism, European conquest of Africa was defined by missionary efforts aimed at proliferating Christianity and European civilization. African’s desire to preserve and protect their culture from possible erosion by the Europeans resulted in among other consequences, genocide, which eradicated a large segment of the African population necessitating the subtle destruction of African cultures.

The emergence of new media such as the internet and the desire among Africans drawn from diverse cultures indicates the dual tendency of every culture towards stability and change. Harding  recognizes that the Eurocentric assertion of African culture to be characterized by drumming, dancing, and singing fail to understand the contribution of institutional, political, cultural, and social networks established by new media in preserving African culture while advancing socio-economic development. Popular African culture plays a critical role as a way of life the people, their artifacts, and ideas. It is based on this assertion that African popular culture can be perceived as an integral determinant of the extent to which the society can develop slowly or rapidly (69-70).

The popular culture in Africa is associated with new and popular media forms such as social networking platforms, television, radio and the press. The media according to Mudhai et al plays an integral role in rescuing, incorporating, preserving, and mediating elements that serve the interest of the popular cultural lasses in Africa. The interest not only integrate the aspiration of the African people but they also play a critical role in redefining their beliefs, expressions and historical, cultural development (89). Through these new media, it becomes possible for different cultures in the African context to communicate their ideas to members of their respective culture as a way of preserving the integrity and essence of their cultures.

From a social and political perspective, Harding asserts that new media can be perceived to be objective in perpetuating popular African culture. Through new media technologies such as mobile phones, it has become possible for different African communities to enhance social cohesion and political participation hence creating social change that has been constituted by years of dictatorial and oppressive governments in Africa. Recent events such as the social uprising in Tunisia and Egypt have been critical in raising questions about the contributory role of new media technology in creating alternative public spheres and mobilizing social actions (71). Relative under development on different socio-economic platforms have facilitated the perception of Africa as a society in which the access of new media is marked by sharp economic divisions.

Through diverse community and affirmative action initiatives, there has been an increase in the uptake of mobile phones. This according to Stone has resulted in renewed optimism and the potential that these media channels hold in stimulating political participation and widening the democratic debate. Through new media such as active participation on social networking sites, there has been a revolution of the popular culture in Africa. These technologies not only facilitate effective transmission of the necessary political information, but they also enhance the development of an informed population of Africans who can engage in rational deliberations in the public sphere (495). Through such information, it has become possible for Africans drawn from different cultures to transgress social and cultural borders and hierarchies in a way that contributes to refashioning their identities and creating informal economies and communicative networks.

From an institutional perspective, the integration of popular art forms as elements of new media has been critical in strengthening national bonds that are critical in perpetuating a popular culture in Africa. Stone argues that such new media platforms provide opportunities for communication and cultural hybridization that encourages Africans into accepting the good while perfecting their diverse cultural dimensions. Africa is defined by diversity, which implies the need to find common ground that embraces unity amidst the diversity. In different African societies, the function of new media is with the political, ideological information that aims at creating a consensus that favors a national ideology. New media is gaining acceptance as an instrument of political power that facilitates the development of a free society capable of expressing their thoughts and perspectives about the society and the system of governance. Through new media, African culture is redefined by embracing democratic ideals such as the freedom of expression. This is because these popular media platforms play a critical role in improving literacy levels in the African context (483-484). Popular media is remarkable influential in its ability to perpetuate a popular culture in the African context. Media helps in perpetuating aspects of African culture such as language and continuity.

New media such as social networking sites, television, and radio have had a profound transformative effect on popular African cultures. This is because these media channels provide techniques of shaping the conceptions that define African culture. In the post-colonial age, African culture continues to be subjected to evolution because new media provides a platform for mobilizing African towards enhanced political participation and social cohesion. These aspects have been effective in developing an informed and literate African society that operates with an understanding of the contributions of their diverse cultures to development.

Examine how Big brother Africa, in negotiating tensions between transnational spheres, raise issues about ‘entertainment’, shared experiences and contemporary African cultural formations

Since its debut in 2003, Big Brother Africa (BBA) has attracted diverse views and opinions from different factions on the extent that the reality show adheres to the prevailing change that defines the African culture. While there are assertions that Big Brother Africa has been instrumental in bridging cultural diversity that defines the African continent there are observers who argue that it has failed in the objective of preserve African culture from possible erosion by the western culture. This assertion arises from the understanding that in most of the ideals espoused by the reality television show seek to propagate western ideas to an African audience.

Since it was first aired in 2003, Landers argues that Big Brother Africa has attracted numerous debates that focus on the issue of culture. Most of the contestants of the reality television show have been subjected to numerous criticisms from their audience with the majority of their compatriots criticizing them for engaging in un-African like behavior while they were in the house. Furthermore, the criticisms directed towards most of these contestants arise from the assertion that they have been portraying cultures that are different from the expected norm. In some cases, BBA star couples have been criticized for the approaches they used in handling their introductions and relationships ease of the underlying expectations of the African culture. These criticisms have also been directed towards their dressing and the language they use in communicating their intimate desires (25). Majority of the criticism has been emanating from conservative African who considers the sanctity of the traditional African cultural practices in all deliberations among Africans.

Despite these criticisms, it is possible to assess the reality television show by focusing on its role in negotiating the tension between transnational spheres through entertainment and shared experiences while aligning it to the contemporary issues that define cultural formation in Africa. Through such an analysis, Ohiagu and Okorie argue that it will be possible to assess to assess the extent to which the African community is justified in calling the BBA contestants uncultured. The ideal definition of culture perceives it as evolving, dynamic, and always changing aspects of the society that is unique to each generation. The African cultural assumption is that a child’s behavior can be used as a reflection of his or her family of origin. From this assertion, it is possible to claim that the contestants in different BBA shows have been a reflection of the contemporary African society as it evolves and embraces aspects such as globalization (101-102). The contestants are products of the African society, which is defined by cultural diversity.

While attempting to preserve and uphold African culture, McCarthy asserts that BBA can also be perceived as a platform that focuses on the best approaches that the society can use in addressing the transnational tension that arises from the cultural diversity that characterizes the African continent. When the critics of the show argue that the constants in their dressing, language and sexual explicitly were acting in conversation to the African culture, it is possible that such arguments are biased and based on preconceived notions of the African culture. This is because Africans do not operate on a homogenous culture. Instead, their behaviors are defined by cultural identities that are unique in every society (167). The support that the contestants receive indicates an acknowledgement from their supporters despite the existing opposition.

The overwhelming support and criticism that the contestants attract from different factions of the audience can also be used in asserting that Africa is in a cultural crossroad. On one side, Landers recognizes that there are conservatives who advocate for the need to set a benchmark of the expected moral standards that an African, despite the society of origin, should demonstrate in different spheres. On the other side, there are liberals who assert the need to eradicate traditional cultural practices and embrace practices that are unique and relevant to addressing the needs of an individual in any society. For this group, traditional African practices are relatively ineffective in the contemporary society because through cultural integration the ideal African family such as the extended family structure is increasingly disintegrating. In the contemporary society, aunts are assuming the roles of relatives whose cannot engage in Daly upbringing of children (29). Cultural integration issues such as intermarriages and rural-urban migration have made it relatively difficult for African communities to ensure strict adherence to traditional practices.

Big Brother Africa is, therefore, a platform that communicates eh reality in the contemporary African society. Parts of the consequences include an erosion of the expected moral standards that defined relationships between individual of different sexual orientations. As a mirror of the contemporary society, Big Brother Africa can be used to identify the shortcomings of cultural integration. The process can be effective in rallying the society towards developing initiatives on how to advance cultural studies in learning institutions and creating more platforms for children and other members of the society to learn their roles and positions as members of the society. Understand the effects of limiting transnational tension will provide an effective way of enhancing cultural inclusivity and tolerance in Africa.


Works cited

Harding, Frances. “Africa and the Moving Image: Television, Film and Video.” Journal of

African Cultural Studies, vol. 16, no. 1, June 2003, pp. 69-84.

Landers, Michael. Culture Crossing: Discover the Key to Making Successful Connections in the

New Global Era. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2016.

McCarthy, Cameron. Globalizing Cultural Studies: Ethnographic Interventions in Theory,

Method, and Policy. New York: Peter Lang, 2007, 167.

Mudhai, Okoth F, Wisdom J. Tettey, and Fackson Banda. African Media and the Digital Public

Sphere. New York: Palgrave Macmillan US, 2009, 89.

Ohiagu, O. P. and Okorie, V. O. Social Media: Shaping and Transmitting Popular

Culture. Covenant Journal of Communication (CJOC), Vol. 2, No. 1, June 2014. pp 93 -107.  Retrieved From Http://Journals.Covenantuniversity.Edu.Ng/Cjoc/Published/May2014/Obiageli.Pdf

Stone, Leonard. “African Being and Cultural Project.” Journal of Contemporary African Studies,

vol. 30, no. 3, July 2012, pp. 483-498.

Ward, Paul. Documentary: The Margins of Reality. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012.119,