Degrees of sharing

Yesterday at the plenary session of SACOMM 2011  Anton Harber challenged delegates to face up to South Africa’s information inequality. The fact that the media serves primarily the wealthier sectors of our society is both a cause and result of the extreme inequality in our country. Professor Harber’s challenge was that those who cared about freedom of expression should be as serious about ‘empowering citizens and allowing them to express themselves’. I agreed with him whole-heartedly, although the challenge he presented is perhaps more complex than it appears.


Today I presented Silke Hassreiter’s MA research at the SACOMM 2011 conference – what a pity Silke couldn’t be there to present it herself.

Silke worked on one of my projects in Makhaza, Khayelitsha. The research was conducted as part of a Nokia funded project, in collaboration with Gary Marsden from the UCT Centre in ICT4D.

Silke’s research involved working with twenty young students from Ikamva Youth who used Nokia feature phones (Nokia 5530 XpressMusic and Nokia X3) to produce and edit cellphone videos about issues that concerned them.

Her dissertation (which is still work in progress) illustrates some of the complex issues involved when marginalized young citizens are given access to cellphones as tools for media creation and dissemination and how they go about developing a ‘public voice’ through mobile media production and distribution.

Silke’s project was part of an ongoing partnership between the Centre for Film and Media Studies and an NGO called Ikamva Youth. Since 2008, a series of student volunteers from CFMS and myself have assisted with the ‘Media, Image and Expression’ programme run by the organisation.

For five months Silke worked with the Grade 10 students who were all between15 and 18 years old. She offered a course of intensive mobile video production training  and individual coaching, with classes twice a week. Her formal research methods included participant observation, diaries, informal interviews and in-depth interviews. It was an action research project and she was tasked with updating the curriculum for Ikamva’s Image and Expression programme. She also developed a set of creative commons licensed materials for the organisation. These will soon also be published on UCT’s Open Content portal.

The young people’s videos are now published online on the Ikamva Youth Flickr site.

The project report we prepared for Nokia is also available now:

Hassreiter, S., Walton, M. and Marsden, G. (2011). Degrees of sharing. Public voices, impression management and mobile video production in a participatory media project for teens in Makhaza, Khayelitsha. Project report produced for Nokia Research, February 2011.