DFID

DFID: Using Social Media for Research, Monitoring and Evalution

DFID have recently published a report on how they use social media for research, monitoring and evaluation in the Middle East and North Africa.

The report offers a fascinating insight into the effectiveness and efficiency of using social media as a research tool for M&E. The research included an analysis of Twitter data and considers areas such as identifying social media influencers in sharing of knowledge, assessing negative versus positive sentiment and what kinds of topics were being discussed.

Methodological approaches are also discussed, outlining some of the limitations such as availability of data and the difficulty of defining the demographic characteristics of Twitter users. 23,693 tweets were purchased via data-reseller Gnip. This sample was pre-selected using common keywords associated with relevant topics.

It’s an interesting report, especially if you are considering using Twitter data collection for international development M&E. There is also a very useful bibliography.

Another DFID Practice Note worth reading is “Using Social Media Data in International Development Research, Monitoring and Evaluation’.

 

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Save the Children – Syria Six Year Anniversary Photography Project

Award-winning photographer Nick Ballon and conceptual artist Alma Haser have partnered up to produce a series of conceptual, photographs and animations, visualising the mental health impact of conflict on Syrian children, to mark six years since the war began.

Commissioned by Save the Children, the artists worked with six refugee children now living in Turkey. The initiative coincides with a major research project by the charity, Invisible Wounds, which found widespread evidence of ‘toxic stress’ and mental health issues among children still living inside Syria.SAVE-THE-CHILDREN

In order to visualise the invisible, psychological pain these children suffer, Save the Children worked with the two artists to produce a powerful photography and animation project – the first collaboration of its kind. All of the images, photographed by Nick Ballon near the Turkey-Syria border where these children now live, have been physically manipulated and art-worked by Alma Haser using a variety of creative techniques, including ripping, folding, crumpling and origami – each one selected to suit the story the children told.

Alongside the images, Save the Children has also produced a series of short animations which combine video of the portraits being manipulated with audio testimonies from the children and their relatives. In contrast with the now familiar news imagery of Syria’s war, this project offers a different visual perspective, bringing to the fore the brutal psychological scars of war which usually remain out of sight.

For the Invisible Wounds report, Save the Children and its Syrian partners interviewed more than 450 children, adolescents and adults inside Syria in the largest study of its kind conducted during the course of the conflict. It found that children are living in an almost constant state of fear, terrified by shelling, airstrikes and ongoing violence, with devastating psychological consequences.

 

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Social Media and International Development: Academic Texts

Here are a just a few of the academic texts and papers that I believe are informative for anyone studying social media’s relationship with international development.

Updated: 25/06/2017

TEXT BOOKS

General – Communication / Social Media

Boyd, D (2014) It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens
Boyd is has worked for Microsoft Research for a number of years and is one of the leading experts in the field of social media. The book focuses on youth in the US and how they lead their lives online. Some of the findings from her study are obvious, other quite illuminating.

Castells, M (2011) Communication Power
A key text in mass communication and power strategies. Castells coined the phrase “mass self-communication” to describe how social media and internet technologies have aided social movements.

Dijck, J V (2013) The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media
A historical and critical analysis of “connective media”.

Fuchs, C (2014) Social Media: a critical introduction
What are the implications of social media such as Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter for power, the economy and politics. This book provides a critical introduction for anyone studying social media

Hindman, M (2008) The Myth of Digital Democracy
Three years before the Arab Spring, Hindman argues that political blogs and the internet have done little to change the public sphere. Was he wrong?

Hinton, S and Hjorth, L (2014) Understanding Social Media
This is a very accessible critical introduction to social media. There are two particularly good chapters: ‘What is Web 2.0′ and ‘Social Network Sites’. The chapter on ‘Participation and User Generated Content’ also clearly explains the difference between user generated content and user created content and a great section on users as produers.

Jarvis, J (2011) Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live
Jarvis firmly believes in the power of the internet and social media and how it ‘publicness’ allows us to think, collaborate and organize in ways that were impossible before.

Morozov, E (2011) The Net Delusion: How not to liberate the world
There are cyber-utopians and cyber-dystopians and Morozov firmly sits in the latter camp. Well, he’d prefer to call himself a cyber-realist. Some fascinating insights into censorship

Murthy, D (2013) Twitter: Social Communication in the Twitter Age
My favourite book of 2013. A brilliant introduction to the use of Twitter as a communication tool.

Rheingold, H (2002) Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution
Rheingold, a veteran technology writer predicts how mobile technologies will change the world. He predicted the power of the mobile phone ten years before the Arab Spring.

Shirky, C (2009) Here Comes Everybody: How Change Happens When People Come Together
An excellent book about group forming and how social media has made collective action “ridiculously easy”.

Trapscott, D (2009) Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World
A fascinating insight into the ‘Net Generation’ and ‘Digital Natives’.

Weller, K, Bruns, A, Burgess, A, Mahrt, M (2013) Twitter and Society
A current overview of research into the uses of Twitter. There is also a section on analysing Twitter data.

Arab Spring and other social media “revolutions”

Castells, M (2012) Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age
An analysis of the new forms of social movements by the leading academic on networked societies.

Dabashi, H (2012) The Arab Spring: The End of Postcolonialism
Dabashi uses the phrase ‘delayed defiance’ for how the Arab Spring has transformed the geopolitics of the ‘Middle East’.

Gerbadou, P (2012) Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism
Digital activism and contemporary protest culture.

Ghonim, W (2012) Revolution 2.0.
Wael Ghonim is considered one of the most influential people in the 2011 Egyptian Revolutions. This is his personal account of the events. A fascinating and compelling read.

Howard, PM, Hussain, MM (2013) Democracy’s Fourth Wave? Digital Media and the Arab Spring
An examination of the role of the internet, mobiles and social media in the Arab Spring.

Lovink, G (2011) Networks Without a Cause
A probing critique of social media and network theory. Useful chapters and case studies on Facebook, Wikileaks, blogging and online video.

Mason, P (2012) Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions
A discussion of the various ‘social media revolutions’ of 2011: from London to Egypt. An excellent account of the various uprisings around the world.

Tufekci, Z (2017) Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest
An examination of 21st century protests movements.

JOURNAL ARTICLES

General (social media)

Castells, M (2007) Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society
An seminal paper by Castells on the emergence of mass self-communication, power and politics. The new public sphere.

Kaplan, AM (2010) Users of the World, Unite! The Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media
One of the most cited papers on social media, often quoted for it’s definition of social media. But is it still current?

Miller, D (2016) How the World Changed Social Media
Nine anthropologists each spent 15 months living in China, Brazil, Turkey, Chile, India, England, Italy and Trinidad. Fascinating study with accompanying MOOC.

Steinfield, C, Ellison NB, Lampe C (2008) Social capital, self-esteem, and the use of online social network sites: A longitudinal analysisAn investigation into the relationship between intensity of Facebook use, measures of psychological well-being, and bridging social capital.

Social Media and International Development

Ali, AH (2011) The Power of Social Media in Developing Nations
An excellent paper on social media and international development with a comprehensive introduction and some insightful case studies.

Bailard, CS (2012) A Field Experiment on the Internet’s Effect in an African Election: Savvier Citizens, Disaffected Voters, or Both
A study of the internet and social media’s influences on the Tanzanian political elections.

Best, ML, Meng, A (2015) Twitter democracy: policy versus identity politics in three emerging African democracies
760,000 tweets gathered during national elections in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya to analyse policy relevant discussion.

Bidwell, NJ et al (2010) Please Call ME.N.U.4EVER: Callback and Social Media Sharing in Rural Africa

I admit to not having read this yet. But it looks too interesting not to include… I hope I’m right.

Breuer, A, Farooq, B (2012) Online Political Participation: Slacktivism or Efficiency Increased Activism? Evidence from the Brazilian Ficha Limpa Campaign
A study of social media and political campaigning. Does social media contribute to participatory democracy? A case study of the Brzailian anti-corruption campaign Ficha Limpa.

Briones, RL, Kuch, B, Liu BF, Jin, Y (2011) Keeping up with the digital age: How the American Red Cross uses social media to build relationships
How the Red Cross use social media to communicate with its various publics/stakeholders.

Chiumbi, S (2012) Exploring Mobile Phone Practices in Social Movements in South Africa – the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign
Mobile phone usage in South Africa to mobilize deprived communities

Comunello, F, Anzera, G (2012) Will the Revolution be Tweeted? A Conceptual Framework for Understanding the Social Media and the Arab Spring
To understand the Arab uprisings we need to consider the complex interactions between society, technology and political systems. There is no evidence that fully supports the techno-realist or digital evangelist perspectives.

Drumbl, MA (2012) Child Soldiers and Clicktivism: Justice, Myths and Prevention
A brief paper dispelling the myths of child soldiers portrayed by some NGOs, with a focus on Kony 2012.

Gamal, H (2010) Network Society: A Social Evolution Powered by Youth
Published in the Global Media Journal, Arabian Edition the year before the Arab Spring. A discussion on the digital divide and cyber-optimists. An important article in a literature review considering the author and its timing.

Gregory, S (2012) Kony 2012 Through a Prism of Video Advocacy Practices and Trends
A brief anaylsis of the Kony 2012 video: storytelling, video advocacy, activsm, spreadability and drillability

Guo, C, Saxton, GD (2012) Tweeting Social Change: How Social Media Are Changing Nonprofit Advocacy
This study analyses the social media use of 188 advocacy organisations. It proposes a three-stage pyramid model of social media-based advocacy.

Howard, PN, Agarwal, SD, Hussain, MM (2011) When do States Disconnect Their Digital Networks? Regime Responses to the Political Uses of Social Media
This study looks at 566 incidents where social media has been disabled. The author compares the dataset to understand why states take this drastic action.

Jefferess, D (2013) Humanitarian relations: Emotions and the limits of critique
A critical analysis of development marketing, social media and humanitarian fundraising in the context of the ‘Africa for Norway’ spoof video.

Jurgenson, N (2011) When Atoms Meets Bits: Social Media, the Mobile Web and Augmented Revolution
“Digital dualism” – I’ll let you decide.

Kamis, S, Gold, PB, Vaughn, K (2012) Beyond Egypt’s ‘Facebook Revolution’ and Syria’s ‘YouTube Uprising': Comparing Political Contexts, Actors and Communication Strategies.
A study comparing and contrasting the role of cyberactivism in the Egyptian revolution and Syrian uprising.

Kaigwa, M (2016) From Cyber Café to Smartphone: Kenya’s Social Media Lens Zooms In on the Country and Out to the World
Exploring initiatives and movements influenced by conversation on Twitter in Kenya

Khondker, HH (2011) Role of the New Media in the Arab Spring
This article considers the role of globalization, the media, new media and connectivity.

Li, J, Rao, HR (2010) Twitter as a Rapid Response News Service: An exploration in the context of the 2008 China Earthquake
An analysis of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and Twitter as a new information channel.

Lee, Y, Hsieh, G (2013) Does Slacktivism Hurt Activism? The Effects of Moral Balancing and Consistency in Online Activism
An interesting look at the effects of online activism and the effects on monetary donations.

Lim, M (2013) Many Clicks But Little Sticks: Social Media Activism in Indonesia
A study of social media narratives in Indonesia and their potential impact as political activism.

Lovejoy, K and Saxton, GD (2012) Information, Community, and Action: How Nonprofit Organizations Use Social Media
This paper looks at 100 Nonprofit organizations in United States and how they utilize Twitter as a communications tool.

King, G, Pan, J, Roberts, M (2013) How censorship in China Allows Government Criticism but Silences Collective Expression
An analysis of social media content in China to measure levels of censorship.

Mandianou, M (2012) Humanitarian Campaigns in Social Media
How humanitarian campaigners have started to use social media to raise awareness and reach potential donors. The articles discusses polymedia events and the role of social networks.

Nemer, D, Freeman, G (2015) Empowering the Marginalized: Rethinking Selfies in the Slums of Brazil
This paper studies selfies to amplify the voice on the marginalized in Brazil.

Neumayer, C, Raffl, C (2008) Facebook for Global Protest: The Potential and Limits of Social Software for Grassroots Activism
Social media for grassroots activism in Columbia

Norris, P (2012) The Impact of Social Media on the Arab Uprisings: The Facebook, Twitter and YouTube Revolutions?
Social media and four functions for mass uprisings: informational, networking, cultural and behavioural.

Samin, N (2012) Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Social Media Moment
This paper contrasts the Egyptian experience with Saudi Arabia.

Seo, H, Kim, JY, Yang, S (2009) Global Activism and New Media: A study of Transnational NGOs’ online public relations
A survey of 75 transnational NGOs and how they use new media as a public relations tool.

Sheombar, A (2011) Social Media for International Development: Social Media Usage by Dutch Development and Aid Agencies
An MRes research project examining social media potential in the sector of Dutch Aid and development organisations.

Shirky, C (2011) The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, The Public Sphere, and Political Change
A discussion on the impact of social media in mobilizing mass political protests.

Smith, BG (2010) Socially Distributing Public Relations: Twitter, Haiti, and Interactivity in Social Media
This study explores social public relations through a qualitative analysis of user involvement on Twitter regarding relief efforts to support Haiti following the 7.0 earthquake that hit Port-Au-Prince in January, 2010

Tufekci, Z (2013) “Not this one”: Social Movements, the Attention Economy, and Microcelebrity Networked Activism
A study of networked microcelebrity activism and broadening participation.

Tufekci, Z, Wilson, C Social Media and the Decision to Participate in Political Protest: Observations from Tahrir Square
A survey of participants in the Tahrir protests to analyse how social media was used during the demonstrations.

Valenzuela, S, Arriagada, A, Scherman, A (2012) The Social Media Basis of Youth Protest Behaviour: The Case of Chile
An interesting exploration of social media’s contribution to the Chile Winter student protests.

Wall, M (2009) Africa on Youtube: Musicians, Tourists, Missionaries and Aid Workers
Videos representation of Ghana and Kenya on Youtube

Warren, C (2015) Explosive connections? Mass media, social media, and the geography of collective violence in African states
Evidence which demonstrates that social media penetration generates substantial increases in collective violence.

Wolsfeld, G, Segev, E, Sheafer, T (2013) Social Media and the Arab Spring: Politics Comes First
This study presents two broad theories: first that you cannot understand the role of social media in collective action without understanding the political environment and secondly that a significant increase in the use of social media is much more likely to follow a significant amount of protest activity than to precede it.

Yates, D, Paquette, S (2010) Emergency knowledge management and social media technologies: A case study of the 2010 Haitian eathquake

An analysis of social media and disaster and emergency management.

Youmans, WL & York, CY (2012) Social Media and the Activist Toolkit: User Agreements, Corporate Interests, and the Information Infrastructure of Modern Social Movements
An analysis role of social media in the Arab Spring uprisings using four case studies.

Zuckerman, E et al (2010) Blogs and Bullets: New Media on Contentious Politics
A critical analysis of “cyberutopians” and “cyberskeptics” perspectives on the impact of new media on political movements.

POLICY BRIEFS AND REPORTS

Ackland, R, Tanaka, K (2015) Development Impact of Social Media
A background paper prepared for the World Bank’s World Development Report 2016 Digital Dividends. The paper gives a good overview of social media for development with chapters on social learning, economic activity, emergency response and community voice.

Africa Practice (2014) The Social Media Landscape in Nigeria
Data on the personalities and platforms which are most influential in Nigeria in terms of content and quality.

Alder Consulting (2014) Social Media Nigeria Reports 2014
Five reports on the state of social media in Nigeria

Bohler-Muller, N and van der Merwe, C (2011) The potential of social media to influence socio-political change on the African Continent
A detailed account of the Arab Spring uprisings with some policy recommendations.

Camp, M (2016) Assessing the impact of social media on political communication and civic engagement in Uganda.
This paper was the result of the first annual Social Media Conference organised by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) in conjunction with the Centre for Media Literacy and Community Development (CEMCOD) and the African Centre for Media Literacy (ACME) in July 2015.

Department for International Development (2016) Using Social Media Data in International Development Research, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Report on World Food Programme Case Study.

Friedrich Ebert Foundation (2014) – Social Media in Cameroon
Powerpoint presentation with stats on the rise of social media in Cameroon

Gao, H and Barbier, G (2011) Harnessing the Crowdsourcing Power of Social Media for Disaster Relief

IBT (2015) Social Media – Getting Your Voice Heard
Advice for NGOs and how to use social media as a communications tool.

Jebril, N, Stetka, V, Loveless, M (2013) Media and Democratisation: What is Known about the Role of Mass Media in Transitions to Democracy
The potential role of mass media in transitions to democracy, with case studies from Central and Easterm Europe, Latin America and the Arab World.

Johnson, R et al (2012) Social Media Amongst Most-at-Risk Populations in Jamaica
I was totally intrigued by this study as it offered some important practical insights into how social media can be used to disseminate health information. I’ve written to the authors twice to find out if it was successful but have not received a reply.

Kaigwa, M (2014) Nendo Social Media Trend Report, Kenya
An excellent report on the state of social media in Kenya

Ndemo, B and Weiss, T (2017) Digital Kenya – An Entrepreneurial Revolution in the Making
Chapter by Mark Kaigwa – ‘From Cyber Café to Smartphone: Kenya’s Social Media Lens Zooms In on the Country and Out to the World

Nendo (2014) A-Z of Kenyan Twitter
Nice little report giving insights into Twitter in Kenya

Pedrick, C (2015) Embracing Web 2.0. and Social Media: A life changing pathway for agricultural development actors

Portland Communication (2014) How Africa Tweets
3 months of geo-located tweets from Africa

Taki, M, Coretti, L (2013) Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture: The Role of Social Media in Arab Uprisings – Past and Present
Six articles designed to answer :What are the cultural, technical and political variables that are conducive to using social media for mobilization? How have citizens and states used social media during the uprising and beyond? How do we research social media movements in the Arab world?

The Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) Embracing Web 2.0. and Social Media
18 case studies about how social media and Web 2.0. technologies have been used to support agricultural development. Case studies from Madagascar, Cameroon, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Rwanda, Burkina Faso and more.

USAID (2013) Social Media Handbook for Agricultural Development Practitioners
An excellent interactive PDF document for people interested in social media for agricultural development.

USAID (2016) Social Networking: A Guide to Strengthening Civil Society Through Social Media
An excellent guide for adopting social media as a tool for development. Areas covered include capacity building, engagement, transparency and advocacy.

WHO (2016) Global diffusion of eHealth
Chapter 7 has some fascinating data on the huge expansion of ICT and social media in health.

Zab, S (2013) Why Nairobi is the Next World Tech Capital
Nice presentation including stats on mobile, internet and social in Africa.

VIDEOS

9 movies about social media textbooks
Students in the University of Westminster’s MA in Social Media have as part of my module “Critical Theory of Social Media and the Internet” directed movies about books that present theoretical knowledge and empirical research about social media’s role in society.

The power of social media and democracy
Iceland President Ólafur Grímsson talks about how he was made to take political action due to social media campaigning in Iceland during the global financial crisis.

Arab Democracy and Social Media with Ethan Zuckerman
A discussion about free speech in the developing world

Behind the Great Firewall of China
TED talk by blogger Michael Anti

Citizen Journalism as Counter to Censorship and Culture Wars
Talk at MIT by Zeynep Tufekci on 140 Journos

How Young Africans Found a Voice on Twitter
TED talk by 22 year old Siyanda Mohutsiwa from Botswanatalking about when her hashtag #IfAfricaWasABar went viral.

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#MosulOp – Live Streaming the Battle of Mosul on Facebook

I was shocked to say the least when I was alerted to the fact that major news outlets are live streaming the military operation by the Iraqi and Kurdish forces to retake the city of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, back from ISIS.

Both Al Jazeera English and Channel Four both have live feeds on Facebook where anyone with access to a computer can watch the war unfold. This is incredibly disturbing – what are the ethical and moral issues of watching the consequences of war live in our social media streams?

Like most Facebook feeds, viewers are able to like, share and comment on the proceedings. The Al Jazeera feed had over 13,000 comments when I took the screen grab below.

mosul

The Channel 4 coverage had a live press conference being translated into English

mosul2

Photojournalism and more recently user generated content have been accused of desensitising the public to the graphic images of war.  We have become accustomed to ‘live news’ from the likes of the BBC, Guardian etc, where the viewer receives curated and edited content in near to real time, but what are the ramifications of live, uncensored media coverage?

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Photography and Social Impact – An interview with Everyday Africa

I have been a big fan of Everyday Africa for 2-3 years now, so I was delighted when Peter DiCampo, one of the founders, kindly agreed to an interview. Published on Instagram, Everyday Africa is a collection of mobile phone photography which combats the clichés that depict Africa as a place of only poverty, disease, and war. The photographers who are native to Africa or have lived there for years at a time, find the extreme not nearly as prevalent as the familiar, the everyday. Here are Peter’s answers to my questions.

Please give me a bit of background information about yourself and what motivated you to start Everyday Africa

I began my career as a photojournalist just before moving to northern Ghana as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2006 – so, from the beginning, I questioned the narrative that I was helping to propagate by focusing mostly on stories of disease, poverty, and conflict in West Africa. My two years living in a village showed me that there was much more to rural Ghanaian life, and this extends of course to rural and urban life across the continent and beyond. But, there are few places to share these stories.

Everyday Africa began in Ivory Coast in March 2012. Austin Merrill and I were traveling as a writer / photographer team covering the continued strife a year after the country’s post-election violence and the cocoa trade that is the root of turmoil there. Austin is intimately familiar with the country, having lived there at a couple different points in his life (he was a Peace Corps Volunteer there in the mid nineties and then a journalist living there at various points), and I had been there before as a photojournalist, and of course had lived several years “next-door” in Ghana. During the March 2012 trip we began shooting photos on our phones, very casually, and it occurred to us that those images felt much more familiar to us than the ones I was “professionally” shooting for the story we were there to tell.

Having outlined that story above – as you can imagine, it was a bit preconceived. I think often about the process of photojournalism – going into a story, you often feel you “know” the images needed to tell it. If it’s a story with phrases like “continued ethnic violence,” you feel you need photos of refugees, burned down homes, survivors with horrific stories to tell, etc. These are the images that will make sense to the reader; that he or she will find palatable. But there’s an inherent contradiction here: if we’re giving the reader images he or she already expects, then the story reinforces preconceptions and doesn’t teach anything new. Along the way, we also see a lot of daily life moments, but we often pre-edit these out of our story by not even photographing them. Austin and I decided to photograph them.

A couple months later, we were both on the continent again, at the same time but in different locations – he in Nigeria and Zimbabwe, me in Uganda. We kept shooting on our phones, and this time around started a Tumblr blog so we could share the images with each other and a wider audience in real time, or close to it. In the months that followed, we found that a lot of our colleagues shared our frustrations with coverage of the continent and were excited to have an outlet for the day-to-day images. We migrated to Instagram (but kept the Tumblr too) to extend our reach, and things grew rather quickly.

How did you publicise the blog and Instagram sites? How did you get photographers to contribute?

We could never have imagined how big this would become. The first way of publicizing it was simply on our own – we started the Tumblr, we posted about it on our Facebook page. Other photographers we knew were drawn to it – at first, other foreign correspondents living on the continent who shared our frustrations, and then eventually more African photographers. (The bulk of the feed is now African photography).

Then it snowballed. The New York Times Lens blog wrote about us, and a few other mainstream publications. Instagram put it on their “suggested user” list, and that made our following grow exponentially.

Is it mainly Western or African photographers who contribute their imagery? What motivates photographers to to be part of Everyday Africa?

In total, it is an even split. However, it was a lot more Western photographers early on, and is now majority African. In the forthcoming book, the number of photographers is half and half, but the number of photographs are majority made by Africans. As far as motivations, I think they feel it builds on their profile and career (some have certainly received assignments via Everyday Africa, for example), but the main reason, I think, is more ideologic: they believe in the mission of showing a different side of the continent, regardless of their background. They enjoy seeing their photos used in the educational initiatives we have, and simply having a platform and an audience for this kind of imagery.

Do you have any examples of African photographers contributing to Everyday Africa that have received jobs/commissions as a result of the publicity?

Just a few days ago, a photo editor from Buzzfeed reached out to me to ask for Edward  Echwalu’s info. I’m not sure if the assignment panned out yet, but we get that kind of thing often. Nana Kofi Acquah, Andrew Esiebo, Tom Saater - these guys have all received assignments as a result of their increased social media presence, and I think it’s safe to say that Everyday Africa is a part of that.

We’ve also worked with World Press Photo to create the African Photojournalism Database, because we wanted to find a way to spread these opportunities beyond just our set contributors. See these two links:

signup here: http://apjd.org
database here: https://blink.la/organizations/apjd

How do you curate Everyday Africa? Do you ever censor images?

Actually, we really only curate the photographers, which I will get into. But as far as the images, we give our contributors the login information and set them loose. We don’t select the images. We instruct the photographers to interpret those words, Everyday Africa, however they see fit, and the only real rule is that they don’t post on top of each other. We have never deleted or edited an image. There have been a handful of times (maybe two?) that we have asked a photographer to edit their caption, always for the sake of clarity and not for the sake of content.

As far as selecting photographers, at first it was very organic. People would ask us, and if they seemed to have an intimate relationship with the continent (or a specific country), were thinking along the same lines as us in terms of broadening perceptions, and were skilled photographers, we generally said yes. Lately, it has been more organized, as we are drawing a few new contributors a year from the African Photojournalism Database, and looking more specifically on diversity as we try to find photographers in countries where we don’t currently have anyone based.

How powerful is photography in changing people’s perceptions about Africa?

I think it’s very powerful. We build these perceptions based on what we see – to put it simply, people do not realize that normal, daily-life moments occur because they do not usually see them. In paying attention to the commentary our photos elicit on Instagram, we’ve seen this happen in the most basic way, often with presumably young people: “I didn’t know they had cars”, “I didn’t know they had phones”, that kind of thing is very common in our feed. I think Everyday Africa has much deeper implications than that, broadening in many ways our understanding of the continent even for people who are more tuned in – but providing that very basic burst of those misconceptions for people at a young age is, I believe, very important.

There have been several campaigns to change narratives about Africa such as #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou, #IfAfricaWasABar etc. How important is social media as a counter to stereotypical images of Africa?

Social media is hugely important. I believe very strongly in showing things from multiple perspectives. Traditional media has a role, but as it presents a specific story-based narrative (conflict in Ivory Coast, for example), it doesn’t often have space for these other views.

What are you 5 favourite photographs on Everyday Africa and why?

When I think about my favorite photos from the project, they tend to fall into two categories. The first is, simply, the daily life moments that often go undocumented. Nana Kofi Acquah’s photo of women greeting each other with a handshake by the roadside in Burkina Faso.

Glenna Gordon’s photo of a couple celebrating their one-year wedding anniversary in Lagos, Nigeria. Edward Echwalu’s photo of a midwife gently touching an expectant mother’s shoulder as she speaks to her in a health center in Uganda. The other category is, loosely, the type of photograph that speaks metaphorically to our project, the push and pull of the Africa we imagine versus the one that is more real, the old clashing with the new. Tom Saater’s photo of a woman named Ginika wearing a white wig as she heads to graduate from law school in Abuja, Nigeria.

 

Austin’s photo of a safari in Zimbabwe, in which we see smartphones and tablets but only the smallest glimpse of an animal.

Tourists photograph while on safari in Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe on May 24, 2012. Photo by Austin.

A photo posted by Everyday Africa (@everydayafrica) on

Of course, the list goes on and on!

I understand you are involved with educational work. Can you tell me more about it?

Since Everyday Africa’s first work in school classrooms, in December 2013, we have seen more than 2,500 students. A grant from the Open Society Foundations allowed us to build a pilot curriculum that we launched in March 2014 with a group of 16 middle and high school students in the Bronx, in New York City. That workshop, spanning eight classes over two months, taught students about stereotypes, photography, how journalism gets made, and truth in storytelling. Since then, thanks to funding from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, we have run similar workshops in Chicago, Washington DC, and Mombasa, Kenya. For the Mombasa program, we had the students collaborate with peers in a Chicago high school—the students discussed, via Skype, their stereotypes of each other, and then shared images of their school and home communities to tell the stories of their everyday lives. Students use Everyday Africa’s photography to learn about what life is really like in Africa, and then apply those lessons to their own lives, telling the stories of their own communities through photography. You can see our current curriculum here: https://pulitzercenter.atavist.com/everyday-africa-curriculum-

Why have you decided to publish a book now? What are the main objectives of publishing a book?

The answer to “why now” is because we wanted to do it while there is still a buzz surrounding the project – we hope there will be for a long time, but we can’t know for sure! Instagram is changing, new platforms coming up – it seemed a good idea to encapsulate this work now. The book comments on a very specific form of communication that is ever evolving, and it seemed best to set it in print before it is unrecognizable. The book, for me, is a very exciting object. It includes the strongest photography, as well as Instagram commentary. Creating it presented us with the unique challenge of translating a social media project to the printed page – including the commentary makes the book into a document not only of the Everyday Africa project, but also of the many perceptions that we cast onto a continent and of how we communicate today.

The comments range from paternalistic and racist to funny to the very familiar, people commenting that the photo is from their hometown, for example. It is a marker of increased connectivity, the need for us to dispel antiquated notions of Africa, and the need for more localized storytelling. Some of the conversations go on for quite a long time, and become fascinating discussions on how we read imagery. For example, an image of women carrying things on their heads (of course a common sight across the continent) prompts a heated debate on our understanding of poverty: some commenters, many of them African, argue that the photo shows heavy labor and serves only to perpetuate a poor view of the continent, while others argue that ignoring this sight would be an even greater disservice, as we would then be asserting that only “Western” can be synonymous with “normal”. The conversation raises many questions on empathy and visual literacy, to say the least. We’ll use the book in our educational programming as well. We’ve worked with a number of partners and supporters – Pulitzer Center, Open Society Foundations, PhotoWings – to create a curriculum on media creation, stereotypes, and photography. Studying the conversations from the Instagram feed adds another layer – it’s a direct lesson in cross-cultural communication, comparing how people see themselves to outside perceptions.

Are there any plans for an exhibitions, and if so where?

We’ve had a number of exhibitions in the past, see our full list of Everyday Africa exhibitions here At the moment, we have work showing in BredaPhoto and FotoIstanbul. The book launches with an exhibition at AddisFoto in December. In 2017, we’re hoping to have a number of exhibitions that coincide with book launches.

What advice would you give to other people wanting to use photography for social change?

Experiment, experiment, experiment. There is no recipe for this stuff. We, for example, never could have known the impact we would have. Look at what is out there already (in terms of subject matter, but also in terms of how it is displayed) and see what you think works for your project, your issue, your passion, the change you want to make, and the audience you want to reach, and then try it, and then try something else too. We’re on social media, but we’re also in classrooms, in galleries, in publications, making a book, and even experimenting with theater. Some of those will reach a broad number of people but only on the surface level; others will have a deeper impact but only reach a few people. It’s very difficult to know what method will reach which group of people, and how. For more specific campaigns, try targeting specific change-makers (government officials, etc). For stories that aren’t receiving enough attention, try very public displays, in the vein of what #Dysturb is doing. Be targeted but be creative.

EVERYDAY AFRICA BOOK

Featuring some of the best images project, the book Everyday Africa: 30 Photographers Re-Picturing a Continent, showcases photos of ordinary life that find beauty in stories rarely seen, shifting perception from the ensationalized extremes to a more textured, familiar reality. Photographs run alongside sections of Instagram commentary inspired by the images. Shocking, funny, and heart-felt, the comments are lighthearted one moment, caustic the next, speaking volumes about widely held perceptions of Africa while underscoring the continent’s increased connectivity in a globalized world. Together they justify the project’s very existence. To be one of the first owners of the book please support the Everyday Africa Kickstarter campaign.

 A huge thank you to Peter for this detailed and fascinating Q&A. I hope you learn as much from this post as I did.  I spent 3 thoroughly enjoyable hours on Sunday familiarising myself again with the Everyday Africa Instagram images.  To finish, here’s a couple of my personal favourites from the project. I can’t wait for the book….

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