Panel 6

Digital Mobilities: Representation and Self-Representation of the Digital African Citizen

Panel organisers: Hilde Arntsen, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway and Ylva Ekström, Uppsala University, Sweden.


Digital online communication enables processes of change that are integral parts of narratives of mobility and movement in contemporary Africa. Social media are a ubiquitous part of society, with digital communication platforms constituting sites that enable narratives of mobility to circulate. Digital narratives understood as narratives created and re-created online can be understood as complex web of motivations, rationales and aspirations behind digital mobilities that are established through individual profiles, user communities or online debates. We investigate the role of presentation and re-presentation of the digital self in these processes of establishing narratives of global mobilities, and we argue that seeking to grasp the users’ or citizens’ perspective is essential.

Recent scholarship claims that presentation and re-presentation of self in digital communication should not be studied in isolation, but must be seen as integral parts of the larger political, cultural and societal aspects of communication. While individuals use the mobile telephones and the Internet in the search for information, news, entertainment, or to interact with others using social media, the constructed and scripted nature of the digital profiles or online narratives is often overlooked. Online it is possible to craft ones’ Facebook profiles to reflect ones’ cultural, political, or social identities, to create particular, multiple or divergent personae, and to participate in national, regional or global Twitter campaigns such as #bringbackourgirls, #Rhodesmustfall, #feesmustfall or #Metoo. Digital narratives are crafted for political or business purposes for instance through YouTube, Instagram or WhatsApp. Analysing the representation and re-presentation of self is one way of understanding these global digital narratives.

This panel seeks to critically investigate the online representation and re-presentation of the African digital citizen. Using text and image-based analyses within critical media studies, combining novel and standard methodological approaches, research presented here studies dynamic digital narratives of mobility in contemporary Africa.



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