The importance of social media throughout the African continent is considerable, but research in this domain is limited. Operating within the broader framework of diverse and highly complex processes of development, the usage and effects of social media in Africa are undergoing continuous change.
This panel intends to explore trends and processes at the interface of social and technological transformation by drawing upon a multi-stranded approach to document and analyse recent phenomena in the domain of African studies. 2.4 million people in Kenya are using Twitter. Social media played an important role in the Arab Spring in several North African countries. Cell phones are used to control the outcome of elections in rural areas. The Library of Congress archives all tweets in the world. Research outcome can be shared through Facebook groups. How should researchers use social media to look at changing societies in Africa? How can researchers use social media as a tool in spreading the outcome of their research or contact their informants? What is important for African researchers? Should all these ephemera be documented and archived, and if so: how? The basic objective of the panel is to throw light on to the dynamics and patterns of interaction, outreach and networks via and within social media structures affecting distinct realms of African studies and research. While we do not intend to restrict the geographical scope of discussions which ensue from the panel, we decided to limit ourselves to case studies ranging from West to East Africa for practical illustrative and comparative purposes in the presentations. The key objective is, both on national and transnational scales, to map out relevant aims, types, and trends of usage of social media as well their broader impact on African studies.