Tuesday, December 23, 2008

ACCE Conference: Ghana 2009

The African Council for Communication Education (ACCE) is the only continent-wide academic body for African researchers in media and communication--that is if you consider Trans-African Council for Communication Education (TRACCE) as the diaporic version of ACCE. ACCE, publishers of the famed African Media Review, has been in coma for several years but is poised to come round with a Conference. Under the theme Communication education and practice in Africa: a social contract for the 21st Century, the Conference will hold in the School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana, from 4-8 August 2009.

Conference subthemes (quite a list) include:
Communication, Language and Culture
Communication and Gender
Communication and Democracy
Communication and Globalization
Communication and Cross-cutting Development Challenges, including health communication; communication and the environment etc.
(This list of subthemes is not exhaustive)

Abstracts are to be submitted as mail attachments to:
Mrs. Alexina Arthur, aarthur@ug.edu.gh; alexinaarthur@yahoo.com
Dr Audrey Gadzekpo, agadzekpo@ug.edu.gh; audreygadzekpo@gmail.com

Deadline for receipt of abstracts : 31 January 2009
Notice of acceptance of abstracts : 28 February 2009
Deadline for receipt of full papers : 31 May 2009

Monday, December 22, 2008

Indigenous communication: Pamela Wilson versus Des Wilson

Des Wilson took a PhD in African indigenous communication from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria in 1988. Des’s thesis was on the indigenous communication media and channels of the Ibibio people in South-South Nigeria. Des defined indigenous media as those media of communication that had been in use before the modern mass media and are still in use today. Adopting some of his terms from music, he categorised these media into several groups including membranophones, ideophones, aerophones, symbolographic displays, extramundane communication and music. Examples of such media included talking drums, wooden drums, rattles, folk tales, tattoos, symbolic writing and codes. A little unwieldy, you might think. Yet, to many of us, Wilson’s work was not only an important improvement on the complicated work of Doob (1960) but also a take-off point and launch-pad for enquiry into African indigenous communication media and systems. And this has led to a number of graduate theses. Years after, Mundy and Compton (1991); Mundy and Lloyd-Laney (1992); Millar and Aniah (2005) and several others continue to map the territory of indigenous media a la Des, that is, as that which was there pre-colonially and is still being used today. With the probable exception of the chapter by Louise Bourgault, this line of thought runs through the book edited by Ghana’s Ansu-Kyeremeh, Indigenous communication in Africa (2005). Newspapers, radio and television are described as exogenous or foreign media; the exact opposite of indigenous media. Points of intersection and interaction between these exogenous and indigenous media are explored but as points of distinctly intersecting entities.

But the recent very brilliant book edited by Pamela Wilson and Michelle Stewart, Global indigenous media, defines indigenous media completely differently. Acknowledging the internal tension in the phrase “global indigenous”, the editors and contributors consider indigenous media as any media used by the indigenous peoples, defined by Manuel and Posluns as “people who have special nontechnical, nonmodern, exploitative relations to the land in which they still inhabit and who are disenfranchised by the nations they live”. Among such media are radio, television, cinema, and even the internet. "The stone rejected by the builders..." you might think. (“Interestingly”, Pamela Wilson’s book, which has fifteen chapters focusing on different peoples, has nothing to say about any of the peoples of Africa. Never mind that the title reads “Global...”. Contributors were drawn from across the globe: that is, from America and Europe!).

Whereas Des Wilson and others focus on the origin of a medium in classifying it as indigenous, Pamela Wilson and Michelle Stewart and others focus on the users of the media (the indigenous people). Does that say something about the difference between a media scholar and an anthropologist? This difference can take fundamental dimensions especially when mapping out research focus is the issue. And the difference will certainly persist especially since there is little or no interaction among the two groups of scholars symbolised by these two Wilsons. Maybe there should be a journal of indigenous communication studies to engender such interaction.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Students who don't do assignments get A's

USA Today published an article which summarizes a nationwide survey of college students in the US. The study involved nearly 380,000 students from 722 four-year colleges. The study showed that about 20% of seniors and 25% of freshmen reported frequently going to class without completing the required readings or assignments. Yet, of these students who did not do their assignments, 29% of freshmen and 36% of seniors got mostly A's. Of what use, then, is going through the professor's readings? Read the article here.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Einstein, the Nigerian press & the 'witch' kids of Akwa Ibom

Last week, Reuben Abati did an indicting opinion in his column in the Nigerian Guardian on the gruesome treatment meted out on 'witch' children in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria. These kids were declared 'witches' by their parents' "pastors". They were driven out of their homes by the parents; some were bathed with hot soda; others had nails driven into their skulls; yet others were quickly murdered by their parents and the community. All these went on for years and no one seemed to notice until Channel 4, UK, did a report on them in November this year. The report brought the Nigerian government into ridicule.
Many people have commented on this and have roundly condemned the government, the parents, the cultural milleu that permitted such evil and the religious liars that brainwash(ed) the parents. But none has said a thing about the press. When all these were going on for years, where was the Nigerian press? Akwa Ibom hosts a number of newspapers, television and radio stations. What did these do about these indescribably evil practice? Albert Einstein says:
the world is a dangerous place to live;
not because of the people who are evil,
but because of the people who don't do anything about it.
As soon as Channel 4 released its documentary in November and local press picked up the matter, the government of Akwa Ibom began the review of the Child Rights Act. Today, the Act has been sharpened well enough to be used to prosecute these heartless groups, parents and pastors. Imagine if the Nigerian press did their job of surveillance of the environment well enough, and raised this issue to public consciousness two to three years ago. Quite a number of kids would have escaped this crude inquisition and trial by ordeal. One of the perptrators, a self-styled bishop confessed to having killed 110 witch children. But then he said he 'killed' the witches in them, not (just?) the kids. He is explaining this to the police. Einstein's words haunt me:
The world is a dangerous place to live;
not because of the people who are evil,
but because of the people who don't do anything about it.