Tyre burning is ‘media’- apparently

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By Patience Shawarira

“The role of communication in networking, building collective identity, mobilising and protesting is central to collective action,” said Linah Nkuna, who is completing a PhD at the University of Johannesburg.
As part of the parallel sessions for 31 August- 1 September Highway Africa – SACOMM conference, Nkuna’s research theorises the various communication practices of social movements with specific reference to #AbahlalibaseFreedomPark, #WitsFeesMustFall and #SaveSouthAfrica protests.

It focuses on the use of different communication methods in the representation of different social causes and issues of service delivery.

Nkuna traced her research back to the apartheid era when protests were the only recourse for the majority of the South Africans to display their dissatisfaction. Nkuna said that in Western countries protests are the domain for disadvantaged minorities, yet in South Africa protests are used by disadvantaged majority.

Nkuna mentioned that current research on social movements and protest focuses on online and offline methods of organising which normally takes place over social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook. However, they are other ways in which activists communicate issues of exclusion, exploitation and discrimination that are marginalised in South African discourse.

For instance, the use of tyre-burning and loud speakers in communication have not been explored in South Africa literature. Her research thus aims at filling this gap.

“Although the existing research is vital to understanding how individual practices make up the communication environment of South Africa activism,” said Nkuna, “the danger of these conceptualisations is that they restrict the focus to only one of the manifestations of social movements.”

Nkuna said that focusing on only one of these issues at a time results in losing important aspects such as connectivity among technologies and practices; as well as the role they play within social movement.

  • Patience Shawarira was reporting for Open Source, the publication for Highway Africa 
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