Call for Papers

Valenti Global Communication Summit 2020

@frica: digital media conference

Houston, TX – February 27/28, 2020

Deadline for extended abstracts: November 22, 2019

While the economic, political, cultural and social transformations brought about by the rise of digital technologies, particularly in the media and telecommunications sectors, are visible all over the world, it is in African countries that they are projected to have the biggest impact in coming years. Africa, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, has one of the fastest growing number of internet and mobile users in the world.

In many parts of the continent, access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) has been seen as an opportunity to “leapfrog”, a concept that the World Bank defines as making “a quick jump in economic development” by adopting technological innovation. This is exemplified by the success of African startups like Ushahidi, a crowdsourcing mapping tool created in Kenya, or Jumia, Nigeria’s number 1 online retailer; the recent opening of Google’s Africa AI center in Ghana; and the ever-growing presence of mobile payment and banking across the continent. Digital communication technologies have also been used strategically by citizens in the continent to engage in grassroots political movements that have toppled long-time rulers, led to (sometimes short-lived) regime changes, and brought about changes in legislation.

The fast growth of digitally enabled communications and services has also brought challenges for the continent. For example, well-before the notion of “fake news” became a buzzword in U.S. politics, many African nations, from South Africa to Gabon or Nigeria, were targets of large-scale misinformation campaigns over social media such as WhatsApp and Facebook. Additionally, young, highly-educated, and digitally-savvy graduates in many African countries have been employed by transnational tech companies such as Facebook for data processing in what some authors describe as digital sweatshops. The positive and negative impacts of this technological revolution are therefore important to consider.

Because African countries, their people, and their mediated interactions remain understudied in the fields of media and communication, especially in Western countries, the “@frica: digital media conference” invites extended abstracts (800-1,000 words) that examine the transformations and disruptions of digital media in African countries.

Specifically, but not exclusively, we invite contributions that explore any of the following questions:

  • What methodological challenges exist in studying digital media use (such as social media and/or mobile communications) in Africa?
  • What theoretical frameworks, constructs and paradigms are best suited to study transformations and disruptions of digital media in Africa?
  • How has social media been used by African political actors, social movements and grassroots activists and to what effect?
  • What are the roots, consequences and differences between countries of existing disparities in access to digital media in Africa?
  • How are digital technologies influencing, complementing, and/or superseding journalistic practices in Africa?
  • How does the sharing economy (e.g. Uber, Upwork…) transform and/or reinforce social norms, values, practices, structure and culture in Africa?
  • What are the prevailing regulatory frameworks that affect digital media use in Africa?
  • What socio-economic, cultural and economic factors shape the adoption, diffusion and appropriation of digital technologies in Africa?

The deadline to submit extended abstracts is November 22, 2019. To submit an extended abstract, please go to https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=admc20. You will need to create an account to make a submission.  

The organizers will notify by email the authors of accepted extended abstracts by December 6, 2019. Authors will be expected to submit full papers by February 2, 2020.

The “@frica: digital media conference” will accept a limited number of virtual presentations, in which authors who are unable to travel to Houston, will be able to present their work and get feedback from the audience virtually. Authors who wish to be considered for one of the virtual presentation slots should indicate their preference when submitting their extended abstracts.

A selection of accepted papers will be included in a Special Issue of the Journal of African Media Studies to be published in 2020. Only accepted papers that are presented at the conference will be considered for the Special Issue. Questions about the conference and the Call for Papers can be sent to valentiglobalsummit@uh.edu