Elections in Norway, the ‘crisis’ of public disengagement and micro-targeting of voters

Monday 9th September is local election day in Norway. In just one week leading to the D-day, I recieved two reminders to the fact. One of these was a text message and the other, a ‘micro-targeted’ letter posted to me as a voter with an ‘immigrant background’.
This letter, signed by the director of the Electoral directorate, partly states:

Excerps from the letter I recieved from the Electoral Directorate.

Loosely translated, the excerp interpretes as: “Participation among voters with immigrant background is increasing. Contribute to setting a new record. The elections in 2015 had an increase in voters with immigrant background – represented by 40% of the voters. Contribute to a larger participation by voting this year”

You see, research into this public (dis)engagement in formal politics tells us that over the last 50 years, voter turn out has steadily declined to ‘crisis’ levels. In fact, a recent book (2019) by Aeron Davis, on Public Communication – a new introduction on crisis times; two main explainations surfice for this citizen disengagement: a) It is the individual’s fault and Cultural factors that are to blame or/and b) public institutions to fault.

In the West, the argument goes, where material wealth is high, ‘individualistic’ citizens have lost the motivation and drive to bother with formal politics. They are either too lazy, too distracted and therefore unqualified to deal with the complexitities of governance and have to leave it to politicians and experts – the hope is that through periodic elections and perhaps Critical journalism, they will be kept in check and accountable. The Alternative argument is that disengagement is faulted on political institutions that have failed to configure participatory governance. Instead leaders are hiding behind the tall walls of ‘citizen-unfriendly’ governance, aloof and distanced from their electorate. So what is it?

Ch7 dwells on the individual and Cultural factors  ‘Liberal’ and Institutional  ‘Republic’ arguments for Public disengagement.

There are emerging critcal voices that suggest that Citizens, especially young people, are actually interested in politics but choose not to engage in ‘traditional’ forms of formal politics like voting or joining political parties. This is because they have lost faith in these institutions. Instead, they are engaging through alternative channels mainly fostered through digital and online means – suggesting a need for new paradigms for understanding these shifts in civic engagement.

The lose of faith in formal politics is a matter also afflicting marginalised communities such as ethnic minorities like myself with immigrant background; the poor; less educated; women; religious minorities who according to research, unincentivised, feel that their voices do not matter.

So, this letter that I recieved, encouraging me to exercise my fundamental right to choose who I want as a representative and have a voice on matters that concern my community, was not only surpring but a welcome disruption to notions of civic disengagement and the hegemony of marginality in the politics of participation.

So come, Monday, I am gonna walk tall and bring this freedom to life!

Check out how your country is faring with civic (dis)engagement over the years in this voter turnout database.

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Wheels in motion – with ambitious SDG17 proposition

Joining hands to achieve global equality. Internet Picture.

Last week, 55 senior researchers and actors from 20 countries from global North and South came together to deliver a most ambitious proposal to the EU COST ACTION Program. If awarded, the project will boost SDG17 through system thinking. It is an inter-disciplinary network initiative bringing together a multi-stakeholder partnership lead by Professor Arnaud Diemer from the University of Clermont Auvergner, France. Sustainable Development Goal 17 on partnerships for goals is arguably the thread that binds all the Goals and if well formed can lead to an amazing thrust in achieving the SDGs. Many thanks to Prof. Valeria Schwanitz from HVL for inviting me into this consortium. Looking forward to serve and learn – to give and to take 🙂

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Mentoring young journalists covering the UNESCO WPFD 2019 events in Addis Ababa

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The Youth Times team that covered the UNESCO WPFD 2019 events in Addis May 1-3 pose for a picture with Jonathan Munro, Head of Newsgathering, BBC (Center with blue shirt) after a Q&A at UNECA. This feature originally appeared on http://www.youthtimes.info.

IT had been almost 2 decades since I worked in the busy newsroom of Uganda’s leading daily, the New Vision Corporation. That was way back in 2000, before I went for further studies in Norway and changed my professional life trajectory. So, when, this March, I was asked by my collegeue, also an academic, to join UNESCO organised World Press Freedom Day celebrtions in Addis Ababa as an academic mentor, I was justifiably nervous and apprehensive.RQ2A0044

Memories of a heated, noisy and open newsroom, bustling with news producers:editors, reporters, photojournalists, freelancers, visitors and complainants came streaming. The long days and late nights often punctuated with urgent calls in the wee hours of the night to get back to the newsroom to cover breaking news, gave me the shivers.RQ2A0111

It was a restless job, where one’s ears were always on the ground, where whatever you ate, drank, saw, felt or even dreamt had to have a journalistic interpretation. Nosy, was our middle name. As a journalist working for the leading daily, the ever-present understanding was that: It was easier to get to the top but very hard to stay there – as all the others worked knuckle-hard towards beating (and embarassing) us with: news scoops, interesting angles and better sales.

RQ2A0397RQ2A0180But that was not the worst of my fears. Back in 2000 when I was a sub-editor on the New Vision, Sports desk, we were at the dawn of the technological disruptions – Infact, on our desk lead by Louis Jadwong, were pioneers in the transition from analog to digital. Several intermediary jobs such as typesetters, proofreaders, etc were on their way out. Media convergence and multimedia platforms were budding to what today is a well established conglomerate (New Vision employs thousands in it’s roughly: 7 newspapers, 5 radio stations, 4 TV stations and several (e) magazines and other services).

Anyway, soon my apprehension to join the Addis Youth Newsroom, was slowly replaced with a strange sense of excitement and adventure – and a promise of a fast-paced, adrenalin pumped existence swept over me. But mostly, I looked forward to working in a multicultural newsroom, with different collaborators such as academics, young practicing journalists, students etc. I also looked forward to learning from and mentoring the young people in this era of technologically infused journalism.

From the offset, I understood from the UNESCO coordinators especially Soraide Rosario, that it was desirable to foster inclusive, transparent and effective processes around the Youth Newsroom. The aim was to open spaces and opportunities for young journalism students and practitioners to experience a ‘global newsroom’. as well as gain access, insights and practice in covering mainstream issues around press freedom while highlighting minority, thematic and national level  concerns, nuances and perspectives from around the world. RQ2A0112

Participants included; govenrment representatives, journalists, academics, students, advocacy groups, legislators, judiciary members, religious organizations, civil soceity organisations and more. We were all here to celebrate and remind ourselves about the fundamental principles of Freedom of the Press; assess the status of Freedom of the Press around the world; defend press freedom and honour and pay tribute to Journalists who have been killed, arrested and abused for doing their work. Thanks to the Ethiopian government, UNESCO and African Union for the support, about 2000 particiants graced the conference whose theme was: Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”.

So, allocating and editing the young journalists’ stories offered me a broad range of insights: thematicall from: the role of cartoonists play in promoting peace and democracy, to understanding the pros and consequences of critical journalism – also manifested by the story of the jailed winners of the UNESCO Guilermo Award. I also gained insights into some of the dangers of disinformation as well as the double victimhood that female journalists face as well as the worrisom problem of impunity of several actors and governments who continue to abuse journalists’ fundamental human rights – rights ascribed by Article 19 of the universal declarations. Just as an example, on the very day of the WPFD, Ugandan regulator Uganda Communications Commission orderd the suspension of editors of broadcasters for their critical coverage of a budding opposition leader.

The lessons are inexhaustable.

Practically, i was humbled by the brave, pleasant, eager, driven and hard-working young journalists and the fact that I was honoured to work with them. Culturally, i witnessed the importance of being flexible to contextual influences and practices especially pertaining to culture – when working in multicultural contexts. Lucky for me, my colleages were some of the best people, one could work with: relaxed, friendly, professional and inclusive.RQ2A0348

A few tips for prospective students and mentors:

For young journalists/students:

  • Embrace and exploit the opportunity
  • Put the theory into practice
  • Be (pro)active and creative in your pursuit of fair, balanced and inclusive stories.
  • Ask the tough and critical questions when newsgathering.
  • Do your homework/reasearch to support your articles. Verify for accuracy, fairness and balance especially in this era of disinformation.
  • Build networks (of friends and future sources).
  • Prepare to adapt to and reflect multicultural influences, backgrounds and contexts.
  • Enjoy the experience!

For the prospective mentors/editors:

  • Prepare for multicultural influences and experiences: Prepare to adapt to and work with different cultures and for multicultural influences and backgrounds both from the teams and content.
  • Start early: Endevour to work with the team to start early – especially orientations to the location, platform orientation and job specifications.
  • Clear communication: It helps to have an overview, clarity in assigning duties and constant communication not just with teammates but also reporters.
  • Enjoy the experience: this is not a knuckle-hard newsroom, so do your best, inspire the youth, help them produce their ‘best works’, pat them on the back with each delivery, attend some of the events, network, be you – but mostly, enjoy the event and contribute to a thriving atmosphere.

Many thanks to UNESCO, UAA and NLA Univerity College and all partners for this positive experience.

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Women working with technology in rural Norway: experiences of rurality as a double-edged sword

It was a tall order, an academic exercise aimed at exploring a phantom. Tickling our curiosity were concerns whether indeed women, highly educated, pursuing tech-driven careers in academia, research, innovation and media industries were to be found in the rural and peripheral spaces of Sogn og fjordane in Norway. What were the driving factors in their career trajectories; what opportunities were available to them and what bottlenecks stood in their paths?

Continue Reading!

The beautiful Sogn og Fjordane ford. Picture Carol Dralega
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Why pinch when you can punch? The philosophy of a political cartoonist for peace

The Cartoonists for Peace network was created by Plantu

«If you can’t beat them, you laugh at them»

These were the words of a hardened political cartoonist Zunar (Zulkiflee Sm Anwar Ulhaque) from Malasia. According to Zunar, who has been jailed 5 times, banned from travel and has had 5 of his cartoon books banned among other trials and tribulations of being a government critic in Malaysia, «telling is not a gift, telling is a responsibility. It is my job to use cartoons to highlight bad governance».

Zunar was one of several members of the global network of ‘Cartoonists for peace[1]’ who honoured the Youth Times[2], the WPFD2019 Youth Newsroom, with a visit today at the UN Economic Commission for Africa. The Cartoonists for Peace delegation are attending the 2019 World Press Freedom Day events going on in Addis Ababa between 1-3 May. The WPFD events are organised by UNESCO, the Government of Ethiopia and the African Union under the theme “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”.  

The cartoonists will also exhibite their work at the African Union Headquarters in commemoration of the WPFD2019 celebrations.  

The cartoonists for peace network founded by Plantu, has about 184 members from around the world who, like Zunar, are using their pens and talents as powerful ‘subjective’ tools in the fight against oppression, inequality, bad governance and social injustice.

“It takes courage” Zunar shares, because in his line of business and hostile political context, ‘if you do not go to jail, you have not done your job’ – reflecting what research has shown to be particularly true for kleptocratic regimes and their low tolerance for political criticism.

The aim of political intimidation, harassment, imprisonment and even death is to create a chilling effect which ultimately ends in muffling press freedom, something Zunar articulates as the real enemy in the fight for democracy, he says; “jail is not the enemy, harassment is not the enemy, intimidation is not the enemy – the real enemy is self-censorship”.  

For his courageous and artistic expressions in defence of democracy, Zunar[3] has won several awards including  the 2016 Cartoonist for peace award; the Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award 2011 by the Cartoonist Right Network International and the Hellman/Hammett Award for 2011 and 2015 by Human Rights Watch and the International Press Freedom Waward by the Committee to protect Journalists in New York in 2015 among others.

Zunar (as do the other cartoonists) reminds and inspires us to laugh at them if we can’t beat them – despite the consequences but more importantly, as media practitioners, we need support structures or umbrella networks that are local, national and/or international to have our backs when we pick courage and do the laughing!


[1] https://www.cartooningforpeace.org/?lang=en

[2] https://youthtimes.info

[3] https://www.cartooningforpeace.org/dessinateurs/zunar/?lang=en

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3 Oscar wins for Black Panther cements the powerful gender statement

Find the film review that I wrote for the International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology (GST) here.

2 black women win 2 of 3 Oscars for Black Panther. BBC article here on the historic win for Black Panther here.

Black Panther becomes Marvel studios’ first Oscar Winner. Here.

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Innovation from a feminist perspective

NORDWIT

blog hildeInnovation, which is traditionally defined as any idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption, is a vital part of Nordwit research, as we aim to learn more about mechanisms supporting or working as obstacles for women’s careers in technology-driven research and innovation in and outside of academe. The focus in two sub-projects is on innovation systems as sites of study which consist of institutions and networks across public, private and knowledge sectors that have as one goal the promotion of activities related to research, development and innovation. In these sites of our bottom-up study, we meet and interview women as well as companies, institutions, funders and other relevant actors, that contribute to the innovation landscape. In this context we collect stories about women’s experiences, and we discuss challenges and strategies related to gender equality in the institutions.

From a feminist…

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