“Digital Media in Africa, More Advanced than the United States?”

PowellDigital Media in Africa, More Advanced than the United States?” was the topic veteran media educator Adam Clayton Powell III addressed during the All University Convocation on October 4, 2012. The School of Humanities and Graduate Studies hosted the convocation that focused on how digital media are driving change on the African continent.

The son of renowned Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and jazz and classical pianist Hazel Scott, Powell II is a senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Communication Leadership and Policy.

Discussing his recently released study Bigger Cities, Small Screens: Urbanization, Mobile Phones, and Digital Media Trends in Africa, Powell outlined the central premise of the study.  He said: “We all know that if you want to study the early beginnings of humanity, you have to study Africa because the first men and women walked on the African continent. To study the future as well as the past we need to study Africa because there as innovations taking place on the continent which are a preview of what we’re going to see here (in the United States) shortly.”

Powell presented detailed statistics of current trends and African media use and the opportunities for independent media.  He stated that African engineers and scientist who have launched a telecommunication satellite are leading “digital media revolution which has gone largely unnoticed outside of Africa.”

Some attendees reacted to hearing about Africa’s progress in telecommunications.

Joseph Loftus, a Biopsycosocial Health major, said he was impressed “that Africa is producing some of the brightest computer programmers and will be the center for all major astrophysics in the coming years.”  He added, “American news hardly talks about global events unless they have to do with American international economics like the Arab spring and the nuclear crisis in Japan.”

Donna Hull, Senior Administrative Assistant, School of Social Sciences & Behavioral Studies, said she was interested to hear about the impact of digital media on the lives of families throughout Africa.  She said Powell’s research demonstrates “how families have achieved middle class status based on the way they utilize the internet, twitter and particularly their cell phones.”  She also observed, “African families are not often featured in this kind of reporting. We are more likely to hear this kind of story about the families of China and India.”

Associate Professor of History and Political Science D. Zizwe Poe observed that not many people are aware that Africa has launched a communication satellite.   He said, “It shows that scientific technique and technology are not limited to European and Asian societies” and “supports the communication revolution that is happening throughout Africa.”

School of Humanities and Graduate Studies Dean Cheryl Renee Gooch, who invited her media education colleague to Lincoln said, “These weekly convocations allow the Lincoln community to explore our shared interests across disciplines, both local and global, and Adam Clayton Powell III embodies diverse, global experience.”

The full report “Bigger Cities, Small Screens: Urbanization, Mobile Phones, and Digital Media Trends in Africa,” is accessible at http://cima.ned.org/publications/bigger-cities-smaller-screens-urbanization-mobile-phones-and-digital-media-trends-afric


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