Introduction

This is the blog for the public seminars for the School of Arts and Communication (K3) at Malmö University. K3 consists of several disciplines, including Communication for Development, English Studies, Graphic Design, Interaction Design, Media and Communication Studies, Product Design, and Visual Communication, which make it helpful to share a platform aiming at generating discussions across these various practices. The seminars are opportunities for both K3-based researchers and external guests to present and discuss their works.

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Veera Virmasalo: Discursive construction of bourgeois civic culture(s) in the tech innovation scene of post-apartheid Namibia

Welcome to a K3 seminar with Veera Virmasalo, PhD student in Media and Communication Studies. The title of the seminar is:

Discursive construction of bourgeois civic culture(s) in the tech innovation scene of post-apartheid Namibia

It will take place on Wednesday, May 23 at 10.15-12.00 in The K3 Open Studio, NIC 0541, Niagara.

This is Veera Virmasalo’s 30 percent PhD seminar. Jacob Svensson, Docent and Senior Lecturer in Media and Communication Studies, will function as discussant.

If you would like to read the text that the seminar is based on beforehand, please send a mail to Veera (veera.virmasalo@mau.se).

Here is an abstract for the talk:

Namibia, a southern African country of 2.2 million inhabitants, and my home since 2007, is one of the most unequal societies in the world. 28 years into independence from South Africa, a new black elite and middle class has emerged but little is known about how they see their role in the unequal society, or whether the new generation of white Namibians has adopted dispositions different from their parents. My PhD project explores these questions through the lens of ‘tech innovation’, focusing on discursive negotiation involved in attempts that aim to persuade the Namibian bourgeoisie to support inclusive tech innovation, which is purported to benefit the marginalised.

Using a combination of ethnographic and practice-based methods, the research will produce thick descriptions of discourses circulating around tech innovation in Namibia. It will also challenge dominant discourse(s) through scenarios, counter-images and coproduction of media. Much of the work will be based on my involvement in a 2-year project called The Inclusive and Collaborative Tech Innovation Hub. The project is implemented by the faculty of computing and informatics at the Namibia University of Science and Technology and funded by the Finnish government as part of its support for developing an ‘inclusive economy’ in Namibia. The Hub trains marginalised youth in skills needed in developing for-profit innovations, promotes their inclusion in innovation projects undertaken by local ICT companies, and rallies to engage the local private sector as supporters for its work. Finally, it will also organise a series of workshops to co-design digital media concepts with the aim to increase social justice thinking among privileged Namibians.

The research aim is to explore the role of international development industry as a discursive vassal of global ideologies and simultaneously chart possibilities and instances of resistance by local actors, as well as from within the development industry. In this way, it is a research project within the ethics of Communication for Development and Social Change, calling development organisations and communicators within them to reflect on whether the discourses used by them in fact promote what they are purporting to promote. This call is not restricted to international development organisations, as there are also many local actors from government entities to non-governmental organisations and private citizens reproducing discourses, which at least at first sight seem to erode the potential of collective action towards a more just society. This research takes a closer look of such discourses and their specific articulations, trying to understand what is actually suggested by and understood through them in today’s Namibia. 

With an emphasis on Communication for Social Change and the communication aspect in Media and Communication Studies, my project will contribute to existing research on discourses of development, and the role of media and communication in promoting civic culture.

Keywords: Communication for social change, civic culture and privilege, digital innovation; discourse theory (Laclau & Mouffe / Essex school)

 

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