Iginio Gagliardone’s new article in New Media & Society charts new ways to understand the relationship between new communication technologies and governance in Africa. It explains how the ‘liberation technology’ agenda that has dominated most debates on the transformative power of new technologies has failed to take into account the variety of actors and networks that intervene in shaping governance processes in Africa, alongside or in competition with the state. Through an ethnography of two local radio stations in Kenya, his article offers a more realistic picture of mobile–radio interactions and their repercussions on governance. The findings illustrate that (1) while these interactive spaces are open to all listeners with access to a phone, they are in practice inhabited by small cohorts of recurrent characters often connected to existing power structures; (2) even in places where basic services are offered by actors other than the state, including non-governmental organizations and criminal networks, the state continues to represent the imagined figure to which listeners address most of their demands; (3) in contrast to the expectations that authorities will act on claims and grievances made public through the media, other factors, including ethnicity, intervene in facilitating or preventing action.
The article can be accessed at http://nms.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/04/07/1461444815581148.abstract?rss=1