Sunday, January 30, 2011

Zimbabwe and the Social Network

We are in the beginning stages of our third design project of the semester, which was initially going to be to design a space for a social networking, but after further discussing the topic with our professors, it was determined that one does not need a specific space to social network and that the whole point of a social network is to be able to have access to it anytime, anyplace, without the need of a specific environment.  In my opinion the concept of social networking is to be able to communicate with people without actually having to communicate with them.  Networks like facebook and twitter have been created to allow people outside of your immediate world to have full access into your personal life and thoughts.  It is a way to stay connected with people and get information out to the general public.  Social networks and media are incredibly powerful tools in that there are no boundaries—one tweet or status update has the potential to reach thousands and these sites or comparable ones are, for the most part, accessible and very popular across the planet.  So going back to our now refined social networking space project, we have each been given a country in which we are supposed to research how various social networks or media are used—and my country is Zimbabwe. 
 In order to start this research, I thought it was first important to understand the current social and economic status of the country. To summarize the past decade for Zimbabwe has been one of definite decline.  Hyperinflation, government price and land control, disease, and drought have deeply impacted the country, and it is still in a state of recovery.   The media has also gone through a state of restriction in the past decade.  The Zimbabwean government had suppressed freedom of the press and freedom of speech.  There had been repeated accusations of the government using the public broadcaster as a propaganda tool. There were reporting bans on CNN and BBC, which have now been lifted as of 2009.  The radio; however, is actually Zimbabweans main source of information, despite the fact that it too was controlled by the government.  In the past year, efforts have been made to alleviate the restrictions and diversify the media once again.
With the current socio-economic state of the country, it was of no surprise to me that researching the use of social network in Zimbabwe was limited.  I did; however, find a few sources that discussed the importance of social networking sites to keep in touch with the many friends and family members who have left Zimbabwe in the past decade due to it’s unstable government.  Pending access to a computer, sites such as Twitter and Facebook are prevalently used, as well as, the social networking site and, which are sites specifically used to connect Zimbabweans.  Social networking in Zimbabwe is definitely important, but more to connect with people outside of Zimbabwe rather than to stay connected with the people in it.

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