Tag: New African Social Media

An Opportunity of a Lifetime

An Opportunity of a Lifetime

In the fall of my junior year, I took a plunge and applied to a new program offered at Loyola University Chicago. To my surprise, I was accepted and my Loyola experience took a turn I was not expecting.

The McNair Scholars Program was named after the academic achievements of Dr. Ronald E. McNair, a physicist and one of seven crew members who perished in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Established by the U.S. Congress in 1989, the funding for this program is designed to increase the number of low-income, first-generation and underrepresented college students who pursue and complete doctoral degrees.

One component of the McNair Scholars Program is to conduct a summer research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor. When thinking about how I wanted to go about my summer research project, I made it a point to try to fuse my interests in journalism, media studies, anthropology and international studies to use.

When reflecting on my research experience this past summer, I think of it as peeling off the layers of an onion. Every macro idea revealed many micros that could not be explored in nine weeks.

But, why did I spend time behind the computer exploring the “virtual world” that is New African Social Media?

The advent of African youth having the space to show creativity and to share it through virtual communities hits home. Producers are able to communicate and share what they believe Africa was like in the past, what Africa is like in the present and what Africa will be in the future. New African Social Media is an example of how new forms of media impact culture. Those within this “virtual world” are able to re-appropriate content and attach new meaning to the content they create or share.

With this, it was interesting to unpack how this content differs from Africa-content material in mainstream media. New African Social Media allows producers and consumers to shed a different light on what Africa means and is to them: diverse, progressive, and positive. People are given the freedom to be bold to create, report, and share what they do not see in mainstream media; as well as to give a more balanced view of what occurs on and off the continent.

So far in my research I have found that people most popularly share visually contextual content that depicts people, daily life, and women. The peeling of this onion continues as I unpack the why, how, where, and when of these findings.

Although my summer research portion has finished, I am grateful for the opportunity and time to continue my project as an independent study with my faculty mentor this semester.

The next step in this program is the graduate school application process. Alongside conducting research, my cohort and I were given opportunities to attend conferences off campus, to visit graduate schools that work with McNair Scholars and to become familiar with how to go about submitting applications to programs that we are interested in.

Although the stress of applying to graduate school is prevalent, I find comfort in the support of the McNair Scholars Program I have received thus far. This summer was an eyeopener for so many greater things I can accomplish as a scholar.