Thursday, March 26, 2009

South African scholar explores how incentives to blog may enhance civic participation

What sustains bloggers? Is it public recognition, even if in the blogosphere? A perception of engagement in the community? A sense of fulfilling some purpose? Something more material?

Harry Dugmore, who holds the MTN Chair of Media and Mobile Communication at Rhodes University's School of Journalism and Media Studies in Grahamstown, South Africa, wonders:
[E]ven when a user generates great content and has a great experience doing so, or even when a citizen generates a good bit of journalism, why is the drop off rate so high? Even serious blogging sites see high attrition rates, with only a small group of hard-core bloggers blogging with reasonable regularity (and who knows what that is?!).

Mr. Dugmore is a Knight Foundation grantee trying "to better equip media producers in Africa with the skills and the software to use mobile phones to democratise both news production and news dissemination." He is helping create incentives for South African bloggers and citizen journalists.

We building platforms for user generated content and citizen journalism, and we're proving training to hundreds of school children on how to use the old/new technology of sms to contribute their issues, views, news, info, tips, photos....

What will keep users coming back to contribute more, and how, in resource deprived communities, do you remove financial disincentives - the costs of sms and using data - from getting in the way of an enlarged public sphere?

We're coming up with two sets of solutions - one educative, aimed at 'preparing the ground' for greater civic participation through the media, and the other compensatory and incentivising. Both are presenting interesting dilemmas. Here is one of the core issues to do with 'preparing the ground': in my next blog, I'll share some of our problems and solutions to the issues of reducing financial disincentives and creating a series of positive inducements for citizen journalism.
Find more here.

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