Press Pack

Centre for Film & Media Studies
Arts Block
Upper Campus
University of Cape Town


Phone Number: (021) 650 3373/5159



Contact Person:       Ms. Chilombo Mbenga




So, where are South African youth?? At Shebeens?
Partying? At a playground somewhere in Khayelitsha, maybe even Gugulethu? Disinterested
in politics? Well, apparently not. South African youth are roaming the
Internet! To be precise: Social Media!
Facebook, Twitter, Bebo even, making their voice heard through mobile
communication. This study found that quite a large part of young South Africans
is on Facebook on one of the pages: Ancyl
engaging in rational-critical debate; commenting, ‘liking’,
linking and posting. That’s what’s keeping them busy!

This press release focuses on the racket of whether
young South Africans are apathetic towards politics or not. Calling all media
professionals, journalists, editors and young people to get in cars, busses,
trains and shuttles to the University of Cape Town’s Upper Campus to hear this
release! Why? It will certainly be a worthwhile trip to hear the exciting news
about generation – Y. The youth are the future of South Africa so why not give
them a hearing?

For more information or details contact email: or call: 079 178 8697.








One Page Research Proposal


My dissertation is entitled: Agenda – Setting and Gatewatching: The Role
Played by Facebok in the Social and Political Lives of Young South Africans.



With the growing popularity of
Social Networking Sites (SNS) such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace; more and
more young people in South Africa are participating in the virtual public
sphere. This research looks into the role that social networking plays in the
lives of the youth both politically and socially; how Facebook sets the agenda
for them as well as the role of gatewatchers who distribute news content to set
the agenda. It will also seek to discover the ways in which the youth in South
Africa engage themselves politically (on the South African political scene).


“A Social Networking Site is a
configuration of people connected to one another through interpersonal means,
such as friendship, common interests, or ideas” Coyle & Vaughn (2008: 13).
This research area comes from the background that through social networking
young people become connected and they also create their own virtual spaces
with communities as well (for example, through the formulation of groups on
Facebook for common causes, groups discussions and ‘wall posts’, which may all be
politically related). Social networking can also create an environment for
social and political issues to be discussed: issues that affect young people
obtrusively or unobtrusively both at group level and individual level.


The purpose statement for this
study is that there has been much talk about how many people log into social
networking sites (statistics) but not about how social networking sites through
mass media, set the agenda for young people in South Africa. Lastly not much
has been said about ‘groups’, ‘societies’ and ‘status updates’ on Facebook as
well as platforms that are able to engage young people, in order for them to
express themselves openly, freely and in their own language.


Most of our young people log into
Social Networking Sites such as Facebook frequently and on a daily basis in
South Africa for their own different reasons. This research area seeks to
answer the following research questions:

  1. To what
    extent do peer networks set the agenda socially and politically for young South
  2. How do
    information-sharing communities manifest on Facebook?
  3. How is
    interaction and social dynamics maintained through political discourse on
  4. Do
    political and news agendas inform political discourse on Facebook?


What the study seeks to achieve is
to find out how social networking has changed the lifestyle of young people in
South Africa and to also ascertain up to what it has changed the nature of
communication among the young people. Another aim would be to find out the kind
of information sharing societies available on social networking sites that
actually engage young people and to what extent.


The primary methodology for this
study will be a content analysis, which is in terms of who says what and to
what effect. The sample for the pilot study will be status updates collected
from two Facebook pages, namely: the ANC YOUTH LEAGUE group page, which has a
membership count of 12, 313, and the JULIUS MALEMA fan page, which has a
membership, count of 843. Content analysis will address my research problem in
the sense that I will be able to determine the level of participation on the
group pages in terms of the users that are visiting the group pages on a
regular basis to post on the walls and to interact with other users. Markham
states: (2009: 31) “people’s worldviews – and their neuroses – leak from the
offline to the online” and this statement informs and influences the way people
interact with each other in virtual spaces such as Facebook. In addition, the
level of social interaction among the members of these group pages and more
importantly the level to which mass media and citizen journalism inform these
wall postings – in light of the election campaigning for the 2011 Local
Government Elections.



The significance of this study is
that previously not much research has been done with regards to the role social
media and agenda – setting play in involving the youth through the influence of
mass media. This kind of research has only been limited to traditional mass
media (now that social media is gaining ground against traditional media). In
addition, much of agenda setting and traditional mass media has been
generalized and termed as “agenda setting and the public”, “issue salience and
public opinion” (Weaver, 2007), but it has never been extended to the to young


  1.  T.E. Bosch (2009); Using online social networking for teaching and learning: Facebook use
    at the University of Cape Town; Communicatio 35 (2)
    ; pp 185-200.
  1. C. L.
    Coyle & H. Vaughn (2008); Social
    Networking: Communication or Evolution; Bell Labs Journal 13 (2)
    ; pp 13-18
  1. D. Carter
    (2005); Living in Virtual Communities: An
    Ethnography of Human Relationships in Cyberspace; Information, Communication
    and Society Vol. 8, No. 2
    ; pp 148-165
  1. C.
    Greenhow & J. Reifman (2009); Engaging
    Youth in Social Media: Is Facebook the New Media Frontier; Nieman Reports
    pp 53-55
  1. 5.
    D.H Weaver (2007); Thoughts on Agenda Setting, Framing and Priming; Journal of
    Communication, Vol. 57, Issue 1;
    pp 142-146.



Book-Length Reading Review

Coleman, S. & Ross, K (2010); The Media and the Public: “Them” and “Us” in the Media Discourse. United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell Publishers.

For this book length reading, I chose two chapters from this book: Chapter 1: Imagining the Public & Chapter 5: Virtual Publicness. In the chapters chosen for this review I see a distinction that the authors have made with the public before the Internet and ho the public has eveloved over the years. They discuss how the public used the public used to meet at a central point which was open for all (e.g. parks, parking lots, town centres, etcetera), for deliberation-to them these are the conditions for citizenship, where there is “an informed level of access”, (Coleman & Ross, 2010: 24). The authors discuss further discuss what characterized the public before the Internet; they (the ‘publics’) were characterized as receivers of messages and the basis of the success of relationships was on the extent to which a public was vibrant-which in their view is characteristic of the Habermasian public sphere. However, they move on to explain how the Internet and cyberspace is becoming a significant factor in the life of the public and how it is becoming a “space of mediated publicity”, (Coleman & Ross, 2010: 12), but also how public opinion is so detrimental to demcracy within the society.

They also discuss how cyberspace offers interaction but again how it maintains the public through communication. Mediated publicness is expressed through technologies which convey space is what they mention in the book. Coleman and Ross touch upon the changing media landscape and the nature of the public in the digital age. But also how the audience has taken up roles such as publishers, editors (gatewatcher and gatekeeper), knowledge manager,journaler, etcetera. Through e-empowerment, the ‘public’ has taken ‘control’ of the media in the digital age. In chapter 5 they give five claims made by other scholars in the field about the possibility for the Internet to become a democractic media space (Coleman & Ross, 2010: 94-95):

(1) the condition for the abundance of information and the disruption of elite dominated knowledge;

(2) access to inexpensive media technology: anyone can be a media producer through User-Generated Content (UGC);

(3) digital media makes it easier for people to form and join dispersed communication (allowing peole to communicate with each other from different locations);

(4) the possiblity of one-to-many and many-to-many communication which is ‘inclusive of the democractic public culture’; and

(5) new media (inclusive of social media as well) allows for the sharing, comparing and reflection of views among citizens.

These caims I found were also characteristic of social media since they also allow for the audience to interact through the sharing of content, comparing and reflecting upon the views within and among the citizens and with the audience taking upon themselves the role of gatekeeper, the sharing of content and comparing of views, they are then able to set the agenda for other Internet users in the virtual space-this environment is also extended towards social networkering where users of Facebook and Twitter get to provoke, argue and debate with each other on politically-oriented topics(Goode, 2009). Coleman and Ross further discuss the control of the media moving from the elite to ordinary citizens also allowing them to access protected and costly information and pretty low rates-so basically the ordinary “citizen does not have to rely on knowedge producing centres”, (Coleman & Ross, 2010: 95). The virtual public allows for the citizens to respond to those in power by commenting, or remixing information so as to make sense to them and by so doing, making it possible to access and distribute news, political leaks, opinions and rumours with the intention of setting the agenda by transfering the importance of certain issues-even when there is no clarity in the sources.

However, the authors do highlight that the Internet deepens inequalities and at the same time gives rise to fresh ones and that the ‘digital divide’ is just not about unequal access to but that its also about he relevant literacy and computer skills (Coleman & Ross, 2010). Even though the Internet creates platforms for political discourse access is not guaranteed for all or even available to all. Chapter 5 ends with the authors saying: “there is a need for a connecting of energy and heterogeneity of online-offline voices to debates, decisions and reflections of governance at all levels”, (2010: 122).


Coleman, S & Ross, K (2010); The Media and the Public: “Them” and “Us” in Media Discourse. United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell Publishers.

Goode, L (2009); Social News, Citizen Journalism and Democracy; New Media and Society; Volume 11 (8), pp. 1287-1305

Literature Review Post #2

Here are two other articles for my literature post which I also thought were suitable and related to my topic.

Article #1:Facebook & Youth Mobilization and the 2008 US Presiential Election by A. Sanson (2008); Gnovis Journal, Volume 8 (3):

The focus of this article was on the 2008 Presidential Elections that were held in the US and the writer of the article says how the mobilization of Facebook youth was successfully fostered it was also noticed that Facebook creates a platform for young users to become more politically engaged throughP2P,one to many and many to one. She also tells the reader how the Milleium generation (Facebook users and technology alike) could be the driving force on the political front and through interaction and mobilization. Angela Sanson is suggestive of the fact that politics lies in the hands of the ‘Millenials’, the tech-savvy generation and that this platform allows the young people not be apathetic towards politics. 

Article #2: Facebook & Political Engagement Amongst South Africans (2009); Student Reseach Project

Part of this article talks about the youth and their involvement in South African politics and the writer of this research project says that in a time as this when we are migrating from analogue to digital, social networking sites like Facebook can serve as a tool for people to interact without borders (putting the digital divide aside); the writer is suggestive that South Africa is indeed a politically active nation despite the falling back of civic engagement in the last 15 years. He also stresses that the youth are now beginning to engage themselves in politics through Facebook and other social networking sites and he actually goes on to call the Facebook generation ‘digital natives’ (2009:9), since this type of media is second nature to them.

Both these article are relevan to my study because they revlove around what my topic is about especially article 2 which is on political engagement amongst South Africans particuarly the section on the youth. In terms of my study it would also be interesting to know

Methodological Rationale

The primary methodology for this research area will comprise of a virtual ethnography content analysis of Computer-Mediated Communication which will rely on qualitative and individualized data. Through content analysis I will be able to (1) obtain information on the Facebook users who participate frequently in the group discussions and who visit the group pages in terms of age, (2) analyze the words used in terms of abbreviations, the use of colloquial language and (3) analyze the exchanges between the group participants. What will be analyzed is the choice of words, meaning of words and phrases as well as social behaviour (levels of group dynamics).

Content analysis will address my research problem in the sense that it will determine the level of participation in the Facebook groups in terms of how many times a certain user visits the page to make a comment or interact with other users, to how the agenda is set for these young people (in terms of political agendas and news agendas) or if they set the agenda for themselves socially.  The use of this methodology will also achieve the following:

  • Make inferences from my data the levels and dimensions that the discourses;
  • To find out if engaging in politics adds to the social capital of the young people; and
  • Analyze who says what, to whom, why and to what effect (which will be part of the categories that I will analyze)

The focus of the study will also be on the age group of youth who are between 15-20 years (as my sample). I have also decided to use convenience sampling as my sampling technique which would  make it a little more easier to make inferences using the content I have analyzed. The unit of analysis will be Facebook groups pages where young people normally interact.

Literature Review Post #1

As I was looking for articles within the area of my topic which is Agenda-Setting: The Role Played by Facebook in the Social and Political Lives of Young South Africans, I came came across the following top 3 articles (which I found very interesting that actually shed light into what Im researching about):

Article #1: Engaging Youth in Social Media: Is Facebook the New Frontier? by C. Greenhow & J. Reifman, 2009 (Nieman Reports). It is actually a social media experiment of youth invlovment in politics (the real world versus virtual activism) and the aim of the researcher of this article was to create a ‘news community’ for the age group of 16-25 that would engage them in current news on Facebook as well as to create an environment for news sharing that would suit the everyday lives of the young users of Facebook. In short, their experiment found that it was  possible for a ‘news community to be created on Facebook and that it would help the young people who do not normally read newspapers to be better informed about their immediate environment as well as invlove them in ‘youth initiated conversation’ (as the authors put it).

Article #2: Networked Publics: The Double Articulation of Code and Politics on Facebook by G. Langlois et al, 2009 ( Canadian Journal of Communication). This article revolves around the building of social capital thorugh civic engagemant of Facebook and the author stresses how Facebook publics’ “double articulation of code and politics define new conditions and possibilities for political action and communicaion” (2009:417). The article actually shows that Facebook paves the way for these new conditions and possibilties through the group pages(‘wall posts”) group discussions on that are available on the site.  He also says that Facebook differs from other Web 2.0 platforms because of the high information content that is available and how Facebook fosters political support through membership on politicians’ profiles (or group pages), how the general public can create/join a group and even how political views can be changed-making it easier for political discourse to take place and enhancing the group dynamics of the page.

Article #3: Understanding Group Participation in Social Networking Environments: Motivations for Using Groups and Social Outcomes by N. Park et al; Conference Paper: National Communication Association 2009. This article (research) focused mainly on the different motivations students had for participating in politics on social networking sites (Facebook especially). The study also touched on issues such as how vigorous political discourse increases the social capital of college students especially in America as well as how Facebook users can join a variety of causes, politically oriented groups (politicians’ pages and political parties alike) and so on. They also asserted in their literature that it is through these Facebook groups that a sort of ‘Networked public sphere/realm’ is created. The study found that the motivations for participating were for social interaction, entertainment, information, to engage with others and ‘to feel like they belong’.

The relevance of these three articles to to my topic is that I will be looking at Facebook group pages that are politically oriented and see how young people particpate in politics, how they use these groups and what they use these groups for but mainly how the agenda is set, so Im looking at that area of research. The strength of these articles is the way Facebook groups are emphasised upon in terms of civic engagement and political discourse which would assist me in my literature review for the pilot study. They also give an insight into what I can look at when doing my analysis of the data but in terms of limitations I have not seen much except one which is how the agenda is set for the young people(whether its influenced by traditional mass media i.e television,radio or newspapers) -or if they set their own agendas;so that part is still unclear to me.

Masters and Research Question

Hello World!

Iam currently doing my Masters at UCT,majoring in Political Communication. Well at first I was a bit apprehensive about the course (since I haven’t done much of Politics as a course but only as a second major at my previous University), but now as weeks are going by Im getting the hang of it. It is quite interesting and a learning curve as well. I spent the better part of my Honours and undergrad majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Sociology of the Media as well as a little bit in Organisational Communication.

My Honours dissertation was an investigation into how radio influences students from different cultural backgrounds in the North West Province, placing emphasis on the Tswana, Zulu and Sotho cultures and my research subjects were from the Mafikeng Campus of the North West University. For my Masters dissertation Iam taking a 360 degree turn from what I did for my Honours and my research area will be on Facebook and the role it plays in setting the agenda for the youth, both socially and politically but also how gatewatching plays a role on Facebook.

I have developed 4 research question questions for my study:

  • To what extent do peer networks set the agenda socially and politically for young South Africans?
  • How do informaton-sharing communities manifest on Facebook?
  • How is information and social dynamics maintained through political discourse in the informaton-sharing communities?
  • Do political and news agendas inform political discourse in the informaton sharing communities on Facebook?