Henry Jenkins video on the Participatory Culture reminded me of ‘Bambazonke’ which is a participatory e-mail letter that goes out daily from a friend of mine, Mike Garden here in Zimbabwe. From time to time Mike asks for ‘readers’ comments’ on a variety of subjects close to the Zimbabwean heart. Very often wild-life stories – decimation of rhinos and elephants, that kind of thing. Then there was the case of Mac Bailey who was taken and eaten by a crocodile on the banks of the Kariba lake. This generated a great deal of participatory discussion as to how and why it all happened, all posted by e-mail back to Mike, edited by Mike and re-posted out to his community. More recently a houseboat staffer was taken and eaten by a lion and that too has generated discussion. Sometimes it is the failure of the powers that be to generate electricity, the rotten state of the roads in Harare and Bulawayo, or corruption in high places and who is doing what (or not doing what) to fix the problem. Mike told he had been picked up by the police and questioned at least once to explain his venturing into politics and ‘journalism without a licence’
Then there was the case here last year of ‘Baba Jukwa’ who created a great deal of controversy in Zimbabwe during the last elections. More recently, he has been identified and arrested for ‘inciting acts of terrorism’ because of the accusations he made about certain ZANU PF politicians and the interest that he acquired – thousands of visits to his website to see what was alleged to be going on in the under-world of Zimbabwean politics. Just today I see he has been convicted of possessing ammunition in an ‘insecure place’ which led to a fine of $150.00. It would seem there was an attempt to use this possession of ammunition as a pretext for his ‘conspiring to commit acts of terrorism’ until it was found that he held the ammunition legally, thus the lesser charge. His other more serious charges have not seen the courts because of on-going investigations and the identified ‘Baba Jukwa’ insisting that he is not the one!
So the ‘participatory culture’ here in Zimbabwe is slow to take off.
The Past Participatory Culture
Other elements of Jenkins talk related to the old ways of participatory culture – the Bowling Society of the ‘50’s in the USA. Here we had a different kind of, but similar participatory culture. It was called ‘The Country Club’ or its equivalent here in Harare, the ‘Sports Club’. Today the country clubs have vanished because those who used to frequent them have been forcibly removed from the land. The Sports Clubs still exist – or some of them do – but in a much reduced capacity. Although the ‘Golf Club’ still functions because it attracts people of all ages, walks of life and ethnic origin. Web sites and Blog sites are in the minority. Which is why I am doing what I can to resurrect my own blog site.
Perhaps I am out of touch with young people? I shall have a chat with my grandson on this subject. But us adults are, I think, still fixated on Facebook and Linked-In as our form of participatory culture. We do not use these sites with same fervour as it would seem they do in the developed world.