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1.1 Background To The Study
Conventional and traditional advocacy has in recent decades relied on the mass media as a tool for gaining mass support and mounting pressure on policy makers. Media advocates employed a communication strategy based on stern lecturing and beaming of information to receivers who are expected to act on the basis of the information received. The expected outcome is that information and education will lead to awareness, and will ultimately result in behavior change. This communication strategy has failed to get the desired result and has created a huge gap between the sender and the receiver due to the inability of the receiver to understand the messages designed by experts; the people were not involved in the process of message conception, design and dissemination.
The many challenges of advocacy projects in Nigeria do not only stem from the fact that the people do not participate in the process but the fact that advocates lack the ability and medium to effectively mobilize members of a given community to support the desired project therefore, most advocacy projects fail to get the level of support needed to bring the much needed change. Also very critical to advocacy is the question of empowerment, in most cases the people or community who are beneficiaries of advocacy project are still unable to speak for themselves because they are not empowered to take part in the advocacy project. As a result the people are left voiceless as they cannot fight for themselves.
The quest to give voice to the voiceless in developing countries has not yielded adequate results partly due to the paucity of statistical studies to gather reliable data, poor dissemination of research results, and inability to use the available data optimally. Evidence-based practice emphasize the importance of assessment, planning, delivery, and evaluation of services based on sound research results (Parahoo, 2000). Decisions about policy, services and intervention, based on firm evidence will result in optimal gains for people with disability (Mmatli, 2009; Parahoo, 2000). It was therefore discovered that the use of different forms of media and research to achieve this aim is necessary for there to be a change in result. The emergence of a new digital media has changed the way we think, live and interact with the world around us; changing our communication systems and replacing them with a more fluid, interactive and democratic one. One of the reasons for this is the increase in the desire to get access to information more relevant to peoples need. There is a strong belief that people would be able to make better decision and take advantage of the numerous opportunities around them if they are well informed about what is happening locally as well as globally. These changes as a result of the desire to access information on a large scale have facilitated the change from one apparatus of communication to another.
Today the technologies around us are shaping and redefining the way we express ourselves and the media we use. Advancement in technology has put the media in our hands, making it much easier for everyone to communicate on the spot. For instance, the media can now be found in our mobile phones, android, Blackberry as well as computer and laptops connected to the internet and carried around in our pockets to keep us updated with events as they happen. As the old changes to accommodate the new, so is the way and manner media contents are sourced, produced and distributed. The New Media allows individual, most especially the young people to not just be a docile receiver of media content but allows everyone to be a broadcaster and audience simultaneously. The way the new media enables the individual to participate in this wide range of activities; social networking, gaming, blogging, downloading, uploading and sharing their own creation with others online is so empowering that one is forced to think that these new forms of expression will lead the way to a better, freer, vibrant and a more transparent society where people can communicate more freely. The desire to attain a much freer society, where there is less inequality between the rich, the poor and the vulnerable has always been the central focus of many civil organization and advocacy groups who engage in advocacy as a means for giving voice to the voiceless. The ability of New Media to provide a more conducive environment for human right activist to engage users on a variety of issues, eliciting immediate response and getting support real time makes it a potentially effective medium for participatory development communication, democracy and governance if well employed.
However, the case is different as many people now see the New Media as a place to post almost anything they can lay their hands on without confirming the credibility and authenticity of such information. The manner in which some of these information are speedily distributed on a large scale is very much alarming that we need to question the authenticity of these information which are easily taken as authentic by other users of these medium as ‘the ultimate truth’ without questioning the sources of these information. In other words the democratic and the participatory nature of the new media is now having a ‘spill-over effect’ on many other users who are more interested in positively tapping into the numerous potentials of the new media.
Suffice it to say that, despite the fact that these medium holds great potentials when used in facilitating participatory development communication, democracy, civic engagement and advocacy, these great potentials may not be fully realised due to the same unique characteristics of participation that gives everyone the right to communicate and easily share their created content. This is so because this freedom has been subjected to serious abuse as anyone can now create and distribute content that are offensive with the aim of causing trouble and advocating for issues without following the ethics of the practice, bringing the work of advocacy to disrepute. A good example can be seen in the wake of the 2012 fuel price hike when many goodhearted Nigerians as well as mischievous ones used the medium to advocate for a reduction of the pump price.
Consequently, media critics and commentators are beginning to question the credibility and the authenticity of new media content and the way they have been used unprofessionally. As a result many people are beginning to treat advocates using the new media with a lot of caution and skepticism as some of the information they post could be misleading so people no longer know who to trust. Advocacy through the new media is losing its credibility. This is because in the age of the new media, it is very possible for anyone to wreck havoc, create controversy and mar the image of any organization; a disgruntled group of people could mar the image of an organization by posting and sharing controversial information using the new media (Ikpe and Olise, 2010).
The new media is a generic terminology for ICT platforms characterized by the convergence of computer and telecommunication technologies (Olise, 2008). The Medium is characterized by the utilization of various communication formats such as images, text, video and audio driven by the combination of communication and information technology through the internet (Lasica, 2003). The technologies described as "new media" are often digital; with the ability of being manipulated, networkable, interactive and compressible (Flew, 2002) .The term, New Media, refers to the actual technologies that enable people to connect with one another. These include; Game consoles, Mobile Phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) Computer Connected to the internet, etc. For example, new media holds out a possibility of on-demand access to content anytime, anywhere, on any digital device, as well as interactive user feedback, creative participation and community formation around the media content. Another important promise of new media is the “democratization” of the creation, publishing, distribution and consumption of media content. However, the decentralization and democratization of the information resources, enhanced dialogue and erosion of traditional gate-keeping and agenda setting functions still remains one of the unique features of the new media (Chaffee and Metzger, 2001). Many Civil Society organisations and NGOs are beginning to tap into the rich potentials of the new media to engage many young people in advocacy.
Advocacy is simply speaking up for or acting on behalf of another person who may not be in the position to do so and helps them to have a better control of critical decisions affecting them. In other words, advocacy reaches out to the marginalized, oppressed and disadvantaged members of the society who have been isolated from taking part in or enjoying certain privileges due to their inability to speak up or lack the knowledge needed to access these rights and privileges. The National Lead for Advocacy Valuing People Team (2009) sees advocacy as.
Taking action to help people say what they want, secures their rights, represent their interest and obtain services they need. Advocates and advocacy schemes work in partnership with the people they support and take their side. Advocacy promotes social inclusion, equality and justice.
Essentially, Advocacy enables the users to express their views and helps them to make informed choices by making available to them quality information in their area of interest. A very critical aspect of advocacy is to question the way in which policies are conceived, designed and implemented. Advocates are expected to ensure that. the user and beneficiaries of the project have enough information to exercise autonomy; to make sure legal and moral rights are respected; and all other resources given in the appropriate quality and quantity required (Hyland, 2002).They may also want to participate in setting the agenda for significant issues raised. Some of these issues may be to.
a. Target political systems due to their inability to respond to people’s needs
b. Advocacy projects are very inclusive as well as engaging and
c. They can be useful in providing policy solutions
Advocacy can also serve as an avenue for opening up new opportunities and spaces for public debates. The media, if effectively used, can facilitate the collective participation of the people in policy making. The strategic deployment of the media in any form as a tool for the advancement of a social or public policy initiative is what Jernigan and Wright (1996) refer to as Media Advocacy.
More importantly, if properly used, the new media can be a powerful tool for positive growth and development, advocacy and promoting democracy. Same way the new media has great capacity to promote good, it has the same capacity to promote evil (Williams, 1974). A medium with such a great frontier like quality also provides a great opportunity for ethical lapses; the dishonest can easily perpetuate evil (James Carrie et al, 2008). Nevertheless the kind of media one uses do no really matter as much as how it is used. Thus individuals can use the right media wrongly, for wrong, selfish and personal reasons marring the importance placed on the media as a tool for empowerment.
Ideally, a good professional advocacy should have two main components; the first is empowering clients to self-advocate through the provision of information and support, while the second type involves influencing a third party on behalf of clients. Schwartz, 2002 believes that the main arguments on advocacy have bordered on the ability to advocate, and at the same time, protect the autonomy of the client in an environment where there is an imbalance of power. A good professional advocacy would involve a good presentation of the relevant facts associated with the issue, garnered through research, designed to influence policy directions in a way that allows appropriate quantity and quality in the desired direction to satisfy societal needs. (Amusat, 2009)
1.2 Statement of the Research problem
The rise of the new media has no doubt opened new frontiers, new opportunities and new possibilities for professional advocates and those who want to contribute to the betterment of humanity. Today many civil rights and non-governmental organizations can now tap into the power of web. 2.0 As a tool for advocacy and empowerment because of the way it allows individuals to participate in creating, sharing and distributing their own media content, a fit that was almost impossible in the conventional sense. There is no doubt that the new media hold great potentials for advocates to tap into in gaining more support and promoting their cause. The latent potentials inherent in the new media cannot be achieved with everyone generating and posting materials that sometimes may be wrongly targeted.
Obviously, the new media as well as every other medium comes with its possibilities and perils, as its challenges are embedded in its own democratic advantages which gives everyone, the freedom and right to the media anytime, anywhere and this itself is begging to constitute a problem to advocate and media professionals; with non professionals creating, sharing and advocating for almost anything without concern to sensibilities and the principles of media and advocacy.
Today, there is a big problem with allowing everyone to create, chunk out and disseminate advocacy materials the way they want with no one responsible for checking out the credibility and authenticity of these material, advocacy as a profession is in a chaotic situation and this must be properly addressed. Sad to say that if this continues, the value and credibility of the media will soon fade out and so will the other media related profession.
1.3 Research Questions
The study intends to find answers to the following research questions
i.What are the challenges related to authenticity faced by the democratic, unanimous and anonymous use of the new media for advocacy?
ii.How and why are these challenges peculiar to the way the new media is used?
iii.What are the most appropriate steps those who want to use the new media for advocacy should take to make their work authentic?
1.5 Objectives of the Study
To realize the aim of this study, the researcher will carry out the following activities.
1. Do a survey of Nigerians who use the YouTube as an avenue to post, advocate and show support for advocacy campaigns
2. Check whether those who participate; receive, share, post and contribute to content on YouTube check out information and source of materials before participation.
3. To find out how effective the New Media has been when used as a tool for intervention and public engagement
4. Make necessary recommendation by designing an effective way of using the YouTube for advocacy.
1.6 Justification of the Study
The New Media is now playing a central role in the way people live and communicate, the way we participate in generating and disseminating materials intended for advocacy. Thus, it is imperative to look at the various challenges and short-comings associated with the medium when used as a tool for advocacy by individuals and groups.
1.7 Scope and Limitation of Study
This study is concerned with assessing the various challenges associated with the use of new media for advocacy. This study will limit itself to the employment of YouTube as an advocacy tool. It will concern itself with how the new media users now exploit the media as tool for advocacy thereby posing the challenge of authenticity as materials are produced and distributed indiscriminately by almost everyone. The analyses are derived from those deploying the YouTube only and thus not include other forms of new media.
However there several factors internal and external that would be of great influence to the result of this research, this limitations include;
Time. the study is limited by time being a research work within a given time frame of which the project must be realized.
Availability of materials. the level of availability of research materials and literatures in the proposed field of study will serve as a constraint to the researcher as the researcher can only make use of materials available.
Availability of finance. The researcher’s ability to carry out a more robust and detailed research will to a large extent be limited to the extent at which he is able to finance it. Thus the non availability of finance will affect the research as it will be funded by the researcher himself.
1.8 Definitions of Terms
Blogs. A short form for ‘web’ and ‘log’ a website containing a more or less online journal with single or multiple contributors.
Judgment. The ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources.
Links. They are trails linking up articles from one website to another; links makes articles from multiple sites available and easier to access.
Multitasking. The ability to scan one’s environment and shift focus when needed to salient details.
Networking. The ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information.
Simulation. The ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes.
SMS. A Short Message Service usually available to Mobile phone users which enables them to send short messages.
The Ethics Challenge. The breakdown of traditional forms of professional training and socialization that might prepare young people for their increasingly public roles as media makers and community participants.
YouTube. This is a popular video sharing website where people can upload, view and share videos through their channel.
Web 2.0. This is a term used to refer to a second generation web base application that enables the participation and interaction of communities allowing users to create and publish content.
Wiki. This is a group of web pages that allows users to add content similar to discussion forums.
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