Social media as ‘Pavement Radio’ – New Media Publics


Malmö University runs the one-year masters programme Communication for Development. Below is an excerpt of an article written by ComDev’ers Ylva Ekström, Hugo Boothby and Anders Høg Hansen where they try to understand the emerging (social) media practice in Tanzania in the light of a series of explosions that happened at a military base in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The full article can be accessed here.

While the cameras, microphones and spotlights of the world media were targeted towards the wave of people’s demonstration in northern Africa, a disaster was taking place further south on the same continent. In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as it has in north Africa, social media would play an important role in enabling a group of people often excluded from news production an opportunity to report their own stories and construct a narrative of the nights events.


On the evening of the 16th of February 2011, a series of explosions started in an ammunition depot in a military base located next door to the high-density residential area Gongo la Mboto, on the outskirts of Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam. The multiple blasts went on for several hours, and could be seen, heard and felt all over the mega-city. Julius Nyerere Airport (Dar es Salaam’s international airport), located nearby, had to be closed down for a day and night, and homes neighboring the Gongo la Mboto military base were destroyed. At least 20 people were killed, hundreds were injured, and in the turmoil and chaos several hundred children were separated from their parents (but according to information from the Tanzanian Red Cross most of them were reunited with their families within a week.

The following article is, we hope, the first stage in an ongoing process as we try to understand better emerging (social) media practice in Tanzania, and sub-Saharan Africa. In the weeks following our first conversation we have exchanged ideas, documents and countless e-mails in an attempt to structure the article into a cohesive piece that explores further some of the things we first talked about the morning after the blasts. Our discussion that day began with the suggestion that the way social media was being used during and after the explosions could be the logical progression of an oral media tradition which has long existed in Tanzania, the practice of using media as a social activity.

Read the full article here: Social media as ‘Pavement Radio’ – New Media Publics; a Tanzanian case study

If you are interested in the Communication for Development master programme, this is the ComDev portal.

Image credit: quiquemendizabal CC:BY-NC-ND