Accepted paper:

#KalyppoChallenge & #Kalyselfie: On Digital Political Engagement in Contemporary Ghana's Democracy


Joseph Oduro-Frimpong (Ashesi University College)

Paper short abstract:

The cemented practice of citizen’s engagement with visualized political issues through social media in Ghana affords us the opportunity to concretely understand the dynamics of political public issues and political publics in Ghanaian politics.

Paper long abstract:

Beyond traditionally recognized arenas of political engagement, such as television, radio and newspapers, one observes in contemporary Ghanaian democratic politics, a 'new' and cemented practice of citizen's engagement with political issues via digital public spaces. Specifically, through social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp, citizens share politically saturated images like caricatures, cartoons and photoshopped images. Such images, visualizing circulating topical issues, not only aims to sensitize Ghanaians to topical issues and provide alternative perspectives to dominant topics but also provide grounds for vigorous political debates on such stories within Ghanaian social media public sphere. In this paper, I am motivated by a material approach to politics which takes the digital sphere and political images as areas that cumulatively allows "us to grasp the very concrete ways through which [political] "public" issues and "publics" emerge" (Meyer 2015: 5). I examine some of the thematic concerns of some of these shared caricatures (for example, the global practice of plagiarized political speeches), cartoons (for instance, election malpractices and associated violence), photoshopped images (for example, consequences of losing political elections). In doing so, the goal is to demonstrate how the images provide alternative popular realizations of topical issues which inform people and democratize the sources through which Ghanaian citizens access information. Second, the discussion is to show how these social media sites widen the political arenas via which people enact their citizenship by partaking in key national and international discussions.

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