New forms of connecting and networking via social media help maintain social ties with kin both near and far overcoming the tyranny of distance; as well as forging new connections, via Facebook and other social media, with strangers and distant others. This seminar draws on rich original empirical research conducted across Malawi to examine rural-urban variations in access to and use of social media, as well as differentiation by age, gender and educational level. Questions considered are: is social media use widening or bridging the digital divide? Whether social media use reflects (and possibly magnifies) existing social and spatial inequalities or transforms them? Particular focus is on the have nots in a highly stratified landscape of social media users while considering the varied uses of social media by children and young people in Malawi. While social media is rightly celebrated for its empowering impacts for young people and children, there are concerns about its misuse for ‘immoral’, criminal and abusive activities.
About the speakers
Dr Elsbeth Robson (BSc, MA, DPhil) is a human and development geographer with research and teaching interests in social inequality and social justice particularly with respect to women and children/youth in sub-Saharan Africa. Her research embraces qualitative, participatory and quantitative research methods. She is Senior Lecturer in human geography at the University of Hull having studied at Universities of Durham, Tübingen, Oxford and Ahmadu Bello. Her doctorate focused on the work of rural Hausa women in Northern Nigeria using feminist theories of empowerment applied to socio-spatial mobilities and inequalities. As Lecturer in Development Studies (within Geography) at Keele University Dr Robson developed research on young people’s caregiving work within the AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa. Subsequently she managed components of large multi-country, inter-institutional and inter-disciplinary ESRC-DFID research grants in Malawi,notably on young people, tranposrt, mobility and mobile phones. Her current research in Africa includes projects on cash transfers, commmunity health workers and mobile phones.