South African Activists’ Use of Nanomedia and Digital Media in Democratization Conflicts
South African social activism reemerged in the 1990s after a brief lull following the end of apartheid and the transition to democracy. The revival of social activism appeared against the backdrop of a plethora of challenges facing the young democracy, including corruption, inequality, unemployment, and lack of service delivery. Protests have become a daily occurrence in South Africa as many of the poor people feel left out of the dividends democracy has brought. Although these protests are mediated in various ways—that is, activists use print and social media to broadcast their activities—many protests fail to attract mainstream media attention. This article explores how activists use nanomedia and digital media as communicative platforms in the context of an asymmetrical and tenuous relationship with mainstream media. The article draws on interviews with activists conducted during 2016 to explore their deployment of alternative communicative strategies in an environment where commercial mainstream media largely serves elite audiences and frames the discussion from the perspective of the civil society–democracy relationship.