Examining the images of two African countries on YouTube will take a step towardseeing how true these claims are.
For centuries, the African continent has historically and continues today to be mis-represented and stereotyped. Be it through journalism, ﬁlm or literature, a ‘processof inscription and appropriation’ by the West has often been the key means ofcreating the dominant images of Africa (Duncan and Gregory, 1999: 3). Such imagesare social constructions supported through labeling, marginalization and other tech-niques to suggest particular ways of reading or interpreting the region. For example,Africans have traditionally been represented as ‘closer to nature, more emotional,sexually uninhibited, more musical, childlike’ (Pieterse, 1992: 11). One of the commonrhetorical devices western writers have employed to create such images is surveil-lance, through which a culture is examined, and therefore ultimately controlled bythe western gaze (Spurr, 1993). Western observers employ their gaze to create anOther tied to the exercise of imperial power (Pratt, 1992; Spurr, 1993). Those viewingthis Other are above or outside of that which they observe. Their gaze, then, is an‘active instrument of construction, order and arrangement’ (Spurr, 1993: 15). West-erners’ dominance of both knowledge and image production has enabled them toexercise dominion over Africa for centuries (Mudimbe, 1988; Pieterse, 1992).Researchers suggest that the imagery created via various genres such as litera-ture or anthropological observations tends to reappear as potent journalistic stereo-types that are widely redistributed through the reach of news outlets. Repetitiveimages are echoed to the point where they become naturalized. In this way, thenews media have contributed to the tropes that we most frequently associate withthe continent (Pires, 2000). Research on news images of Africa consistently conﬁrmsthat the region is portrayed as backward and violent, with warring tribes andextreme poverty (Fair, 1993; Moeller, 1999). The end result is the images becomepermanently embedded in the public’s mind, making it difﬁcult if not impossible tointroduce new ones (Ogundimu, 1994).
Technology and Africa
While it has long been argued that technological advances fail to contribute toimproving Africa’s image (Okigbo, 1995), more recent research suggests this situ-ation may be changing. Harding (2003), for example, argues that more recentlyAfrica has been seen differently within the West via new media formats and genresthat she believes exhibit fewer stereotypes and more open texts, resulting in a morenuanced and complex view. In addition, she argues that as new communicationtechnologies have become more widely available in Africa, Africans themselves arebetter positioned to create and distribute their own representations. This line ofthought is also embodied in what a new generation of African leaders promotes asan ‘African Renaissance’ in which the continent is seen as an emerging investmentopportunity marked by success more than disasters (Hunter-Gault, 2006). They see
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION GAZETTE VOL. 71 NO. 5