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Networked participatory cultures in Lusaka, Zambia: how teenagers experience social media and mobile phones.

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Teenagers’ networked participatory culture is influenced by the way they interact, self-present themselves, establish and maintain friendships, and the way they coordinate their day to day lives. Livingstone and Third (2017) have argued that these have contributed to teenagers’ pervasive access and use of social media and mobile phones. This study adopted a qualitative approach and an interpretivist paradigm. It adopted Focus Group Discussions [FGDs]. The study sampled a population of teenagers aged 15 to 18 years drawn from six government funded secondary schools in Lusaka, Zambia. Analysis of the FGDs and in-depth interview data using thematic analysis showed that teenagers in Lusaka engage in networked participatory culture. Firstly, the findings reveal that teenagers’ engagement with networked participatory culture is closely linked to the concept of identity and self-representation. The study further reveals that engagement on social media and mobile phones contributes to identity construction through the process of creation of profiles, displaying networks composed of connections, displaying pictures, links, music preference and other personal information. Three key findings emerged from the data on networked participatory culture using mobile phones and social media. Firstly, teenagers consider ownership of smart phones as a key determinant of their participation. The participants reported that absolute ownership necessitated greater privacy and control over information and people they communicated with. Secondly, it was established that the smart phone’s primary purposes were for building social networks, content prosumption and for communication purposes. Thirdly, the study revealed that teenagers were motivated to access and use social media for variant reasons. These include self-expression, gaining freedom and independence to produce content, a need to satisfy an urge to gain popularity, to improve on their personal knowledge and skills, and to cultivate a sense of community belonging and networking in virtual communities. More broadly, the study makes an important contribution to literature as it relates to inter-nationalizing media and communication studies’ (Willems and Mano, 2017: 4; Mutsvairo, 2018; Thussu, 2009; Curran and Park, 2000; Wang, 2011) as well as internet studies and audience studies (Goggin and McLelland, 2009; Butsch and Livingstone, 2014). To be specific, the research makes a novel scholarly contribution to literature on the social and cultural issues influencing networked participatory culture amongst teenagers in Lusaka, Zambia.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.