Monthly Archives: June 2013

Why are students choosing to air their most private ‘stuff’ on social media????

Why the heightened anxiety about young people using social media to air their sexual activity?
Is this just deviant and unworthy behaviour, and should students be banned for abusing their access to new media? Access is great but what about responsible and constructive use of social media? Who are the arbiters of responsible use?

After reading and hearing about this story in the media, I went online and examined only one site and its content. I admit there was indeed a load of absolute and utter you-know-what. However, there were also a few entries I did find that, if critically analysed, could raise some interesting issues. Take, for instance, the number of comments referring to rape on campus – could this indicate perhaps that this is a real and general social problem rather than just a campus issue?

As I discussed this news story with others, I sensed two major issues emerging: the information that flowed out of it could indeed be a symptom of a social malaise and it could be a significant indicator of social media’s powerful role in the identity development of young users?

Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is human communication and information sharing via new media technology and has been shown to facilitate the formation of ‘virtual’ or online identities behind which many users hide in order to raise questions, put out information, test opinions etc. Hence, because of the anonymity allowed by social media, people are more ready to disclose personal information and to experiment with different personas, role-playing, and even creating an idealised version of one’s self.

As a communicator and media analyst, I decided to explore this phenomenon of students’ off-loading online. I wanted to understand whether these private, individualistic ramblings-as-entries could, in any way, be seen as representations of what some academics may refer to as ‘the suffering subject’ trying to negotiate a sense of being and belonging. Is this sensationalist media content a call for help?

What are your thoughts on this matter?
Before you rush into it, let me offer some current thoughts for you to consider before you send your comments:
1. Issues of policy, legality, privacy, confidentiality – As with all new media content, these prevail and need consideration and debate
2. Use of institutional networks: Risk management is a major issue for universities etc where students are using internet and intranet for their own purposes. The universities have the right to set the rules for use within that context.
3. Democracy offers freedom but responsibility: media and individual freedom: who determines the extent of the freedoms; who are the role models of responsibility?
4. Media and Society: Media representations reflect the state of their society. Is this a global or local issue?
5. New media offers access and interactive engagement: Social media forums are sites of change and action. Throughout history alternative media have emerged where the mainstream media exclude certain groups who challenge and confront the dominant groups.
6. Expression of individuality; development of a sense of identity and community, but are these virtual or real or both?

Please Comment! Join the conversation on this current topic …….

How to fix SA – do things differently

Amidst the sad and ugly reality of unacceptable levels of unemployment, fraud at all levels, poor service delivery and unprecedented skills, education and leadership shortages, all citizens are engaged in the ‘how to fix South Africa’ discourse. The media and analysts offer facts and figures that incite fear and fury, such as, “social spending (in grants, free services etc.) amounts to 58% of government expenditure. 72% of our unemployed are below the age of 34. We have more South Africans receiving money from welfare than are in employment”. Clearly something is broken and we have to try and fix it.

For his book, “How to fix South Africa – the country’s leading thinkers on what must be done to create jobs”, Ray Hartley chose to get ideas from those at the top. And although the ideas may be good and rationally constructed, I would suggest we now get working from the bottom up, with the doers, not the debaters and thinkers who have been at it for years and yet nothing has actually changed. We all know the problems and their causes, and many interventions, plans and programmes have been proposed by government and business to achieve the goals of five million jobs and 100% functionally literate and numerate workforce by 2030. These have not got off the ground due, mainly, to bureaucratic red tape and regulations, or a sense of powerlessness to tackle the humungous task. There’s too much talk and not enough action. So what we now need is action.

But firstly, let me give you the gist of the ideas which now need to be put into action by all citizens:

Adrian Gore talks about two approaches to job creation: “the populist, immediate and interventionist, urging the hiring of workers at any cost…it is financially unsustainable”,  and “the classical economist’s view – long term and structural, government is required to provide the conditions to make hiring attractive to business. Fundamentals such as education, healthcare, labour flexibility and barriers to entry must be addressed.” Clearly, if the present ‘interventionist’ approach of the government is not working, then surely this bottom-up approach needs to be explored more to make South Africa’s economy and society work better?

”Action is critical”, says Cyril Ramaphosa. “Our resolve to create jobs should be executed with a determination and speed akin to that of how one would save another person from a burning building”. “We need to make our economy more competitive. The cost of labour needs to be confronted……[but] we don’t have the time. We need to act now….. As a society we need to reconsider the role and place of SMEs and develop and raise entrepreneurial activity”. We can’t solely rely on government and big business to create new jobs.

Bobby Godsell says, “What our society needs is gainful employment, that economic activity where real value is created or, where the value created by employment exceeds its cost. No other formula can sustain economic activity”.

To enjoy future growth, wealth and social stability, we “need to make sacrifices today,” according to Pravin Gordhan. He believes “we need to work together and create synergies to make a contribution to a better South Africa. Corporate learnership programmes endorse Lincoln Mali’s idea that to solve this social problem “the whole village must mobilise and get involved.”

Ann Bernstein suggests that following the “Asia success story” would take workers out of poverty. Compared to the dismal future awaiting the presently unemployed, accepting low paying jobs could at least give them a foot in the economic door and could lead to “training, discipline, skills and opportunities that flow from that”.  The demand for higher wages does not make South Africa competitive, and that is the aim if we want to grow our wealth.

According to Helen Zille, “the biggest obstacle to doing business in South Africa is an inefficient government bureaucracy”.  Therefore it is up to entrepreneurs to create jobs and wealth. Zille quotes the statistics showing, “68% of private sector employment and 50% of our GDP are contributed by businesses employing fewer than 50 people”. These businesses should receive tax benefits and be rewarded for skilling their workers. The youth wage subsidy programme tries to encourage businesses to employ workers and initiate skills development in the workplace, reducing government bureaucracy.

“Obstacles to employment must be removed, fast!” says Herman Mashaba, “something [a low paying job] is better than nothing, being active is better than being idle and you do not learn skills by sitting at home…..there is no justification for interfering with the wishes of the workers who would rather have a poorly paid job than no job.” He acknowledges the potential of SMEs to reduce unemployment, for it is in the small firms that many receive training that allows them to access jobs in larger firms.

Michael Spicer, “The failure of policy and governance…and the self-defeating consequences of the wage and strike strategy of the union……the ignoring of issues of productivity, competitiveness and generation of wealth does not contribute to rational debate….. Government, business and labour must break with the past and do things differently, where the state enables business to create wealth and employment.”  He asks: “Why so little productivity bargaining”? Why not more bonus schemes linked to productivity? Then there is the issue of welcoming “skilled immigrants.” According to Jardine, SA skills are benefitting other markets so we end up having to import specialist skills.

Moeletsi Mbeki writes: “For SA to create jobs we need to provide incentives to private sector…. to invest in new enterprises, to expand existing companies and to develop new products and processes. The labour force needs to be motivated to embrace productivity growth and a strong work ethic. Protected employment….producing shoddy goods and poor services, are always on a road to nowhere.”

Godsell explains that entrepreneurship creates value through combining resources in new ways. People can solve problems and build relationships that create value, machines cannot.  Each worker needs to be “both problem-solver and relationship-builder” and be an active citizen in economic growth activity.

“The future is not in BEE but in SEE – self-economic empowerment,” says Muzi Kuzwayo. “There must be something fundamentally wrong with people who are fighting for economic freedom yet despise selling tomatoes and fatcakes on the street.” According to Brett Dawson, “employment means much more than earning an income: it promotes self-worth, independence and innovation.” He also maintains that “by investing in the sustainable development of SMEs, you can make invaluable inroads into boosting skills and creating employment.”

Locally, constructive and concrete suggestions emerged at a meeting at the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business where the CEO, Melanie Veness, identified the small to medium enterprise (SME) sector, as the locus for skills development of the youth, as an excellent starting point. Local businesses could start by employing young enthusiastic job-seekers and graduates, skill them to perform well in a business environment, encourage them to have the confidence to be more entrepreneurial and to start businesses of their own – that will grow the economy and create jobs. “Soft skills” training is vital in helping people to thrive in the working world. What makes one worker a better bet than another? What adds value to a person’s performance in the workplace is the ability to  communication better, write better, understand what’s expected of you, ask questions, think critically, a balance of respect, assertiveness, patience, empathy, confidence, attitude – these “fuel entrepreneurship”.

“Roll up our sleeves to halve the unemployment problem in under 10 years” says Zille, and according to Bierbaum, “Every individual needs to see their own power in creating a solution.” With no more excuses and one vision.

First PR Workshop a success

Maralyn, Angie, Shan and Thobile hard at work

Maralyn, Angie, Shan and Thobile hard at work

There were only 5 of us but we certainly connected and engaged and grew!

Taking a break from the hard work!

Taking a break from the hard work!

Thobile Mdunge from Shuter and Shooter Publishers, Shan Cade of The CLIP System, Angie Narayanan from Community Chest and Maralyn Atkins from Hilton College – all involved in some aspect of public relations – shared their experiences, learnt new things and went away with ideas. It was a good example of Experiential learning.

The highlight for me was the outcome of the task entitled: Develop a Corporate Identity for a company that produces a blow-up life-size doll to use as companion for the aged, children, the lonely etc!

All participants gave very positive feedback and I certainly feel encouraged to pursue my activities….

Tuesday, 11 June, comes with the challenges of addressing issues related to: PR and the Media, Sponsorship, CSI and Public Affairs, as well as each participant actually drawing up a PR Plan.