Asew Kwansima, blame the new technology!

Wed, 23 Sep 2015 Source: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

It is called “Technology.” And in our kind of an increasingly smaller world, Information Communication Technology (ICT) has brought about what the immortalized Canadian media expert, Marshall McLuhan called the “Global Village.”

In the global village, the cell-/mobile phone and its multiplicity of applications render distance practically nonexistent and/or insignificant. And that is why in the wake of the tragic road accident that claimed the life of Mr. Samuel Nuamah, the Flagstaff House-attached Ghanaian Times reporter, the deceased man’s U.S.-resident wife was able to learn about the untimely passing of her husband before relatives in Ghana (See “Nuamah’s Wife in US Heard the News Before I Did – Mum” Citifmonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 8/31/15).

The other problem faced by the dead man’s mother-in-law, Ms. Aba Kwansima, is the fact that these global technologies, and I am here also thinking about the computer, were not developed with the conservative adherents of any particular culture in mind, least of all Ghanaian and African cultures.

Information Communication Technology is primarily about the spread or dissemination of information from one corner of the globe to another in the fastest possible time. And this often means we are talking about seconds and nanoseconds, rather than minutes and hours. And such information as routinely transmitted include graphic images, or photographs, of the kind that Ms. Kwansima wishes she had not been repulsively bombarded with vis-à-vis the grisly demise of her beloved son-in-law.

You see, in the world of ICT, what is of utmost importance is the content of information and the time which it takes to transmit the same. Here also, the old capitalist credo of “time is money” is pretty much front and center. The person or human being is important, of course, for it is human beings who consume such information as is swiftly, or rapidly, made available by ICT. But here, the reference is to the generic human being, rather than individuals. It is a very rude observation to have to make, but this is the reality and the wave of our time and the future.

Then also, inasmuch as culture continues to significantly impact technological inventions and usage, in the media industry and culture, speed is of the essence. Here again, the capitalist credo of “time is money” is the overriding determinant or the rule. In media practice – both print and electronic – there is something called the “scoop.” It has to do with the fact of who happens to get the news first and is able to disseminate the same before all other competitors.

The advantage of “scooping” one’s competitors is to establish one’s professional competence and credibility. These two elements translate into advertising dollars and cedis, not whether anybody is apt to be sorrowfully staggered or traumatized by the nature and contents of the news. This is “modernization”; it means the radical and thorough breaking down of cultural and geopolitical boundaries. This is what the late Mr. Nuamah’s mother-in-law was bitterly complaining about when Ms. Kwansima pleaded with journalists to show some sensitivity and respect for bereaved families in the reportage of bad news.

The new technology is no respecter of emotional and psychological trauma that is apt to be caused by the “rude” and raw reportage of bad news. Like everything else in life, ICT has its good and bad aspects, depending on how one looks at it. For example, I have relatives and friends who often call or email to find out how I came to so closely follow events on the ground in Ghana much better than they who actually live on Ground Zero. I often respond to such queries in two ways: First of all, I am a professionally trained journalist who has the proverbial eyes and nose for readily picking up what is newsworthy to remark on and bring to public attention. The latter is primarily fired up by my dispassionate sense of patriotism and my deeply felt need to contribute to the critical discourse on national development.

Then also as a first-generation immigrant resident in the United States for some three decades, you really never become emotionally attached to mainstream American culture as a racial and ethnic minority. My American-born children, on the other hand, are perfectly as American as apple pie. Essentially, I tread a middle ground, being that I have also been decidedly socialized into not tolerating the sort of sociopolitical and cultural lethargy and regression of the sort that appears to have become normalized in my “parentsland.” In that sense, I am a veritable cultural bat.

Columnist: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.