guest post: if digital is king, be one of the lead narrators / siana bangura

“According to Wikipedia, as of June 2017, 51% of the world’s population has access to the Internet — that’s about 3.2 billion people. The figure may even be closer to 4 billion. Of the top ten countries that are listed as using the Internet the most, unsurprisingly the USA tops the list, followed by China, Japan, Germany, India, and the UK (in descending order). The number of social media users worldwide is estimated to be 3.2 billion in 2018 and the number of mobile phone users worldwide in 2018 is around 5.1 billion. 

With over 2 billion active users — despite recent data mining scandals — Facebook is still leading the pack as far as the social media juggernaut is concerned, with YouTube, Facebook-owned WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter following behind.

Why do these numbers matter?

Even without them, anecdotally we can see the power of the online space, particularly in democratising platforms, conversations, and enterprises previously (exclusively) the domain of the more privileged among us (read: cisgender able-bodied heterosexual heteronormative white men) and making accessing people, thoughts, opinions, and resources much easier across geographical boundaries. The best example of this is the phenomenon of Black Twitter (no doubt many of you reading this will be either familiar with Black Twitter, be a part of it, or have experienced its wrath/ been the butt of its banter).

The democratisation of the Internet has meant voices on the margins — such as those ‘belonging’ to Black Twitter — have found a way to move to the centre, often becoming the tastemakers and defining the cultural status quo in the process. With local physical space becoming increasingly more difficult to acquire in cities like London due to phenomena such as gentrification, coupled with the realities of a widespread African diaspora, communicating, organising, and building in the digital world has lent itself well to a new wave of Black women’s resistance — an online and digital clapback with offline ramifications. Twitter in particular, although founded in 2006, gained significant traction in the years 2011-2013, becoming a key platform for the emergence of ‘woke’ and ‘conscious’ young and politically active voices. 

I joined Twitter in February 2011. I even remember one of my first tweets was complaining about the fact that nobody was talking to me. Fast forward to 2017 and I am verified on the platform and have a strong follower count. Although I’ve recently fallen out of love with the platform, increasingly favouring the more visual (and currently less cantankerous Instagram space) I, and other Black women like me have created corners of the Internet — of which Twitter is one — to elevate our voices, share our opinions, and be(come) visible and in turn, hold a magnifying glass to the many ways mainstream media, social platforms, and every other space of power and influence excludes Black women, rendering us invisible.

Of course, the online space is not the be all and end all, neither is one’s follower count. However, the increasing influence of the online space and the digital content that lives in it cannot be denied.

And who makes this content?

Often young creatives, artists, and content creators like me (fighting erasure and theft of our intellectual property, efforts, time, innovation, and talents — a constant battle in the digital age). 

And for all my sins, as a millennial and a product of a digital landscape, as well as a consumer of digital content, I am also a producer of it for leisure as well as to pay my bills. As a (bit of a) political animal, a social commentator, community organiser, writer and producer, I have found using online tools and social media — for the most part — as a key method of spreading my message, to be empowering. Like other young Black creators and creators from global majority descent, I have had to find ways to carve a niche for my voice and build a meaningful brand. A decade or two ago, some of the jobs in my vibrant portfolio career would not have existed — or were just emerging as a viable option.
Nowadays, with 51% of the world’s entire population online in some way shape or form and 3.2 billion people on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and increasingly Instagram and Twitter, businesses and organisations increasingly understand that a strong and sincere online presence is vital if you want to reach a younger and more ‘diverse’ demographic, as well as be more accessible to and engage with a wider audience overall.

From videos, to podcasts, meme culture, blogging and Vlogging, we’ve found ways to speak our minds in a variety of different mediums. It is debatable whether this ‘connectivity’ has really connected us (see recent conversations about social media and loneliness) — but social media has been a powerful tool for organising, galvanising, and forging space in which change-making activity can take place online and offline.

Despite tech and business spaces claiming to be ‘experts’ on all things digital, I’ve found they tend to be pretty homogeneous and not inclusive. That said, the opportunities the digital landscape offers have enabled me to forge a freelance creative portfolio career that boasts production work in theatre, documentary filmmaking, online and offline curation, and events planning as well as providing space and opportunities for my creative work as a performer to reach wider (and newer) audiences beyond my immediate network.
My skills and experience as a Digital Content Producer have enabled me to work with the likes of broadcasters such as the BBC and Channel 4, mainstream, millennial, and alternative platforms, and theatres and creative organisations such as Gate Theatre, tiata fahodzi, and most recently English Touring Theatre.

I’m keen to see more young Black and Brown content creators like me in more ‘formal’ positions getting regularly paid and credited for the content we create and the trends we set.  It’s certainly true that the digital world is not the be all and end all — I’m still partial to hard copy books and archiving and meeting in real, tangible, physical space — but if digital content is king, it’s important diverse voices (that’s what they call us) are leading the charge… and narrating the storytelling.”

We are currently looking for a Digital Content Producer — find out more and apply here:

Siana Bangura is a writer, poet, performer, and producer from South East London. She is the author of critically acclaimed debut collection ‘Elephant’, and is the founder and former editor of No Fly on the WALL and producer of ‘1500 & Counting’.

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