Sites of Playful Engagement: Twitter Hashtags as Spaces of Leisure and Development in Kenya

Melissa Tully, Brian Ekdale


Through an analysis of popular Kenyan hashtags on Twitter, we argue that everyday leisure and entertainment practices interact with development and civic engagement in Kenya. This research draws from participation in the Kenyan Twittersphere, analysis of spaces created by hashtags, and fieldwork conducted in Nairobi between 2009 and 2012. Through hashtags, Kenyans on Twitter unite against perceived government corruption, respond to media misrepresentations of their country, share jokes, and participate in global conversations. We argue that sites emerge through the interaction of playful and serious content and that these sites should be examined within ICTD research. Playful activities should not be dismissed as irrelevant to development, as everyday use of Twitter is often imbued with topics tied to social, political, and economic development.

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