A reflection on KONY 2012

All it took was the arrangement of four letters and four numbers to create a sign that was to hijack all forms of social media, setting a benchmark for the new age participatory culture through challenging social and political ideologies on a global scale. This sign, as you may have all come to love or hate, is KONY 2012.

(Image Source: The Kony 2012 Is Here, Top News, 10/3/2012)

The KONY 2012 campaign has transitioned itself from merely the signifier to the signified, as the decoding of messages within the KONY documentary, the foundation for the KONY 2012 sign, have become a point in people’s lives where they then can identify change and this will often lead to decisions/ new ways of thinking/evolving. (Kligler-Vilenchik 2012)

Kim (2004) references David Morley’s Study of the Nationwide Audience (1980), which outlines three hypothetical positions a reader may occupy. The mainstream media has encouraged these readings through its various representations and reflections of the KONY 2012 phenomena Worldwide. Morley’s concept of the negotiated reading can be seen in accordance with the medias initial representation of the KONY operation in creating global awareness of Joseph Kony’s inhumane actions through establishing inquisitiveness and interest. Curiosity, in this instance, is the key, where the medias initial interpretation of KONY 2012 as a mysterious uprising encourages readers to not only accept the medias intended caution to the issue but to also modify this reading into a reflection of ones particular ideological views and opinions.

The dominant or hegemonic reading, detailed by Morley (1980), foresees an audience whom accepts the preferred reading into KONY 2012, this being the medias message for simply creating global awareness associated with social and political issues. In conforming to this dominant reading, those with a vested interest of the KONY crusade succeed in following Invisible Children’s owner Jason Russell’s mission to ‘Make Kony Famous’, where the social activist encourages citizens to “Watch the film. Sign the pledge. Join the revolution.”

This dominant reading into the global issue see’s the medias representation of the integral message, being the emphasis on individuals and communities have the capacity and influence to make the World a far more just place, through reblogging and sharing the KONY documentary to raise awareness.  Juxtaposed to this is the medias more skeptical portrayal of the viral campaign, perceiving the Invisible Children Organisations crusade as a fraud.

Readers of KONY 2012 have identified the campaign as hosting a neo-colonialist agenda, sparking debate as to where the proceeds of the mission are going, as Oysten (2012) mentions how last year the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This particular depiction of the viral KONY 2012 movement by the media harnesses what David Morley (1980) describes as an oppositional or counter hegemonic reading, encouraging readers of the global phenomena to reject the preferred pro Invisible Children stance just as the media has done on several occasions.

In keeping with both the media and the readers oppositional take on the issue, is the reporting of the campaign which utilizes a differed anti KONY stance, presented as a reflection of the detriment it has caused to Uganda’s social and economic instability. As presented in Global: Africa (2012) this reading notes just how reputation makers of KONY 2012 have attempted to taint with the lie that Uganda was still at conflict with the LRA. Despite Ugandan Ambassador Kamunanwire’s claim that the Ugandan community is free, safe and stable, the media continues to present to and encourage readers to indulge in this oppositional stance in an attempt to challenge individual perceptions within the modern mediated public sphere.

Through following the medias various perceptions and representations on the viral KONY 2012 movement, I have been able to distinguish and reflect upon just how differed readings can produce unique meanings of a significant issue. Steering away from Habermauss’s traditional definition of the public sphere, the 21st century embraces reality; the mediated public sphere of 2012 enabled by the diversification of media, where KONY 2012 has proved to set a benchmark for social media use on a global scale, enabling all citizens within the new age participatory culture to engage with and develop their own readings into the KONY matter in itself.




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