Cinema Numerique Ambulant, Social Media, and Identity Politics

Cinema Numerique Ambulant, Social Media, and Identity Politics


This project documents the role of the West African mobile cinema unit, CNA, in the dissemination of more positive and culturally aware depictions of African using social media and web mapping.

Project History

The project began with a simple question by researcher Amadou Fofana: How can I document the activities of Cinema Numerique Ambulant (CNA) without having firsthand contact with them by going over to Africa? Having shot a short documentary about CNA a few years earlier on a visit to Senegal, Amadou was looking for a means to do some follow up research on the group. At the early stages of the project, there was no funding for an Africa trip to shoot a documentary, so we did the next best thing and found a different kind of firsthand contact with CNA to study, their Twitter posts.

Stage one involved setting up the Social Feed Manager to collect all tweets of the various CNA Twitter accounts. As we were collecting data from Twitter, we were also searching for patterns in these tweets by skimming status updates from these groups on the web. One such pattern Amadou found were frequent references to mobile cinema showings.

With this discovery began the second stage of the project: teaching the computer to recognize these patterns and aid the researcher in getting them on a map and finding historical data of cinema showings in West Africa to provide context for CNA's activity.

People Involved With The Project

  • Amadou Fofana, Humanities Writ Large Visiting Faculty Fellow (2015-16), Cultural Anthropology & Romance Studies (Primary Investigator)