SOAS alumnus Chipo Mapondera is a software engineer and UX designer currently based in Zimbabwe. In 2019, she completed her MA in Global Media and Postnational Communication. During her studies, she launched the Global Digital Futures podcast and founded the SOAS Coding Club, which was the university’s first official tech society.
This month, Chipo will be launching season three of the podcast with support from two current SOAS students in the Centre for Global Media and Communication. The season will feature conversations with leading experts in the fields of technology and innovation to talk about the future of digital technologies and their global impact, with a focus on perspectives and ideas from across the Global South.
We spoke to Chipo about why SOAS Radio was the perfect home to launch her podcast, and what listeners can look forward to in the upcoming season.
Why did you decide to come to SOAS and study global media and postnational communication?
I had been working in the fashion industry in marketing as an ecommerce and digital marketing manager. I was teaching myself to code as well … it was just a personal interest. I decided to go to SOAS because I was sick of the Western perspective in all my studies before, so I wanted to focus on what’s happening in the Global South in a new perspective.
What made you decide to launch a podcast at SOAS Radio?
Before I went to SOAS I had been planning to start a coding club. All the other London universities had some sort of tech societies, but there was no tech society at SOAS. I thought a podcast was a good way to get people into the discussion about technology and realize that new media is relevant to their practices. I contacted SOAS Radio because I thought it was a really great way to learn how to proceed. It was this fully kitted out professional platform to launch this podcast on and it was an amazing opportunity.
Where do you get your ideas for episodes and how do you decide who to speak to?
Being at SOAS in that space of discussing digital and technological phenomena, and having lecturers and experts in the Global South, it was the perfect way to tap into relevant topics. I was able to ask my lecturers for their input. Dina Matar was mentoring me in the process, Matti Pohjonen was the convener of my Masters and was hugely helpful and introduced me to different people. It was really about using those networks and using that information that was right in front of me.
Tell us about the podcast’s focus on technology and innovation, specifically in the Global South. What kinds of perspectives do you hope to bring from these countries or regions?
I think it’s what makes our podcast unique. We’re really tapping into this niche that’s not so spoken about. We do need this space where experts are keen to come on to the show, speak about what they’re doing, and share it with our community. Our community was SOAS students at that time. Now we’re broadening that to anybody who wants to understand what’s happening in technology and digital media in the Global South, or wants to critically analyze parallels of what’s happening in the West and elsewhere.
What have you been planning for season three and the brand relaunch of the Global Digital Futures podcast?
After finishing my studies, I started working and I did try and continue the podcast but I couldn’t manage doing everything by myself. I needed more help and more resources. So I started looking at funding and that’s what drove the rebranding. I’ve now got a small team including two SOAS MA students – Deirbhile and Eliza – who are junior producers on the show. We’ve got the first round of funding from Santander, we’ve been able to get started with new artwork and produce a few episodes. We’re aiming to really uplift the whole brand, the whole marketing around it, and even the production. We’ll have a new format, a different sound. It’s really exciting.
What are some of the topics in the upcoming season?
In the first episode of season three, we spoke to Craig Ryder, a Doctoral Researcher & Digital Anthropologist at SOAS about the consequences of deep fakes in Sri Lanka. Other upcoming episodes will be on social media and how it has impacted the most recent elections and politics in Zimbabwe. We also have episodes about the trajectory of social media influences in Brazil, extreme speech and content moderation, conspiracy theories like QAnon … We’ve got a lot.
Listen to the Global Digital Futures podcast, or follow them on Instagram and Twitter @global_futures. You can also subscribe to the Global Digital Futures Substack for fortnightly updates about the show.