LIft13, Mobile Stories: Christopher Kirkley, Sahel Sounds

Here are my live notes of the Lift Conference session “Mobile Stories.” Keep an eye open for mistakes, inaccuracies, and other flakiness due to live-blogging.
Christopher Kirkley: Sahel Sounds

Camera and other functions supersede making calls. How technology has been adopted in a different culture challenges some of our ideas.

Initially thought the cellphone would interfere with his field work and recordings. Started to realize that the cellphones were also a tool (e.g. people recording local music productions).

The cellphone in West Africa is a little different from in the West. Cheap alternative phone market, converging technologies into one device. Memory card as personal storage space of all digital media. Photos reworked and passed from person to person.

People spend a lot of time sitting around and drinking tea, context where file-sharing can happen. So cellphone adapted as a sharing device. Bluetooth for direct file transfers. Browsing each other’s collections. This is how most media is traded. Emergent network: cellphones and people traveling from city to city. steph-note: back to a “slow” network with spatial highways

Metaphor for the internet. Has evolved differently from “our internet”. Most frequently shared data on mobiles is music. Soundscape has been transformed. Tinny cellphone music being played all the time, headphones pretty much inexistent. Home-made creations found only on the bluetooth exchange network. Most interesting music! Music would not be distributed without the cellphones (cheap!) About 15$ to record a song in a cheap studio (don’t need the best microphone…). You can walk out of the studio and immediately start sharing your song. Great method of distribution for music of ethnic minorities.

Shops which are physical versions of iTunes: you go and buy an MP3 song. Of course paying for the service and not the music (which isn’t perceived as having an inherent value). For artists: mp3 trading as a way of free promotion. A lot of artists are actually going to the mp3 vendors with their new songs so they will distribute them, sometimes even paying them to promote them.

Student who publicly shames a director for abusing students in exchange for grades, through a rap song. Song goes viral. Student expelled until he deletes the song, so he deletes it. But it’s already on the network, out of control.

Rise of the cyborg esthetic in Mali.

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