The cyber cafe is a fixture in the past years, as the internet boom has sounded across W. Africa. Memory cards, USB sticks, and cellphones — the portable data kits to carry the digital identity — demand spurious tweaking. The cyber is not just a port for internet connectivity, but a space to manage and exchange data. All that maintenance and swapping collects digital ephemera like orbiting space junk, spread across the Windows XP desktop in folders more than not, labeled “Noveau dossier.”
The cyber computers become nodes on the W. African digital data highway, a local chain of hard drives and memory sticks where traffic is not metaphoric, but represents real physical movement (on the day a boat of tourists docks into town, is it any surprise that snapshots of the town are added to the desktop clutter?). I imagine the impossible, data mining “dates of creation” and id3 tags to analyze alluring mysteries like the proliferation of Akon across the Senegal-Mauritania border, the effect of Saint Louis fishing trade on Marabout chanting mp3 transmission, and why everyone loves Zouk.
Informed minds tell me the cyber cafe business has reached its peak. In the past year, the cafes have begun to decrease in number, a mass migration to home internet provided by the blinking light of the USB internet key and in a few years, the secreted archives of the cyber cafes and their disconnected network of transmission will be absorbed into the greater internet. But enough speculation:
Podor, Senegal’s cyber cafe, selections from computer number 6:
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and a few links:
just wanted to say thanks for this post. that top picture is awesome. and in general i just really like your blog: as a fellow non-native-sahelian with a sahelian obsession – especially the guitar work, yowza! – i appreciate your effort to document, but your writing too – it is just as fleeting, ephemeral, bemused, dry, alien, and beautiful as the artifacts and contexts you are trying to capture – or at least how i have felt whenever i was anywhere near them. good work