everything is remix pt. 2

In West Africa, as mentioned every so often here, cellphones are far more important than television in media diffusion and consumption. Videos are traded, like sound – from short comedic clips to full-length movies. But amongst the plethora of video, nothing stands out like the remix. Using pre-existing sequences, new audio is dubbed in a voice over to give a new context. This is of particular relevance in a country like Mali, with 13 national languages where these unofficial channels allow and ensure propagation. For example, the 1928 silent Charlie Chaplin film “The Circus”, here given an audio voice in Bambara. Or Tom and Jerry – in Tamashek.

Interesting, the platform has yet to be adapted with any design. Much like the inception of Youtube, before its servers were crowded with ad campaigns fighting for page views, the video remixes of the network have little utility are purpose besides amusement. Anonymous montages, their narrators float through the networks, flung out into the void with innocent jokes and distractions – led by the desire to create for the sake of creating.

The viral effect of video on cellphones offers some potential ideas. Besides the more nefarious capitalist exploitations, the network could very well be hijacked to spread another sort of message. There has yet to be a single public service announcement by an international NGO on cellphone video – even as untold capital is poured into old media such as radio and television. As generations gather around the glow of cellphone screens watching the latest clip on a phone, it begs the question of when infrastructure will adapt to the new media model, to utilize this underutilized and unseen medium. Perhaps it’s time to embrace the remix.

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