I remember an argument in my undergraduate philosophy class on the often blurred line between the public and the private. Essentially, we argued that it will be difficult to make an ascertained case for what is aptly defined as public — such as, for instance morality. This, of course, echoes Ludwig Wittgenstein, but as I do not have enough space I will not venture into furthering the argument. In this vein, however, it seems apparent that it is a lie to think it is possible to shield an online representation (a post, an article, even an email) from the eyes of an all-seeing public. This ‘public’ and its omnipresence is even harder to define.
I am interested in questioning access in this second post of the series. The interesting fact, which makes me elated as well as suspicious, is that the means to access the internet is endless. While more and more people in Africa are accessing the internet (that is, those who have a basic education, whose need extends beyond just feeding, living), it will be interesting to speculate on what such access will mean for African literature online.
There are indications that Nigeria’s population has favoured its ranking — with up to 37.1% of all internet use in Africa. To use the internet one needs a computer or a phone or tablet, etc. etc. Computers are not widespread as mobile phones (I even think there are more smartphone users in Nigeria than computer users). And so, I prefer to consider the use of mobile phones to access the internet. It sounds better, knowing that phones are not usually gifts from aid organisations, phones are mostly bought by Africans. (Please read a detailed report on Publishing Perspectives where there are facts about access to the internet. I will concern myself with consequential matters).
Before a person makes a decision to use a mobile phone for other purposes aside making a calling and SMSing, such other purposes must be deemed needful, of course. In some sense, this need arises from the reason why a phone is bought in the first place (networking, communication). But it also extends, I think, to the possibilities surrounding the internet — the ability to be informed, to exchange ideas, and to stay relevant. It is easy to see, then, why Facebook, Google and Yahoo are the three most visited sites in Nigeria. I state, further, that it is clear that Facebook is the first because I believe it is more primary for people to want to remain relevant (after they are fed, that is). Then Google because people are subsequently interested in ideas, knowledge. And Yahoo (Yahoo News too), because email is a good way to receive information,.
Against this backdrop, it is very important that publishers of African literature online approach an audience that has the ability to access. There is the idea of a double-edged approach to publishing. As Cassava Republic’s publishers seem to understand an assault should be made on both e-platforms and via traditional models (I will conclude the series with an emphasis on the prospects and challenges of this).
And to be wiser, and safer, in thinking electronic, one’s gaze should be averted to the mobile phone as much as it is to the computer. As I noted, the need to communicate and network, especially for the young, extends beyond making calls and texting. There is my status to be updated, an email to be checked, a fact to be confirmed, etc. etc.
It is clear that publishers might do little or nothing about the quality of access – Lack of widespread broadband and WiFi. I even believe it is a minor concern. What is more important is asserting a presence, making an effort known on all possible e-platforms. This is important because we are often unaware of how many people are watching, since we do not know how many people can see.
Ah, I almost forgot. I stumbled across this interesting dialogue on Nigeria’s most popular blog. The gist favoured Black Looks. Yay!