File Sharing Without The Internet: The Saharan Bluetooth Experience
from the off-the-grid dept
A couple of months ago, Techdirt wrote about an EU politician's plan to build Internet surveillance into every operating system. As we pointed out then, this could easily be circumvented by using non-Net means for swapping files. It may not be driven by fears about spying, but it seems that communities in Western Africa are using Bluetooth connections between mobile phones to do exactly that:
Digital filesharing doesnít need the internet. This is the case at least in Western Africa and other parts of the developing world, where computers arenít yet consumer goods for most and, even if they were, web access isnít exactly New York City. Lovers of music still get it done, however, sharing files between knockoff cell phones via bluetooth connections and accumulating song collections in memory cards and bitrates that would probably make most in our lossless world laugh. Itís created a music culture thatís uniquely underground, an awesome anything-goes world of No Limit-style rap marrying Megaman-synth workouts, strange new techno-folks, and various other things so far untaggable.
That's taken from a fascinating interview with Christopher Kirkley, who has put together two compilations of Saharan cell phone music (and made sure that the artists involved get a share of the profits from selling them.) As he explains:
the phones have to be right next to each other, the connections have to be "accepted" on the phone, and the transfers take at least 30 seconds. Itís not like people just wander around browsing through whatever phone is in proximity. Also, the majority of file sharing is between friends, sitting around, drinking tea and smoking cigarettes, trying to pass the time...
This makes Bluetooth exchanges intensely social Ė much more so than the anonymous acts that take place across the Internet today. So, far from damaging the culture of file sharing, even the most severe of copyright crackdowns would probably just lead to a blossoming of the offline social aspects here too - to say nothing of some amazing new music.