Invisible Missive Magnetic Juju: On African Cyber-Crime

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We are all curators and everyone gets to hang/post their 15 pieces. Interviewing Leeor Brown last week about his insider take on the world of P(A&)R we talked about how to tell stories through and across digital networks (HIS TELL ALL INTERVIEW IE #REALTALK VOL.! IS COM1NG NEXT WEEK). In a media environment where the biggest players are only a few re-tweets away we still actively police our digital social life with decorum held over from meat-space. Getting someones email address might be easy- but sending a message and opening dialogue are not the same thing. How many release announcements fall on deaf gmail accounts? I remember reading a few years ago that on A Small World (ie facebook for rich people) a user was banned for friend requesting Paris Hilton because he didn’t have a legitimate claim to be a part of her social network. Annoying promo emails don’t usually provoke active shunning, they just got ignored. It was refreshing yesterday, then, to see tucked away alongside “Artists On Tour! Interviews, guest list and more available!” and “What is a Pixelated Lazer Face Bass Monster?” a really honest no BS hyperbole promo email of sorts. It read:
“Greetings and much respect…thought you folks (certainly DJ/Rupture) would get a kick out of this recent essay: http://bit.ly/aRU34F
Keep up the fabulous work,
LC-S”
I AM VERY HAPPY I CLICKED THIS LINK. READ A SHORT EXCERPT ON THIS AMAZING ESSAY BELLOW AND THE REST HERE.

KOFI CAN HAZ SCAM

<EXCERPT>
“…my people simply told him to call me home with the power of his ‘Invisible Missive Magnetic Juju’ which could bring a lost person back to home from an unknown place, how far it may be, with or without the will of the lost person. So having paid him his workmanship in advance, then he started to send the juju to me at night which was changing my mind or thought every time to go home.”
-Amos Tutuola, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

I

Many markets in Nigeria have areas called “computer village,” especially in places ranging from Alaba in Lagos on the West coast to Port Harcourt in the oil-ravaged Southern Delta, and over to the famous one in Onitsha in the East, where almost anything can be gotten—today’s catch from the river Niger, counterfeit medicine, locally made “foreign” goods, even dodgy airplane parts. Look through clouds of red dust for handwritten signs advertising, “computer repair,” “speedy programming” or “internet café.” Watch your step as you avoid scores of motorcycle taxis called Okadas because you could easily knock over a table scattered with the guts of cell phones which for a handful of naira will allow you to contact almost anywhere in the world. Computer village is where the detritus of Western and Eastern digitization either goes to pile up in jagged cathode ray mountains and die, or awaits repurposing in wiry bundles and circuit board batches spread across acres that simply beg for the eye of contemporary photographers like Andreas Gursky or Chris Jordan.

It’s fascinating to imagine how these blank-screened cadaverous wholes and frayed bits and pieces have all gotten here. There’s so much black glass that it is like the landscape of an indecisive volcano. These used computers have been donated by Western charity organizations and faith-based NGOs and given the Nigerian tendency to use things even beyond their given function or recognizability, their presence here is only temporary. A great many were brought from Ghana or up from South Africa while a steady stream arrived from China even before that country began its obsessive courting of West and Central Africa. But the vast majority of these machines, parts and components have been shipped by or brought in by enterprising Nigerians who since the late 1980s have known that what would mark this generation of West Africans more than blight, violence or corruption was a hunger for Web-based connectivity, that narcotic rush of shared information.

With almost no formal education whatsoever, many would learn how to rig, rewire, rebuild and master the essentials of computing in these glorified junkyards. They learned from ragged men with soldering irons in their pockets that pushed wheelbarrows filled with screens, wires and keyboards, with the wild-eyed look of juju men drunk on that vile moonshine called ogogoro.

</EXCERPT>

Louis Chude-Sokei is a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle- which means I used to sit endlessly in the skyspace 5 minutes away from the classrooms where he was obviously dropping serious knowledge. There are many powerful registers that he moves through in this essay- and when it is so easy to find cringe-inducing writing about poor countries- especially where tech and development are concerned- we must recognize the beautiful moment of being alerted to such powerful well written analysis (with bonus points for Tom “OH MY GOD I GET IT” Friedman pop-shots). Here’s hoping that when I write Prof. Chude-Sokei back asking him to contribute to DA he responds.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1nKR3gYRY8[/youtube]

Discussion question: Can we learn from 419 Yahoozzzee boys about telling stories on the internet and building relationships out of digital ether? IE HOW TO MAKE $OLID ALL THAT IS MELTED BITS IN THE CLOUDY AIR . It’s time to start looking at alternative economies and networks and re-purposing/learning from their success. If such limited bandwidth can translate into this much cash and we arnt doing shit with our TI connections then it is time to employ a new model.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzKT9LCBmKw[/youtube]

ADDENDUM. 1. : a thing added : DIRECT FROM THE COMMENTS BELOW AND OUR GENEROUS FRIEND MR CRUCIAL AKA TIMEBLIND IN CASE UR IN A RUSH AND CANT BE BOTHERED TO CLICK TO SEE THE COMMENTS

419 is oldschool. nigerian zombie computers for hire, will swarm for $


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4 responses to “Invisible Missive Magnetic Juju: On African Cyber-Crime”

  1. timeblind says:

    I love this stuff, being both an afrikanophile and a geek.

    but this is the next level shit:

    http://bit.ly/d57eam

    Cyber terrorism hits Nigeria

    Following the coordinated attacks on mainstream media sites in Nigeria, EMMANUEL MAYAH visits the cyber crime scenes and reports on how millions of zombie computers are deployed as foot soldiers to attack big businesses, political dissidents, competitors or enemy organisations

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    419 is oldschool. nigerian zombie computers for hire, will swarm for $

  2. Rupture says:

    y’all read MAXOS by Charles Stross? short + relevant. PDF http://www.concatenation.org/futures/maxo_lo.pdf

    MAXOS: Caroline Haafkens*, Wasiu Mohammed *Department of Applied Psychology, University of Lagos, and †Police Detecti College, Lagos, Nigeria.

  3. Rupture says:

    there’s A LOT more to respond to here once i READ THE RELEVANT TEXTS but for now, re Timeblind’s link — a few weeks back there was a news piece about how (if i recall correctly) USA leads the world in #s of zombie computers

  4. Boima says:

    ya’ll read Brian Larkin’s Signal and Noise?