Flood the soundscape African

Image via Simon Berry Flickr.

Most of the Digital Archive features that have been posted so far offer some kind of option for users to contribute their own materials. For example, last week’s feature on HipHopAfrican included directions for submitting music to Msia Kibona Clark’s class. Nigerian Nostalgia and the Nsibidi Institute are other projects that have participatory options. If you have materials that fit within the aims of these sites, you can submit and become part of the experience. Though  not an intentional focus when this series began, over time I began to search out sites that would allow users to become part of the conversation. And why shouldn’t they? If the internet is the democratizing force that it is advertised to be, why shouldn’t you be able to contribute? This week takes that idea to the next level, with two projects that allow you to produce virtually unmediated content.

A few months ago, I saw an article on Wired about a project called Localingual. Built by David Ding, a former Microsoft software engineer, Localingual is an interactive map featuring recordings of voices from throughout the world. Launched in January this year, the site had logged 500,000 visits by the time the Wired piece was published online. Ding’s inspiration for Localingual came from his travels. When he was in Ukraine, he was struck by the possibilities of recording all of the different languages and dialects he was hearing and putting them online. Of course, he couldn’t possibly do all of this work on his own. Instead, the map does a lot of the work for him, allowing users to record their own voices in the language of their choices. There are obviously some short-comings with a process like this, such as users recording profanity or using fake accents, so Ding came up with a thumbs-up/thumbs-down system to help weed out the fakes. To add your own voice, open the map and click the country of your choice. (Just a heads up: the software only works on Android devices or desktops. The Apple iOS APIs prevent it from working on Apple devices.) A list of the languages recorded for that country thus far will load to the right of the map. Click through the thought bubbles to listen to all of the recordings that have been made thus far. If you want to add your own recording, click the microphone button, select the language the recording will be in and the gender of the speaker and choose whether the recording is of the name of a country, its capital or a phrase. Then write the phrase in the language you are speaking and its English equivalent and press record. It’s as simple as that.

Similar to Localingual, Soundcities is another interactive map presenting recordings of ambient sounds from cities around the globe. Originally, the map was home to sounds recorded by the artist Stanza, who would record sounds he encountered in cities he visited in his travels. Now it is a completely open platform, which means that anyone can submit sounds from their own cities. Unfortunately, there are only three African cities included in the project so far: Bamako, Cairo, and Dakar. But, like Localingual, you can change that! Below the list of sounds, click “add a new sound.” From there, you can create a username and add your city to the list of cities with sounds registered. A marker will be dropped onto the map that you drag to the location of your city. Click continue and then you can add your mp3 for the city of your choice, select the best mood/category for your sound click and submit.

So, post your content! Take your phones and record people’s voices, record the sounds you here. We have the ability to flood these sites with African content. Take the time and make the most of these resources. It’s your right and responsibility to do so.

Liz Timbs

PhD Candidate in History at Michigan State University, Studying gendered ethnic identity amongst Zulu-speaking people. Advocate for Digital Humanities.

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