Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria

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Larkin, B. (2008). Signal and noise: Media, infrastructure, and urban culture in Nigeria. Durham; London: Duke University Press. 313 pages.

The rise of Nigerian media, especially the cinema, is not something that came suddenly from the sky. It was a long and winding road of the media to become something significant, not only in Nigeria but also on the African continent. However, there are only a few explanations about how the media evolution happened in this area of the world. Brian Larkin, through his book Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria (2008), explores how society reacts to the media as something sublime, and in return they are also evolving alongside with the media. Using ethnography, Larkin’s description is very detailed in portraying the media as a controversial issue at its first arrival, and how it influences the society in dealing with modernity.

Larkin arranged his book into seven chapters. At first, he discusses about the colonial’s role in introducing the media to Nigeria, then moves on to the radio, cinema, Nigerian films, and ends with the piracy issue. He explains the media evolution using an analogy where he describes the media transmission of the message as signal and the obstacles from the political, social, cultural and religious values as the noise. Media are also considered more as infrastructure or hardware, and the society’s values as the software. Continue reading