By Okechukwu Uwaezuoke
Meeting place: Dakar, nine days from today. And this would be while the whiff of the Senegalese capital’s famed biennale still clings to the air. That day, which happens to be May 31, would be a special day for film lovers. For a coterie of film enthusiasts and culture buffs would converge in the city for the launch of Mokolo Project.
Mokolo Project? In a nutshell, it is an online portal for filmmakers, whose aim is to reinforce the film and multimedia sector in Africa by improving the accessibility and visibility of professionals and contents.
A visit to Mokolo’s website leads through a hotchpotch of essays on films, updates the film industry, film reviews, interviews, opportunities and festival reports as well as articles on ICT in both English and French. Much of these postings are subsequently collated and published in its monthly online bi-lingual newsletters, which are mailed to subscribers from all over the continent and beyond. Updates on its Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts are sourced mainly from the website.
The project, funded by ACP-EU and Goethe-Institut, targets film professionals as well as other industry players, consumers and retailers, festivals, policies, libraries, researchers, institutions and research centres, civil societies, interested lobbyists and organisations.
By collating and aggregating content from existing relevant websites, Mokolo provides easy access to African film and audio-visual content as well as to industry-related information. This is in line with the raison d’être of its online platform.
Set up after a meeting of African cinema and audiovisual experts and professionals at the Goethe-Institut Yaoundé in November 2010, the project derives its name from the Cameroonian capital’s biggest market. Though based in Lagos as a non-profit organisation, it works with diverse partners in Senegal, Cameroon, Kenya and Germany. In Senegal, it works with ACT (Africa Culture Technologies), a part of mokolo.labs which functions as an exchange platform and a co-working space for content creators, cultural and IT actors. ActivSpaces in Buea, Cameroon, a non-profit meeting hub that combines a shared office, a business incubator, a classroom facility and a dynamic space, is where IT developers and entrepreneurs work, meet and network and is also a part of mokolo.labs Then, there is the Nairobi (Kenya)-based Awali Entertainment, which is run by the filmmaker, Ms Wanuri Kahiu and the Experimental Media Lab (xm: lab) based in the German town of Saarbrucken, which is engaged in a wide-range arts-and-media technology projects.
Heading Mokolo’s Lagos office is the Beninese culture buff Espera Donouvossi, who until 2011 worked with Arterial Network as its projects manager and translator. His efforts are supported and complemented by those of Marc-Andre Schmachtel, who heads the Goethe-Institut’s office in Lagos.
Mokolo, in addition, works with a diverse range of partners in Africa and beyond, ranging from broadcasters and producers to publishers, who provide original content and programming across various media platforms.
To ensure Mokolo’s sustainability, the Lagos-based Mokolo Foundation hopes to support and safeguard the project with a view to ensuring a seamless transition to the ACP film community. This foundation consists of stakeholders drawn from across all relevant cultural and industry sectors in Africa.
The project essentially pivots on the basic premise that technology and innovation can play an important role in developing Africa’s movie ecosystem. Hence it operates on the tripod of Mokolo TV, Mokolo Pro and Mokolo database, the features of which somewhat dovetail into each other’s so much that the difference between them seem to blur.
It essentially pivots on the basic premise that technology and innovation can play an important role in developing Africa’s movie ecosystem. Hence it operates on the tripod of Mokolo TV, Mokolo Pro and Mokolo Database, the features of which somewhat dovetail into each other’s so much that the difference between them seem to blur. The project’s end-users, addressed as “Mokolizers”, can log in to Mokolo Pro and Mokolo TV either through their email or any of their social media accounts.
The social media networking features of these platforms focus on the interactions of Mokolizer. For instance, a Mokolizers community, on these platforms, is offered the opportunity to take a number of actions. These include adding Mokolos and reviews, which is about the content that the Mokolizer can add to a film or practitioner file. “Mokolos” refer to external links, which are accompanied by a commentary while “reviews” allow rating with a justifying comment to a listing. In addition, the Mokolizer can add, delete and modify its own Mokolos and reviews, he can also comment or flag all Mokolos and reviews.
Next are the monitoring features, which enables a Mokolizer to follow another Mokolizer with whom he shares some interests. It can also follow a film or a series file or a Practitioner file. He will receive notifications if there is activity on the monitored content. That for instance involves when the Mokolizer carries out an action (comment, add a listing etc).
Also, a Mokolizer can carry out actions on the followed files, notably through changing, reporting, adding Mokolos or reviews, adding commentaries on the file’s Mokolos. In addition, there is the Mokolizer space, which is dedicated to both the Mokolizer who uploads his activities on the platform and the activities of the one being followed. It contains a dashboard to view the settings of his account and to modify and view its notifications and suggestions.
The Mokolo TV platform can also suggest to a Mokolizer to follow another or film files according to their interests and enable end-users or Mokolizers to change their language preferences (notably English or French).
Further on Mokolo TV platform, professional files can be added by Mokoloziers. These are created when a movie file is being added and they contain such basic information on a film professional as function, filmography and name. These files are public and can only be changed by moderators.
Users of the Mokolo TV platform can through search and advanced search find a film, a series, a VoD platform or a professional’s public file. In case the searched files are not available on Mokolo platform, the web semantics functions help to extend the search to external sources in order to satisfy the user.
Then, the Content Reporting Feature enables users to notify the moderators of inappropriate or offensive content. Perhaps, to counter-balance the abuse potential of this function is the moderation interface feature, which provides the moderators the space to view all of the reported content, and accept / reject moderation requests made by Mokolizers. Only moderators can create and delete files. These include profiles including movies, series, VoD platforms, professionals, organisations, festivals, opportunities, projects etc…To become a moderator, one needs to comply with specific requirements from the Mokolo editorial team.
Yet another feature of the platform is the API (Application Program Initiative) Rest, which allows partner platforms not only to interrogate the Mokolo data base but also to inject their data into it.
Similarly, the Mokolizers are also availed access to Mokolo Pro, through which they can access a number of equally interesting features. They can, for instance, get registered and link their account to a professional public profile on Mokolo TV (if it exists).
Mokolo Pro users can create professional profiles, a kind of CV through which they can make themselves known as well as their work and different experiences. They also have the possibility to post mokolos on their profiles and can through one of its features, called mail space, also send private messages by entering the user’s name. In the user’s space, the professional is availed a list of events and opportunities. There is also the notification space, which features the users recommendations made for users , contact requests, the adding of contacts’ Mokolos on their files or on the files created by the moderators and the modification of the contact files. On this platform, the professionals can manage the list of their contacts.
In addition to all these, Mokolo Project through its OER (Open Education Resource) Approach offers a comprehensive digital media literacy. This “visual literacy” goal can best be described as the competence to understand and interpret audio-visual content. It encompasses the comprehension of film and visual media as multimodal content – i.e. audio, video and text.
The acquisition of such competencies could be through the traditional classroom-based face-to-face settings and self-education in an open learning system. Thus, the Mokolo OER structure’s focus is on self-learners and on such multipliers as educators or workshop leaders.
In Mokolo’s definition of concepts, the term “work” alludes to any creative work in an audio-visual context like a radio programme, a TV commercial, a movie or a podcast. Then, the term “visual literacy” would embrace others like “visual thinking”, “visual learning” and “visual communication”. Hence a glossary of terms (such as “communication”, “contextual diversity”, “culture”, “skills”, “hypermedia/intermedia” and “image”, among others) becomes necessary.
Mokolo hopes to make its significant contribution to OER, which has been around for the past 50 years, by providing a UX (User Experience) best practice example for an OER A/V (Audio/ Video) platform, which can be used for text-based education.
This would also be through encouraging and supporting filmmakers, storytellers, photographers in their efforts to maintain and expand the diversity of educational cultures. And given the unavailability of existing OER platforms for integration, Mokolo hopes to offer that minimum hosting capacity aimed at ensuring the general availability of the OER featured in its own educational activities.
The next phase of the Mokolo Project, which will be handled by the Mokolo Foundation, will rely on the support of its members and the German Foreign Office. This phase follows after its official launch in the Senegalese capital.