Des Wilson took a PhD in African indigenous communication from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria in 1988. Des’s thesis was on the indigenous communication media and channels of the Ibibio people in South-South Nigeria. Des defined indigenous media as those media of communication that had been in use before the modern mass media and are still in use today. Adopting some of his terms from music, he categorised these media into several groups including membranophones, ideophones, aerophones, symbolographic displays, extramundane communication and music. Examples of such media included talking drums, wooden drums, rattles, folk tales, tattoos, symbolic writing and codes. A little unwieldy, you might think. Yet, to many of us, Wilson’s work was not only an important improvement on the complicated work of Doob (1960) but also a take-off point and launch-pad for enquiry into African indigenous communication media and systems. And this has led to a number of graduate theses. Years after, Mundy and Compton (1991); Mundy and Lloyd-Laney (1992); Millar and Aniah (2005) and several others continue to map the territory of indigenous media a la Des, that is, as that which was there pre-colonially and is still being used today. With the probable exception of the chapter by Louise Bourgault, this line of thought runs through the book edited by Ghana’s Ansu-Kyeremeh, Indigenous communication in Africa (2005). Newspapers, radio and television are described as exogenous or foreign media; the exact opposite of indigenous media. Points of intersection and interaction between these exogenous and indigenous media are explored but as points of distinctly intersecting entities.
But the recent very brilliant book edited by Pamela Wilson and Michelle Stewart, Global indigenous media, defines indigenous media completely differently. Acknowledging the internal tension in the phrase “global indigenous”, the editors and contributors consider indigenous media as any media used by the indigenous peoples, defined by Manuel and Posluns as “people who have special nontechnical, nonmodern, exploitative relations to the land in which they still inhabit and who are disenfranchised by the nations they live”. Among such media are radio, television, cinema, and even the internet. "The stone rejected by the builders..." you might think. (“Interestingly”, Pamela Wilson’s book, which has fifteen chapters focusing on different peoples, has nothing to say about any of the peoples of Africa. Never mind that the title reads “Global...”. Contributors were drawn from across the globe: that is, from America and Europe!).
Whereas Des Wilson and others focus on the origin of a medium in classifying it as indigenous, Pamela Wilson and Michelle Stewart and others focus on the users of the media (the indigenous people). Does that say something about the difference between a media scholar and an anthropologist? This difference can take fundamental dimensions especially when mapping out research focus is the issue. And the difference will certainly persist especially since there is little or no interaction among the two groups of scholars symbolised by these two Wilsons. Maybe there should be a journal of indigenous communication studies to engender such interaction.