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Dead medium: the Pigeon Post
From: (Trevor Blake)

Source(s): Reuters New Media, March 24 1998 "S. Africa to shoot diamond-smuggling pigeons

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) == South Africa has decided to shoot all pigeons in its North-West diamond producing area, because the birds are being used to smuggle gems out of the country.

"'Diamonds are leaving the country in a manner which is extremely worrying,' Manda Msomi, chairman of parliament's public enterprises committee, said Tuesday, reporting after a visit to state diamond mining company Alexkor.

"'Diamonds are being strapped onto the body of pigeons and flown out of the country. The law now is to shoot all pigeons on sight,' Msomi said.

"Msomi said his task team would recommend that Alexkor should not be privatized in the near term because the company's assets had been so run down by diamond theft.

"'There is no way we can allow the sale of Alexkor to be approved without a true valuation,' he said. 'The security of the product is paramount.'

"Msomi said it was possible that employees and the local community were implicated in the widespread theft and said Alexkor needed to spend about $8 million to improve security."

(((Trevor Blake remarks: I don't think pigeon post is "media." Pigeons are not a "medium," they're just doing what comes naturally, whether it's letters or diamonds tied to their feet. Media requires intent, and pigeons lack intent to convey information. The intent of those doing the tying is the same as with non-pigeoned mail. When the intent to communicate creates a new artifact, an artifact that can be superceded, then I'd call it "media." Humans didn't create pigeons.)))

(((bruces remarks: I couldn't disagree more strongly. During the Franco-Prussian War, practically the entire information traffic of Paris, the besieged capital of a major industrial power, was carried on the wings of pigeons. This included news, government documents, war orders, personal mail and large sums of money (in the form of microfilmed postal orders). If this isn't "media," then what is?

(((Pigeons may be a product of nature, but homing pigeons are domesticated animals, carrying specially designed cargo harnesses, rather like horses in the Pony Express. Furthermore, the pigeons themselves are just the aerial part of a larger mail system.

(((It's pleasant to see this fossil medium not only apparently thriving, but working both sides of the law (see Working Note 31.3, concerning the "Orissa Police Pigeon Service"). But I must say that I consider this tale of diamond-smuggling pigeons to be highly suspect. Maybe there's a mysterious transnational network of feathered contrabandistas == or maybe this government diamond monopoly is trying to evade privatization because its books have been cooked.)))

Trevor Blake (