Drifting in floating streets

I am going to pick up from where I left off in the last post. Once again thanks to your generosity I have had much to ponder. I really enjoyed Remittance Girl’s post about her experience of taking virtual crowds on guided tours. This brought to mind conversations I had with many people when I was leading the team that created the Poetry4u project. I wanted to use the invisible electromagnetic signals to be a conduit of enhancing our sense of place rather than a distraction.Let me digress a little to explain how this project came about.

The use of mobile phones in public spaces arouses feelings of disgust in many people if we are to believe tabloid media such as talk back radio. About eight years I started observing people and their mobiles on trains.  I observed that people engaged in place making activities with their phones almost as a tactic to claim their place in was is essentially a heterotopic non-place. I also observed that people seemed to be present in a bodily sense but were somehow absent because their attention was somewhere else. Even their eyes seemed to be looking at something I could not see. This later turned into an academic study and published papers.

So the genesis of an idea came to me out of this work. Can we use these wonderful multifunctional devices to draw peoples attention to the physical place they were in?  Can we use them for art? I began to explore these questions through observation, experience and seeking out what others thought and did. I am now in the happy position to be able to say with complete confidence yes and yes! My passion for drifting was now justified and the app is in its final testing phases.  And now we have the capability to drift in the geographic and digital floating worlds almost simultaneously.

We still tend to think in terms of producers and consumers though, even with art making. We speak about artists and viewers, writers and readers, filmmakers and audience and so on. Yet if we read RG’s account closely, she is not talking of herself as separate from her interlocutors.  She talks about a transformational performance process. I have also experienced what she describes and I am sure many of you have as well.

I suggest that this is a shift in communication and the ability to share photographs at the push of a couple of virtual button is an important factor in this shift. Furthermore, I propose that this ability to share and converse while engaged in the act of passing through places, may indeed, encourage us to look at things we had overlooked or taken for granted or even never noticed. The images we take, as Modernistdream  points out in his post called Mobile Photography: not drowning waving lie in between writing and photography:

“But in a sea of online voices and avatars, these digital photos are like hands breaking the waves, they are reminders of the physical world and our need to talk about human experience. Such photos are the evidence of our endeavours and adventures.”

The streets are now  floating worlds which we can drift through in a doubled way literally: under, over, through, between geographic places, geo-coordinates and radio signals to create new social spaces.  And the humble camera phone with its supposed inferior resolution is our paper and pencil as well as a photography apparatus.


6 thoughts on “Drifting in floating streets

  1. I guess, the truth is that people are transported through many mediums. Before telephony and TV, I guess people would be transported through book reading, or in listening to a person tell them a story.

    Another point that Modernistdream made in his post was this: “to save them would be like saving a recording of
    your voice each time you made a phone call”.

    The one thing that I think makes this whole technological interchange radically different from the ‘transportations’ of the past is its ephemeral quality. He’s right. I don’t take pictures to make a lasting piece of art. I use them as a tool of conversation.

  2. I have not read RG’s take on this topic you’ve posted here. Having read your post now, I realize I’m participating in this phenomena as per my tweeps around the world. We’re become arm-chair virtual travelers through engagement and interaction with fellow virtual friends-interesting.
    Thanks for the post M!

  3. Absolutely brilliant. As someone who struggles to find the right words for what I see or experience, I wonder about ways to marry photography and text in a way that’s fresh and startling. Thank you for expressing so wonderfully what I know to be true.

  4. human beings have two natural antagonistic needs – space to realize his own unique personality and creative self; and chances for social intercourse and maturity. The first need is expressed in a continue process of individualization, and walls to keep interference from others out of door. The second need shows by the fast revolution of social media and the supporting technical equipment, devices and software, based upon men’s quality to share feelings and experiences, to communicate on behalf of his own advantage and on the want to be of meaning to others or society in general.

    This is not a unique event of our time, but has existed as long as human history itself. For example the wall drawings in the caves of Lascaux – France, some 20.000 years ago was not only the expression of extraordinary talented prehistoric artists, but at the same time a manner to communicate in a way, not only functional then, but still full of beauty and information for us now.

    A second remark may be the fact that novices or rookies in this social media-electronic era are exited of the new possibilities for their own growth and/or the extending social dimensions to be in contact and share, but that at a closer examination quite large populations of above all the younger generations have already adapted these media and devices as a part of their lives such as food and clothing. And in this way already normalized this phenomena and incorporated it in “normal” experience, that they are on the way to “free” themselves of the conscience that they use them, such as not thinking any more the different technical actions to drive a car.

    Therefore this (r)evolotion gives great chances for mankind to be still more owner of his destiny and the individual and social way to follow the path.

  5. Another intriguing post. It is the potential space between sender & receiver that really fascinates me: the captured image is set free to drift and melt into someone else’s consciousness.

    Yet, as you say, there is no separation between sender & receiver but rather a ‘transformational performance process’. As the photograph materializes on the receiver’s screen it becomes a joint viewing as both parties sit side-by-side on their virtual sofa. ‘Look at this,’ says the sender, ‘my picture of a tree in New York.’ ‘I see it!’ says the receiver. ‘It is my tree now. I love the colour of its bark.’ The tree has joined them together. It belongs to them both in remarkably different ways.

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