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.