Before starting the second day’s research, we discussed our findings from the first day. Participants were asked to comment on what we looked at: what kind of reality was being depicted, what were the dominant voices, what could be considered locally specific, what was speaking more universally. They were also asked to comment on what they would like to reflect on, debate or change. If there was something they could not see in the map, then what was it? What would they like to see instead? This is a summary from my notes taken while the conversation was taken place.
What is there? What are we looking at?
What impression do you get from Skopje by seeing these videos?
It’s interesting about the message. Some are just presenting themselves. “Here I am”. Some have a specific political message and some an artistic message.
It makes me think of who is posting these videos and what are the motives behind them.
About the political
We made the choice to avoid the videos that were of mainstream news. We saw a lot of archival television footage. We decided to avoid this and concentrate on self-produced footage, but these videos of televised news were the most present. However there were also a lot of other political videos. The ones that were using this geo-tag function were either mirroring dominant media or leaning towards propaganda. The Greek-Macedonian conflict videos are the most visible and they seemed to be made specifically for the YouTube audience. They are using this language of response, the language of YouTube such as the comment and video response. And this huge dispute is being led by both professionals and unprofessionals. I actually think some of these guys are being paid to put these videos up.
Unfortunately these are the only really active and “creative” individuals fitting within this type of communication.
Looking at this material I start to think about who is using this social media and why? Is what we are seeing simply a mirror of dominant voices and issues that are already out there in the physical environment?
I think that we (as artists) have more content to share, but we wouldn’t post or add content by geo-tagging it like these people are. What we are mostly doing is observing what is out there but not being satisfied it.
I actually have a lot of people around, about 20, that are very active in providing a lot of content in social media. But we never imagined geo-locating it. For example, there is no video blogger that is geo-locating their videos.
Are Macedonian bloggers active?
Very active but not so many video bloggers. There are projects to promote blogging, especially around social causes and issues. So, yes, we can all agree that we provide a lot of content on line, but we haven’t marked it, we haven’t gotten to that point. People are encouraged to use the same tags, like social tagging, because you want to connect what you are making with others. But why not geo-tagging?
I feel a bit insecure about locating something like that. I would only want to do that if I wanted to make it very visible but not feel like a fool.
The professionals that we met during our search are doing very serious material. It already edited material, reading for exhibiting. These are serious productions. This is a total contrast to the video of somebody saying “Look at me, I’m driving my truck”.
I think this is the difference between being an amateur and being a professional. Amateurs have nothing to lose, but professionals want to be seen as legitimate and relevant.
Your comment about Macedonian society participating on social media, for example on FaceBook. It gives you the illusion that you are moving or changing something, but the participation is basic. It’s enough to have a feeling of participation, but they don’t go further. Yet every time that there is a change on the platform, then there is a protest. This is their form of civic protest, but you don’t feel it on the street.
About videos and location
We saw videos that are related to the location but some that are not.
I noticed that most of the videos that don’t match up to location occur around the park. This is probably the default location that is given when people are not so specific about their location and just put “Skopje”. This park must be the geographical center of the city then.
It should be also made very clear that until one year ago a detailed map of Skopje (with street names, etc.) didn’t even exist on Google Maps. Skopje was a blank spot on the map.
This reminds me of the message that I discovered yesterday in Flickr when I selected ‘places’.
Concerning location, I think it would be very hard for somebody (such as you Michelle) who doesn’t speak Macedonian or read Cyrillic to make sense of or get any use of this map.
But this actually brings up an interesting point. For what use is this map that we’re looking at? What or who is the content directed at? Who is the intended audience / map reader?
My hypothesis is that people are not intending to build a map, but there is an impulse towards putting a location. If it is a political statement, then this becomes very much about identity and therefore the impulse towards adding location to the media becomes intentional. Yes, it’s very related to identity.
But at the same time it’s also about seeing and knowing things in the city by looking at them first on video, and then trying to re-piece them together on the map.
About the videos made by young boys?
They can be perceived as a reality. They provide a nice portal to experience the city as we do. When I walk through the streets, I directly witness things and now it’s possible to do this through somebody else’s eyes. It’s all truth, to me everything is a truth. You might not like it, but it is a reality. The layers that a given to a location are layers of living. They are all a window to what is, even the political.
I think that there is a tendency to post things that are funny, posting absurd things or making fun of people. They are emulations of something that they have already seen.
But for me there is no idea, concept of community or presentation around these videos.
What about the videos that we saw that are not really local or specific but more related to the processes of repetition and mimicry?
This leads to thinking more anthropologically by trying to locate what is common to all of us. I believe if you browsed in several areas, other cities, you would see the same thing.
Yes, but it is also very market and consumer driven. Online habits are influenced by the market and trends. You can see it as an appearance of new styles. For example, you know by now what a good Facebook photo is. Or if somebody posts something like “It’s finally spring and I can’t wait until summer so I can see all of my friends in bikinis”, then you can already predict what types of images you are going to see in the photo-albums of people you know.
I would like to see more videos of this city, but most people haven’t entered location data.
But you can also look other ways. I often concentrate on one city without needing to know the street names. For example, I’ll spend quite awhile just looking at videos of Tokyo. So if you are just given a general search parameter like “Tokyo”, then the way of getting in more detail, of finding specific streets and addresses – if you wanted to find the location – then you would have to make contact with people from the very beginning. Asking different people living there to give you more information about what you are looking at. This would be a very risky step actually, because it’s a risk of stepping out of anonymity and becoming present then. How many people would want to do that?
I would actually like to see more videos like the one we saw of Emily when you gave your artist talk.
We’ve seen videos that are completely rough and then others that are too prepared and controlled. There is not so much in between. Emily’s videos are semi-professional. She’s preparing, directing. She’s doing it in continuum and through this developing skills along the way. I’d like to see more of that out there.
image reference : The City is Creative
I was actually thinking about this process of tagging something. In order for something to be present, to exist, it has to be tagged. I’m thinking about what this pin that you always seeing on Google Maps. What if you made this mark in the physical space?
Aram Bartholl: Map
This is very interesting. It’s making you very aware of what this pin means. But also how its meaning shifts when it is in the digital world and when you encounter it in the physical environment.
I see it also being about a clash of environments via an interface. This reminds me about something that was introduced by Jorella Andrews in a keynote address she gave in a conference I attended in Vienna. She discussed that by playing with medium and content in ways that create collisions between media one can start to develop counter-narratives to what is expected. To this she refers to Marshall McCluhan where he states “when two or more environments encounter one another by direct interface, they tend to manifest their distinct qualities”. So I see this as also being about a clash between two environments through direct interface.
And at the same time this becomes a generational issue. For us, it’s a very common sign. We are living it. For older generations, not so much.
I saw a type of interactive game on YouTube. They make a game and you have to choose which video to view next. It’s fit into a narrative that you piece together by making choices. It might be interesting to use this interactivity in an urban game.