Now you see me

If Deleuze could have only foreseen how fast the future would arrive! In a few short years since his piece was published, his ideas have become the ever more relevant and of great concern related to privacy, control and replacement. Not only is the deployment of mass public and private surveillance technologies a reality that is quickly encroaching on all personal freedoms but it is also reshaping human relationships. The idea of observation or being observed as means of social control, whether direct, implied or delegated is nothing new – two examples illustrated here are the panopticon building designed by Ledoux at a salt factory in 18c France and Lewis Hine documentary photography of inhumane conditions of child labor in early 20th Century US. The challenge nowadays is how we can possibly exercise our right to not be observed, to have complete privacy within the confines of our private space.  How can I do research online without having my data become part of a large algorithm, marketing tool and/or basis for further research?  Out relationship with technology has become highly suspicious and completely co-dependent.

When Seeing is Belonging: The Photography of Tahrir

        This reading drives two particular points home for me: first, the power of representation, and second, the fact that an archive must first and foremost be ‘searchable’ for anyone to get any use out of it.
        “The power of representation” comes out in the discussion of Operation Desert Storm: when the event was represented only by professional media like CNN with (presumably) their own agenda, they could sell any narrative they wanted–even one that was largely divorced from what the situation felt like on the ground. The subsequent rise of citizen journalists “rehumanized reality.” Moreover, the representation proved emotionally powerful–it was a reaffirmation that the people in question “had a right to see and be seen;” that their emotional realities deserved exactly as much stage time, if not more, than the emotional realities set by the entities that originally held power over forms of media.
        However, with increased production of material, the question of who sees what when, and how they do so, becomes more pressing. When there are as many streams of content as there are people with image-recording devices, how do faraway viewers (or even those that are close by) find the content that is maximally relevant to them? If seeing equates to belonging, then ‘belonging’ can be disrupted by disrupting ‘seeing,’ and there are two main ways to disrupt seeing: disrupting image production, and disrupting image accessibility. Democratization of the latter is a largely disjoint problem from democratization of the former, and it seems to be one that we’ve only half solved.

1+8

I thought this film was visually gorgeous, and it stands out in my mind as one of the most nuanced portrayals of current events in this region that I’ve ever seen. I also think these two facts have a good deal to do with one another.

Most of what I hear about this region, and understand about the people in it, is through news media. And no matter the specific outlets, the goals of ‘news’ and ‘art’ are usually quite divergent: news seeks to inform the mind, whereas art seeks to connect emotionally.
So, I greatly appreciated the chance to see a ‘current events’ work that felt as honest as this one did; one that let me see so much unadorned personhood, and, yes, one that didn’t shy away from the fact that it was produced by two filmmakers with their own ways of seeing the world they encountered.
Farima’s comment about the fidelity of the translation (and veracity of what the interviewees say)  is important with respect to this last point: this film represents how the two filmmakers see the region, and not an underlying ‘objective truth.’ That said, understanding both emotional and hyperrational sides of any given issue is valuable, so I appreciated that the film’s “we’ll just live in these locations for a while, and record what happens, then edit it into a plot-less film” approach presented almost as organic of an examination of (some of) the human side(s) of this region as possible.

Reviving Citizen Journalism

After 9/11 and the birth of “citizen Journalism” there was a great hope for turning the world of journalism upside down: To reform its structure and make it bottom-to-top instead of top-to-bottom. There was no more the need for a biased journalist, always belated, to report what was already witnessed by the “locals”. Stuart Allan in his article named “Blurring boundaries : professional and citizen photojournalism in a digital age” discusses how the invention of cheap digital cameras led to the birth of citizen journalism and how it effects on news agencies in covering the most important events in early 21st century. 2004 Southeast Asia tsunami was not covered by photojournalist traveling to the devastated area days after tsunami happened but by low quality images taken by people who experiencing it. Also, while the officials was ignoring the crisis in its first moments of bombing in London Subway in 2005, passengers trapped in stations recorded shaky videos when nobody else has access to the site.

These events revealed the great potential in citizen journalism. it was not from a single perspective but multiplied one. It was not recorded by an outsider. It was from the point of view of the people who experiencing the event, thus closing the distance between the event and audience. And, not less important to all these journalistic benefits, it was cheap. Not cheap, even free. There was no need to hire and send a photographer to a site. To pay the travel expenses. The most thing that these citizens may request was to mention their name as the photographer. With the advances in digital platforms specially social media and also digital cameras and their integration inside cell phones, it seemed that citizen journalism is reaching its bloom.

However, as the history of capitalism shown us already, the system devours the alternatives. Even if the photographs are taken by citizens, the decision of showing them or not is at the hand of news agencies. They have become curators. With social media, everything is now live, everything is recorded in a quantity that each maybe only visible for few seconds. And the role of a citizen has been reduced to witnessing. We have already seen the clips of one dying in front of other human beings whom their social responsibility is reduced to recording and sharing. Most importantly maybe, we have became viewers not witnesses. Cause witnesses also testifies in the future. Our video and photographs are no more documents since they are not getting archive.

This is where Lara Baladi’s project, Vox Populi become crucial and show the potential of citizen journalism and revive it as a social act.