coms 324

Debunk dah Funk: Rethinking Legends, Icons, & Rebels

https://vimeo.com/123808787

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Blog Post 3: Authenticity & Virtual vs. Physical Bodies and Spaces

Virtual spaces are created and re-created by physical bodies in virtual form, and virtual bodies are created through virtual space, which is socially produced. (Lefebvre) What is fascinating to me about virtual spaces is that the boundaries of communication in physical interactions do not exist: bodies often communicate what they think with less guard than in physical life. Of course the opposite can be argued that bodies create a specific tailored self-image online censoring the communication they share, and this is the case when it comes to self-branding as a micro-celebrity. However, in the physical world bodies rarely interact with other strange bodies, but online this social taboo is broken unlocking vast spaces of connection and “free” communication.

98f76919Virtual spaces serve as sanctuaries for like-minded bodies. They provide a connection to other similar bodies that would otherwise have no support through traditional physical space. I personally rely on a virtual community for support regarding my lifestyle choice, as there is no physical space in my geographic location that provides connection to other like-minded bodies and support in this realm. My embodiment of these virtual communities on YouTube and Instagram have become habitual routes of travel forming my unconscious perception through my perceived space. When I am in these virtual community spaces I feel connection, support, ease, happiness, and belonging, creating a sense of home that can be felt through my embodiment online and in the physical space I inhabit at the time: sensory inscribed body. (Farman) Whether the online bodies are authentic is subjective. Some online bodies are more authentic than their physical counter-parts. For example, many introverts become extroverts when expressing themselves and connecting with others in online space, whilst in the comfort of their own personal physical space in solitude. Western  culture is built on the belief that authenticity exists, and is of great importance. People are obsessed with knowing the real truth. There is a heightened fear of “fake” people, or becoming fake yourself that drives this obsession, feeding consumerism as a solution for authenticity. Authenticity of online and physical bodies is an erroneous myth. Other bodies cannot decide the authenticity of someone’s embodiment due to intersubjectivity. (Farman)

onlinepersonaThe downfall to this lack of a social border that the physical world is tainted with is that it opens the doors to shaming, hatred, prejudice and violence through surveillance and sousveillance. In this refuge, where spaces are co-created by like-minded bodies, there also exist bodies with opposing cultural beliefs and perceptions. Because of the encouragement for “freer” communication with other virtual bodies, opposing bodies often say more exaggerated claims than they would ever consider doing in the physical world.

The regulations to keep online communities in-check is as un-just as the laws to enforce “peace” in physical space. They are corrupted by double standards, bias, whiteness, sexism, and heterosexual normality.

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Virtual space has many of the same dimensions and characteristics of physical space and should be thought of with equal importance. Virtual bodies are authentic embodiments of physical bodies and online lives should not be dismissed as less important.

 

Questions:

Is it possible to construct a fair system of conduct online without taking away bodies’ right to express themselves, or any forms of oppression?

Why is it that bodies are so concerned with the authenticity of other bodies and representations of themselves? When online bodies are created through virtual embodiment, even if their online body is completely different from their physical counter-part, isn’t there still authenticity to the online embodiment if they are creating it with?

Sources:

Lefebrve, Henri. “The Production of Space.” In Gieseking, Jen J. And William Mangold, (Eds.), The People, Place, and Space Reader. (289-293). London: Routledge.

Farman, Jason. (2012). Mobile Interface Theory Ch. 1 “Embodiment and the Mobile Interface” (16-34) London: Routledge.

Greenwald, Richard. “Why Is ‘Authenticity’ So Central To Urban Culture?” City Lab. 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 March. 2015.

Read more about the obsession of authenticity.

 

Ode to McDonald’s

According to my last Blog, my favourite space is McDonald’s; and, although this place has its faults, such as being an unhealthy, American, multi-billion dollar, fast food corporation often used by many progressive writers as a symbol of everything wrong in the Western world, the service it provides to its customers is actually an accurate reflection of our time. To be honest, in Blog Post #1, I was trying to be ironic, which has somewhat backfired on me here. However, in working through this thought process, I must say that McDonald’s is not my least favourite space, and being in that space allows me to experience various truths.

My local McDonald’s is located next door to a Second Cup and across the street from a Starbucks; these other spaces provide a contrast to the McDonald’s, and help to highlight its otherness. Lefebvre states that “(Social) space is a (social) product” (Lefebvre 289); let’s examine this further. According to Lefebvre, spatial practice in western contemporary time is defined by daily routine and ‘private’ life and leisure (Lefebvre 291). The norms of spatial practice in the 21st century are closely tied to both history and the natural ecosystem. I will look more closely to the historical side. With the arrival of the industrial revolution in the 19th century, a growing middle class in western society flourishes. The idea of prosperity for all seems possible, even in the working class; modern thinkers and artists in the United States create a national identity for their newly born nation and culture. However, this growing identity is a misleading one. Although its words and symbols give motivation to many in the underclass, building for a better individual and common future, the actual space is one that continues to oppress the majority while speaking of democracy and freedom for all. Almost two hundred years later, awful working conditions and corruption still endure. ‘MacJobs’ exist for a MacPopulation, who consume their refillable coffees and fat-filled breakfast sandwiches while waiting for redemption. Sara Ahmed raises the concept of “fit” and how bodies inhabit space (Ahmed 51-52) and states that “. . . bodies are submerged [in space], such that they become the space they inhabit” (Ahmed 53).

What is called upon is to critically analyse the space and the bodies inhabiting it, and to do acts of détournement. I would like to try an experiment, which may be seen as a form of détournement; not simply for McDonald’s, but as a new economic system. When a customer buys x amount of product from a vendor, that customer then becomes a shareholder in said company. Rather than simply being a consumer, that person becomes an owner, who is seeking a return on his/her investment. So, when a company opens, it automatically becomes publically owned as soon as it starts to sell its product/services. This, in turn, will create a new form of conscious consumer. This will stimulate each individual to think twice before purchasing goods or services. There will still be a structure of power in place; however, it will flatten and distribute the power on a larger scale. As everyone becomes an owner rather than just a customer, people will purchase in spaces where they believe they will get the largest return. Subsequently, some people might not want to invest (consume), but will become artisans of their own where they will be the majority shareholder. This, in turn, will generate the emergence of new tastes, where people will try to “make it new.” Coming back to McDonald’s, if a customer buys, for example, 10 Big Macs, that customer will now own, say, one share in the McDonald’s enterprise. That consumer has now become an owner of McDonald’s, where s/he will be invited to annual shareholder meetings (held virtually, of course) to determine the future of the enterprise. If, as publicized, “McDonald’s brand mission is to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink” then there is no reason why it will not survive, and thrive.

It is easy, from a power perspective, to look down on the space that is McDonald’s and its customers. It is actually a welcoming space and refuge for many that do not fit in Second Cup and Starbucks. However, we could make it better if we tried.

Bibliography

Ahmed, Sara. (2006) Queer Phenomenology Ch. 1: Orientations Towards Objects, section “Inhabiting Spaces” (51-63). Durham: Duke University Press.

Debord, Guy. (1959). ‘Détournement as Negation and Prelude’, Bureau of Public Secrets. http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/3.detourn.htm

Lefebrve, Henri. “The Production of Space.” In Gieseking, Jen J. And William Mangold, (Eds.), The People, Place, and Space Reader. (289-293). London: Routledge.

Blog post (2)

Ma première publication sur le blogue mentionnait mon matelas de yoga, la métaphore de l’objet servant à démontrer la mobilité de mes pratiques de la discipline dans plusieurs lieux changeants, comme étant mon endroit préféré. Toujours en accord avec cette affirmation, j’y vois aujourd’hui de nouveaux attraits et bémols.

Je me suis cette fois-ci installer dans ma chambre et, juxtaposant mon lit, j’ai regardé le plafond. Plutôt que de concentrer mes efforts au sol, j’ai divagué la tête vers les nuages. Mon corps à lui-même senti le paradigme d’être couché sur le sol alors que mon lit était à un bras de distance. Possiblement, cela à ajouter à mon inconfort. Les pratiques étant des expériences éphémères, situées dans l’espace-temps,  les différents lieux où peut être transporté ledit matelas redonnent à chaque moment une différente couleur. Ma perception s’y voit restructurée à chaque endroit, mes points de repère continuellement altérés. Une désorientation influe sur mon corps qui n’est plus seul maître de ses mouvements, mais qui est plutôt en constant dialogue avec son espace.

Cette bulle crée par le matelas déposé, tout comme certains drapeaux ont été plantés sur certaines terres indigènes, délimite la privatisation du dit lieu. On s’approprie donc l’espace lorsqu’on s’y installe, que ce soit de prime abord un espace privé ou public. Ainsi s’étend la motilité du geste, car il en est un socialement accepté, voire même encouragé si l’on écoute la rhétorique promouvant l’activité physique. Il me semble donc, non seulement permis pour les détenteurs de l’objet de s’accaparer un espace public temporairement, le geste est souvent favorisé. La propension à abaisser la barrière public\privé peut apparaître séduisante, mais pour qui? Être passante à l’instant où un autre médite je rêve sournoisement de priser ce cocon et de débuter une conversation en ce moment sacré.

Avec un plus grand recul, l’objet (donc l’espace qu’il créer) me semble aujourd’hui dénaturé de sa vacation initiale et parait utilisé pour assouvir des demandes occidentales. Des réclamations du genre : un rapide relaxant, une activité pour garder une peau d’apparence jeune et garder mon corps svelte sont valorisés. Cette réaffirmation de ”l’autre”, celui ou celle qui aspirent à une dimension spirituelle de la pratique méditative qui est habituellement associée aux habitudes traditionnelles, se voit renforcée. Cette pratique qui m’est quasi hebdomadaire est un exemple de ce que Lefebvre qualifierait de “close relationship with daily routine and urban reality, which include urban networks, private and leisure spaces’’ (Lefebvre 291). La discipline, n’étant pas innée, mais bien dictée, est actuellement ancrée dans un discours homogénéisé où je ne m’y sens pas confronté, malheureusement. En effet, ces espaces privilégiés me sont aisément accessibles, car ils renforcent une image qui m’est attribuée, mon profil étant ‘’convenable’’. L’appropriation de l’art et des techniques ancestrales qui sont utilisées sur l’espace délimité par le couvre-sol renforce, sous l’apparition matérielle de celui-ci, le tissu de la formation sociale. L’écart se creuse alors que plus d’espaces sont accordés au rituel : la contradiction accentue l’orientation blanche et la reproduction d’un espace dominant.

Lefebrve, Henri. “The Production of Space.” In Gieseking, Jen J. And William Mangold, (Eds.), The People, Place, and Space Reader. (289-293). London: Routledge.

Blog Post 2: Re-orientation Exercise

My initial description of my favorite space is entirely psychogeographic, as I consider my own individual emotions and behavior in the space. In this reflection I will try to expand on other bodies’ experiences in the space.

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Erie Beach is a small residential neighborhood in Chatham Kent, Ontario. It is near the town of Erieau, which was historically a fishing and port village receiving shipments of coal from the United States. The beach is a private space and can only be accessed by property owners. Each property owner owns a piece of the beach making it a very restricted space. Since I have been visiting this space all my life as a privileged guest, the space that is restricted to most has always felt like a safe haven of freedom and lively connections to my surroundings. Although in reflection with Gill Valentine’s idea of public/private space, the private space is not truly private as it is managed and controlled by neighbors and for this reason, many bodies may not truly be themselves in the space.

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Even though the space is technically private, residents share the beach with one and other. There is a certain unspoken set of rules in which bodies must conduct themselves within this private space adhering with Henri Lefebvre’s first triad: special practice. I did not realize this special practice and performance in my initial description of the space as it has been engrained in me as “normal”. At the beach, one cannot stop and rest on someone else’s property while strolling down the shoreline, or play music, dance, or skinny dip without getting negative attention from neighbors. This reinforces the social practice that is constantly reproduced by the majority bodies within it.

In my original portrayal of Erie Beach, the space was a warm, sunny, summer day where I felt connected with the vibrancy of the bodies around me, and at peace from the serenity of my surroundings. When I revisited the space last week it was winter. The lake was covered in snow and ice, haunted by its previous entity. The skeleton of the space was still there, but its soul and flesh had changed drastically. As a socially produced space, the bodies within it were no longer vibrant, connected and loose, but stiff, lethargic and preoccupied. In one sense, the change in bodies’ orientations made the space feel dramatically different, however it was the change in the space’s physical make up that induced the change in bodies’ orientations. Thus a perfect example of Jason Farman’s theory that space is “constructed simultaneously with our bodies” (18) co-constructing one another.

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Through my memories of being in the actual space, as I gaze at the virtual computer image of Erie Beach at summer time, my body goes through the same physical sensations as it would if I was actually there. I feel my shoulders loosen, my breath become deeper, and my ears fill with the sound of the waves. This is an extension of Jason Farman’s idea of the “sensory-inscribed body”. Even in the dead of winter, virtual imagery of a space is able to stimulate my body with same way the actual space would.

Drawing from Sarah Ahmed’s phenomenology of whiteness, I myself possess white orientation in the space along with all other residents of the space, unaware of our orientation of power and exclusivity in the space, due to our ownership, politics and ideology. Along with being an inherently white space, Erie Beach is also authentically heterosexual. Both Valentine and Ahmed draw from Lefebvre in stating that the normality of a space is a consequence of constant reproduction of a certain behavior the bodies that are in that space conduct repeatedly and must always be reinforced. Next summer when I visit Erie Beach in its prime, I am going to challenge myself to try and break the norms of what is socially acceptable.

Blog Post 2: Re-Orientation Exercise

The hotel I had in mind has existed since February 2003 (hotels in general have obviously been around for much longer than that). I have only been there four times in all (over the past four years) and, since it costs over a hundred dollars to get in, I am not going to be returning to it for the purposes of this post. This draws attention to the wider issue of access to and exclusion from this space based on class-based factors.

I may not consider myself rich by any means, but I cannot avoid being aware of the fact that, for an entire segment of the population, access to this space is closed off in a way which is even more restrictive than that. Being near a metro station, it can be reached easily enough by people who cannot afford to drive and who must rely on public transit to get there. The entrance has an access ramp so the hotel can accommodate the entry of people in wheelchairs, and there are supposed to be facilities in it that are specifically designed to be usable by people with physical disabilities.

Thinking of the ‘Fumeur’ misguide reminds me that the fact that the entire hotel insists on remaining a non-smoking environment makes it somewhat less accessible to smokers, who can theoretically enter but who must go outside to smoke, even in the winter cold, which must be taken into account. Having known someone who worked in hotel service a few years ago but quit after having had a hard time with it, I wonder about the quality of the working conditions of the cleaning staff who work there, and how they get treated as part of their own particular chain of command. It is often assumed that more among hotel cleaning staff are likelier to be non-white, possibly immigrants trying to make ends meet with hotel service, and that more hotel customers are going to be white, although in practice of course non-white clients and white cleaning staff are still present in most hotels.

Hotel rooms exist in a strange place in relation to the public/private dyad: on one hand they are theoretically accessible to all, which makes them public, yet while they are rented they ostensibly become private space for the people who are renting them, on the other. One may wonder about the previous and next occupants of the room one is renting, with no way to find out anything about them, but Sophie Calle’s stint as hotel cleaning staff making inferences about room renters by going through their trash raises the question of just how private a space they are. I ask myself, if I could not afford to rent the hotel room I have to clean, how kindly would I judge those who rent it?

Whereas American hotel rooms all have Bibles, Canadian hotel rooms have no such thing and, asking myself what I would want in a room if I could choose, it occurs to me how ‘modular’ this space must be, ‘reset’ from client to client. It would be intriguing to be able to leave a message to the next renter, encouraging them to leave a message to the following one, and to return later to see how far the exchange continued, yet that the space must be ‘wiped’ each time makes this impossible. Gender performance may be relaxed in private although, if two men rent one room, staff will assume they want two beds. Free Wifi invites virtual space in to superimpose itself on real space, with curtains closing off the outside glare.

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Hallways and Corridors – A Mis-Guide to Concordia

We must start by acknowledging Janet Cardiff and George Butes Miller and their work “Video Walks” which was the inspiration behind our creative piece.

Our definition is as follows: a video walk is a multisensory tour that holds a particular visual emphasis. For this walk to be successful, a smartphone needs to be used as well as earphones, which are plugged into the medium. The viewer stands at the same location where the footage has been shot. The participant needs to turn on his/her phone, access the video via YouTube and to press play. The 10 minute long footage consists of one single shot which adds a raw and ghostly feel to our footage. The participant is both an engaged listener and viewer and follows the prerecorded footage on the cellular device. This cellular device is held at arms length, comfortably to mimic the present space. As Cardiff and Miller mention “the architecture in the video stays the same as the physical world, but the people and their actions change, so there is a strange disjunction for the viewer about what is real.” This piece requires the participant to interact with his/her senses as well as interact with the space, the architecture and the people in that space. Throughout the walk, the voiceover directs the participant to pay attention to specific elements that make up the space with the engagement of touch, sound, sight and smell. Our goal for this piece is for the viewer to notice their body and how it reacts to the space; we do so by asking the participant to concentrate on the relationship between their body and the space that they are in.

Our imaginative map blends together the “real” physical space and our perceived predisposed footage, blurring the lines between the two realities.

By Lisa Suliteanu and Frédérique Rajotte