The Southwest, steps towards #media2012 (and a thoughts on ‘archiving’ and digital memory)

On Wednesday we were in Bristol for the third ‘official’ meeting of regional representatives the #media2012 network (is that the best way to describe it?) to talk about what those who have got involved have been up, to hear what those who would like to be involved are up to and discussing the vision of the directions we would like to take the network. There are no set rules about how we are going to go about coordinating a national citizen media network for the Olympics – each hub, if there is to be a hub at all, may or may not be autonomous, may be located in a physical space (such as a cultural venue like FACT, Cornerhouse, Watershed or the Phoenix) could be linked to cultural, art and social debates around 2012, could be a source of documentation, could be used as an educational ‘resource’, could exist without a physical location- the possibilities are endless. Which makes this an exciting, yet challenging position to be in in terms of coordinating and facilitating a movement on this ‘type’ and scale.

We discussed what happened in Vancouver and their social media/community driven reporting – and their spaces and places that were used and re -appropriated during games time. What can we learn from Vancouver – especially when it comes to organisation of programmes/events, expectations and goals, the physical requirements (provision of wifi and powersockets, a quiet spot and some coffee) and the infrastructure to support a citizen media network – something that is not just a virtual aim, but a physical one – shared space can provide access to people, to conversations and activities that might not be had prior to the digital infrastructure. These are things that are often missed upon reflection – and could be the backbone behind each regional hub.
(There are more to be said here, especially around who owns/provides the spaces versus the community that wishes to occupy a place – and some of the issues we are encountering in the East Midlands at least.)
Afterwards, I attended Andy’s lecture on #media2012 for the University of Bristol Drama Department – and it was great to catch up with Dr Angela Piccini (who I had met whilst in Vancouver) and was presenting a paper on the research she conducted out there around materiality and screens.
It really got me thinking about memory and the digital experience – especially when we associate the digital with a form of archiving and documenting. The discussions after the two papers were around constructing histories, memory, digital architecture and media archaeology – provoked partly by the Vancouver Olympic Resistance Network Facebook page becoming “vandalised” by Acai berry spam, wiping out the original messages of the group and their supporters. Of course, we could take steps back to February 2010, and we could read back over the comments, but the contextual element – the experience of living through those pieces of data – are gone.
It is not only the citizen “artefact” that has been abandoned/overgrown – the IOC and the organising committees are not well versed in digital archiving, despite being concerned with documenting and constructing their own histories through the Olympic charter, Olympic Studies Centre and various Olympic museums. There is a paradox between knowing they must do something but not knowing exactly what they should be doing. It’s relatively easy to deal with the sport, it is is covered and handed over by accredited media – however- the website is part of the host city organising committee, an entity that is disbanded shortly after games time. There are definitely plans for a (debatable) social media presence from the London Organising Committee, building on some of the “breakthroughs” in Vancouver (@2010tweets, official flickr groups) and now incorporating the notion of “digital” volunteers to monitor content on their behalf.
So far, so good – however – like the Vancouver Resistance Network – the London 2012 online presence will be subjected to the same disintegration, the same abandonment, once the games have been and gone, It will be as if it never happened (especially if they go ahead and dismantle the stadium immediately afterwards). The focus on the activity being on the immediate, a reaction to the spectacle, providing messages during the optimum profiteering time – during the sport. If we are to consider a “legacy” (to borrow an overdrawn expression) as an alternative movement, as a citizen media network and facilitator, we need to consider our role and our responsibly are data producers. It can all go the same way, no matter how many data journalists we have producing critique free visuals, how many social media tools exist to collect taxonomy, we need to find ways in which to not only archive and collect data produced from the games, but also use this data to inform future cities, ‘produce’ histories and continue to hijack the Olympic narrative that they would wish for London to maintain.
This doesn’t just apply to the Olympics – far from it. It still takes interpretation to make sense of data, I fear that we may rely on the protocol of the web and not trust our own insight into experiences. There is a reason why I spent 200 dollars to bring back 40kg of leaflets back from Canada – only so that a year on I can only begin to make sense about what the hell happened over there.
Although I am required to be critical of how new media technologies are being cheerleaded, there is something definetely at foot. To know what this is, is going to clash with the sense of immediacy required with the environment – but there is something that is being provided, something that is growing through connections that they could only wish that they could control and claim as their own ‘big society’…
On that note, I think Ben Seymour’s Olympicfield parody is worth a watch for a Friday night:

Posted via email from Jennifer Jones’ PhD Notebook