Chapter 10: On Common Ground: Here as There

by Paula Levine


Chapter Abstract:

Many mobile and locative media projects testify to the power of these emerging wireless and networked systems to introduce narrative as a way to augment, annotate, or add historical richness to public spaces. These projects transform participants into story bearers who keep the narratives of the unique character, histories, and local experiences of a place alive. But there is also the potential for mobile and locative media to change one’s relationship to a place by introducing distant events or circumstances onto local spaces and make events that are happening elsewhere highly relevant to the immediate, local space. This chapter discusses works that map temporal and geo-spatial shifts to create a spatial layering that offers viewers a distinct sense of juxtaposition and dissonance. These clashes are important opportunities to form new narratives. Ultimately, these narratives can be potentially more expansive experiences where empathy can play a prominent role.


Hands-On Exploration:

Each day, many times a day, we use portable devices we carry or wear to connect us to people and places in disparate locations, often far away from where we are. On a daily basis, these mobile phones or computers and wireless and networked systems stretch the local into global. This assignment focuses this extended sense of place as a potential common ground, defined and shaped through a collaboratively designed work by two teams, each located in a difference place. The final project should bridge the team’s two different geospatial locations in some way. A few examples include: collaborative geospatial GPS drawing, focusing on local similarities or differences, exploring and comparing the two culture’s or regional questions or ideas of identity, a geospatial novel or poem, exploring in parallel local histories, stories or mythologies. Final projects are presented by each team as tours within Google Earth, documented by text, video, photos and/or audio.

Students work with others who are located in a different city, and ideally, a different country, from their own. Students work in teams. These are either singly paired collaborators, each located in a different place, or groups of up to three local students who are, in turn, paired with a similar group of students located elsewhere. Each collaborative team creates, produces, and documents an exploration of topics that exist in both physical spaces of each respective location, and, through documentation, within the virtual space of Google Earth.

The final output of these collaborative projects can take several forms. Some examples include: parallel actions or interventions, parallel interviews on thematic topics, collaborative performances, designs and placement of parallel monuments, historical walks, Psycho-geography walks designed by students in one location that are carried out by those within the other location, Situationist- type derives, exploring cultural clichés. Final pieces are documented using text, video, photos or a combination of media, and presented within Google Earth as a tour (kmz file). These files are exchanged between collaborators, so each has their own file and the file of the long distance partners. In addition, the projects are accessible to viewers online, either using Google Earth’s plugin to enable Google Earth to appear within a website, or by linking the kmz files to one’s website to enable viewers to download the file and open it within Google Earth. Teams present their projects within their respective classrooms, showing both teams’ kmz files, and, within each of their own classrooms, discusses their work, ideas, process of collaboration and outcome.