Production of Social Media/Chapter 10
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Mobile Ouija Boards By Chris Speed
In this article, Speed refers to such movies as The Sixth Sense and Poltergeist in his equation of cultural and historical events being transmitted to us in the present day through the medium of the internet and mobile devices just as ghosts speak through a medium such as a séance leader or a Ouija board. Through examples such as the defacement of a war memorial, Speed points out that people and events have their way of “coming back from the dead”. He continues along this train of thought by exemplifying how mobile devices can serve as portals for “ghosts” of the past. Histories (true or make-believe) have the potential to “haunt” us wherever we go.
The author supports the prediction that the focus of cities (in regards to tourists) is shifting from geographical to cultural. He notes that there is a great amount of pressure of GPS maps to constantly be updated and remain current. However, an alternative he suggests allows for layers of updating on GPS maps just as city architectures are layered, displaying different time periods of time all at once. Speed acknowledges that society is moving towards an “always-on” culture, but to relieve a bit of pressure, he prefers “nearly always-on”. In other words, until virtual maps are streamed live, there will always be occasional inaccuracies due to the impossibility to update all maps all of the time.
By using GPS tools and apps, we can experience the various layers of the past in a number of ways, according to Speed. Personal histories, for example stories of people who have lived in a particular house, can be recorded and preserved in formats that can be shared and accessed online. Public traumas, such as terrorist attacks or war, can be documented and archived, and revisited by users of these apps. Speed gives the example of the Walking Through Time application that uses Google Maps for a base and then layers historical maps on top. Users can be located by GPS, and through their mobile device, can see their exact position on a historical map.
Another prediction that Speed adheres to is that in the future, the data of all material things will be archived on the “Internet of Things”. He foresees that the histories of individual objects can be identified and recorded using quick response (QR) codes. He tells of The RememberMe Project where, in a second hand shop, each item was tagged with a QR code that, when scanned, would link to a personal story told by the previous owner of that object. Buyers could find out who had owned the object, where it came from originally, and any interesting stories or meanings that had been associated with the thing.
An exhibition called Scotland: A Changing Nation also uses QR codes and the Tales of Things technology,. The exhibition includes all kinds of both unique and everyday objects from the 20th and 21st centuries, tagged with QR codes that link to stories behind each object. Visitors to the exhibition can scan the codes with their smart phones and link to the stories as well as have the possibility to add their own comments or stories.
All of these projects, the author concludes, represent a significant change in the focus of digital technology, going from highlighting the technology itself to an increased importance on the stories the technology can tell as well as the users who can interact with “ghosts” of the past.
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