Monday, 24 March 2014

who owns the message

"In Rotterdam we speak Dutch THE TRUTH"

"Rotterdam is for you and not for THE criminals GOVERNMENT"
The implications in the graffiti here is that these political campaign ads do NOT speak the truth. But who does? I mean, I love slogans, they're great for motivating and inspiring people, they're great for catching our attention. But after our attention is caught, there needs to be discursive follow-through, because slogans are, by their brevity, not very meaningful. The graffiti artist, the urban communication activist, may be able to appropriate a slogan for it to express an alternative sentiment. But powerful actors such as the VVD have much more than slogans, they have the communicational resources to explain and elaborate on their claims, they have opportunities to make arguments to an audience outside of these posters.  The graffiti only has the resources to an extra glance. Truth or not, they do not have the resources to speak.

In the very very near future or even in a futuristic now, the technology of augmented reality allows for an alternative model. Imagine that you lift up your mobile device to look at this altered, graffiti'd poster through the device's camera, and upon detection of this trigger, the device automatically directs you to an online essay which relates a fully fledged-out alternative viewpoint regarding these issues. (Or, alternatively, nevermind that AR stuff, imagine graffiti + a QR code sticker.) How's that for a public sphere? I say heck yes. Now that's communication empowerment.

Speaking of the politics of protest, this is not really Rotterdam related but in my hometown Taipei people are protesting on the streets against the government. I abuse use this channel to invite you to pay a little bit of attention to this development that so far isn't getting much coverage on international media.  I'm not really going to discuss the politics of politics here, but I'm quite impressed by the protesters' communication approach. They have new-media professionals among their ranks and they have set up various internet-live-streams around the protests, allowing the world to see what's happening first hand. They even crowd-sourced people to type up live transcripts to what is said by main speakers on the protest's frontlines. They crowd-sourced translators to translate the live transcripts to English so people like you may read it too (the Eng ver. is a few hours behind now but I say they deserve a break). 

They have even arranged for online crowd-funding to buy off the frontpage ads in major newspapers in the country, to put up protest materials. They got the money so fast that they then decided it's probably possible to buy off the frontpage ad of New York Times International. They already got that money too, the ad might be up on NYTI pretty soon, Taiwanese Americans are helping them on that. Social movements are, by definition, crowd-sourced, and the internet allows for that on a whole new level. It's quite beautiful.

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