Communication Front 2000 Book, “Crossing Points East-West”

Compass, map, camera, bubble gum and some rhetoric

How to be a Networked Media Tourist?

Tapio Mäkelä

In short, it is quite easy to be a tourist using the Networked Media Tours Ltd. I mean, you get an invitation, get picked up from an airport, live a life nicely secluded from the surrounding society and spend some time making art, discussion or theory… And if you really don’t feel like being up to producing something tangible, you can always network.

However, there are some pitfalls that a beginner or intermediate tourist should keep in mind. First of all, remember to have a compass with you and keep it pointing the right direction, North pointing North, as it is described on your paper version map. You should also read carefully the tour organiser’s guidelines, whether your existence is defined through the North-South axis or the West-East axis. If you happen to participate to a media art tour in former Eastern Europe, you should forget about the N-S and just remind yourself that you are “at the crossroads” or “in the border zone” between East and West. To help you remember this, you can attach a small piece of bubble gum to the “E” on your compass. Also you should carefully disregard any doubts about the meaningfulness of this method. For instance, the fact that in South East Asia, your East points to something rather different is totally insignificant for your current tour. Bipolar opposites will keep you properly lined up in linear history, and allow an easy relationship between your own background and the local socio-political context as if the latter is absent. In any moments of dislocated panic, a glimpse of that compass will tell you who you are and where you are. (Advanced GPS models are available for those with an extremely dysfunctional geographical identification).

As a Networked Media Tourist, you should at least remember the countries that surround the target country. A map comes in handy, but be careful to look at a recent copy. It would be embarrassing to use a 1980s map to actually reveal that your thoughts evolve from another era. Just like with the compass and the bubble gum, you can now put a piece of bubble gum to your point of origin and your current location. The relationship of these nodes of bubble gum on your map represent your translocal nature as a networked media tourist. Push your left thumb on your point of origin, and your right thumb on your current “East” location. This test, known as the “East-West Relocator” ™, is bullet proof. If the bubble gum nodes remain on the map and do not get stuck on your fingers, you have the ideal networked identity and you have become part of both sides, both sides being part of you. If either one gum-node comes off, you should consider never returning to that location. If both come off, you are a traitor to the trade of networkers and should immediately retire.

A big problem for networked media tourists is to distinguish themselves from the ordinary, classical tourists. Carrying a camera with you all hours of the day is not the solution, but a constant and self-consciously underlined usage of latest digital equipment is a good start. You should not photograph the local statues and your friends, but shoot trash, graffiti, shop windows and all kinds of objects that you can pinpoint as being out of place (sic!). To remind your surrounding of your educated AV nature, you should also record sounds, pick up some objects and do some shopping for educational purposes. Then off to the lab, produce a few web pages with your locally informed and content-rich art, or write a critical text on the rights and wrongs of e-commerce in Bulgaria. Even though you might be in another (ex!) Eastern European country, a text on Bulgarian e-commerce will impress your travel mates.

During the daytime, all networked travellers from the current tour gather around a table to talk about networked travel as activism or as an art practice. If you feel lost, don’t worry. Think about a moment from your primary school, when the world appeared as something that can be understood, contained on the pages of your geography book. You should also know all basic stereotypes of “East” and “West” and apply them to discuss, philosophically of course, the mundane cultural differences that have occurred to you. “Here in the East you are much more critical, perhaps that is because you have not had the possibility to concentrate on consumerism” is a good beginning on your way to become a true Networked Media Tourist. Also you should remember your days in kindergarten, for if you leave the roundtable before the moderator has nodded in acceptance, you are a bad tourist. If you sign up for the trip, you must take the guided tours to the end. If at some point you may get irritated for not having your own will, never mind. A quick relief is nearby, you can get up, hold your hand up and say: “Now, I don’t know about you, but I think we are focusing too much on the outcome. What we should be doing here is think about the process.” And yes, that’s all there is at the end – process.

Don’t forget to process a few postcards you can send home, whatever or wherever that is.

Tazi statiq na bylgarski / This text in Bulgarian
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