Visions of a space through mobile apps

Collage with caption "TIME"

Time

One of the interesting things I see about certain apps on mobile devices is that they can become an introductory or concluding space for media literacy and expression. The central role of still pictures in many apps which use images and the possibility to manipulate, organise and add elements of text or other symbols, may very well lead to narrative structures and conscious choices as long as there is room for dialogue between content and form.

What we are interested is a process of choosing a point of view for our work, no matter how “small”, “short” or “ephemeral” the result may be. Apps’ possibility to function relatively quickly and directly from shooting to “editing” minimize the maturing process from idea to (audio)visual text . This offers aspects of entertainment, appropriation and a feeling of solving a riddle which engages audiences and – especially young- users. Of course this same speed, usually neglects deeper thinking and possibilities for synthesis. Could we thus grasp the graphic and expressive qualities of such creativity, even though it may be evanescent and evaporating in the mobile device environment, and turn it towards further narratives and critical thinking?

Signs in close ups

Signs and arrows showing the way

Here are some examples of such a pilot project with “Photo Collage” and “Pic Collage” during an adult workshop that I offered at the Media Meets Literacy conference in Warsaw (22/23 May 2015). In relation to media education work such apps lend themselves to pluralism and possibilities for both group work and solitary expressions which are important to both young and old. In addition I find particular documentary qualities in “playing” with these apps, as “point and shooting” with our mobile phone cameras has become almost a trivial habit for almost anyone. The challenge is to turn an often meaningless gesture of “clicking” -which however is charming enough to happen in millions everyday all over our planet- to a thoughtful choice.

The participants here, worked in pairs or three and were asked to reflect on their impressions from the venue of the conference. We had a short discussion which, in a normal workshop would follow a more detailed brainstorming session. The important documentary element was to guide participants to switch point of view on the space they have already been all morning without thinking about a specific interpretation. The should come back with a collage version of their vision of the space. Pictures could serve a way of thinking or rather a way of LOOKING.

Female details

Female details

Collage with a focus on windows

Window idea

Humans and patterns

Humans and patterns

Although we lost some time in technicalities which are still inherent with such uses (who has what device, which platform, free and payed versions, adapters, transferring materials etc) the feedback about the process was that it was both absorbing and entertaining and the results have a visual quality one can built both meanings and feelings. It is worth remembering that our initial inspiring question was the space itself and our vision of it , a purely documentaristic or street photography question. The interesting thing is how the interactivity of the app affects form and leads us to new scenarios. Imagine that we almost didn’ t have the time to touch upon the layer of adding text and captions, leading us thus to a more complete narrative. In addition we would like to have more time to compare how the same space inspired different approaches, and to discuss the narratives that occurred.