Revolution will be twitted.
This video-note is about events that happened in Egypt in February of 2011 which I observed through various online media. The note argues that 1. Online media about the event inspires and affects crowd in networked space 2. However the ‘Networked crowd’ can only participate in the event passively, if they are limited in using those same online media which they got the information 3. Therefore online media brings revolution real time and expands crowd over the network, but it is still the collective bodies in public space that changes the society.
- Online media such as real-time video, images, and tweets, user generated as well as press material was central to my experience of the event in Egypt.“Harun Farocki’s seminal work ‘Videograms of a revolution’ follows Romanian revolution through 125 hours of amateur and professional archival video footage.”(from Tate modern website) Although Aljazeera’s news feed was not tightly edited like Farocki’s work, there were real time editing and producing as the events were happening. To my naive perspective as a spectator, it seemed like if the event were not televised, it does not count as happened. I was very inspired by what I saw, although I lack any knowledge about political and social context of the event, it was the perfect recipe for anyone who have appetite for social movement, and I among many others on Twitter, chanted “Revolution will be twitted!”
- Some western media called this event a ‘Facebook revolution.’ It is not entirely true and yet not entirely false. Social media did play an integral part in igniting the event. But for the networked crowd who were observing the event through online, their interest in this political event easily becomes a commodity of consciousness. ‘Liking’ in Facebook or ‘Retweeting’ on twitter is a very easy and passive participation. Aljazeera’s camera was gazing at the Tahir Square consecutively for days. It’s perspective reminds me of a monocular vision, as opposed to a panoptic vision. Whereas Panopticon is ‘all seeing’, thus affecting the subjects to sensor themselves, monocle is voyeuristic and does not affect the subject. Real event began from the energy between people’s bodies in the crowd. What was shocking about video from ‘Democracy Now’ was the proximity of camera to the events. The camera was an integral part of the event and the camera man was exposed to immediate danger. The video is engaging, as if their camera broke the invisible wall between performer and spectator. For networked crowd to break the invisible wall between passive participation and active engagement, they need to break away from the Online media which affected them in the first place, and either by bring their bodies out into the space and/or create alternative online media to communicate and create contents.“ Just because you see what is happening, it doesn’t mean you are part of it!”
- Al Jazeera’s live stream looked like Starcraft championship. Streaming subtitles, control panels, maps, occasional portrait of players looked similar. The performer and spectator relationship in Starcraft championship is clear, but what about in the case of a revolution and urban protest? There can be no singular controller, player of a revolution. People in the streets form a large body as a crowd that occupy the urban public space. They form an alliance and produce a sense of community. Networked crowd, although not present in the event, they do encourage others, appreciate the event and affect each other through passive and active participation.
Taeyoon Choi 3/24/2011
New York City
Thanks to my friends at Red Channels, The Public School New York and EYEBEAM.