Thursday, November 19, 2009


The success of civic media projects like the ExtrAct project, according to Chris Csikszentmihályi, relies on the ability to provide information through a navigable visual representation.

“In a contested space, the map is ammunition.”

It is clear that Csikszentmihályi believes in the power of the visual as a means or catalyst for collective action. And to a point, one can say that the ExtrAct project does begin to provide a means for a user to realize their position within a larger schema, offering a new mode of interaction with the conflict.

How does ExtrAct as well as Landman Report Card begin to address its users, both locally and by means of inter/intrastate collective action groups? For as much as the project and the use of Googlemap, address the user as individual, the mapping of natural gas development sites, coupled with the Landman Report Card, users are linked to a network of ‘victims’ or those who have possibly shared similar experiences.

It becomes a means of empowerment, as users/consumers/landowners are no longer isolated in their experience, but are given information and advice from other people who have gone through the same thing.

However, although the mapping of natural gas development creates a network of similar experience, the structure of Landman Report Card only makes possible activism through the local. The Landman Report Card functions as a citizen/consumer watchdog group rather than as a means of collective network. So there are two things that are going on within the project. One, the map, where it begins to create a collectivity around a shared experience or placement of natural gas sites and the other, the Landman Report Card, that address users as empowered through their right to choose. They are produced as both landowner and consumer. What tension is created in their ability to function simultaneously and what does each program with the project open up or inhibit the other’s functions?

Perhaps we can begin to think of Csikszentmihályi’s project as pening up a space that facilitates trajectory through the navigation of the interface, opening up possibilities and new flows and providing new modes of participation. If ExtrAct is seen as merely a tool, and not as a means of solving the conflict, then project begins function as a beginning point of analysis, rather than as an end.

What are the potentialities of interacting with ExtrAct’s interface? Does ExtrAct become a sort of “
interface as intervention,” functioning in a different way than something like Google Earth’s treatment of the crisis in Darfur?


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