Monday, November 2, 2009

Where were you when...?

When it comes to a truly seismic event in world history, we reach out and yearn to let others know where exactly we were when we found out - hence the question "Do you remember where you were when Kennedy was shot?" or contemporaneously "... when MLK was shot?". Today, we don't just know, we tell.

Ever tried making a call at about 12:01 on New Year's Day - you can't. Every network is jammed with drunk dials - "hey baby, last year was a mistake, let's try again... WOOHOO!" When something big happens, we are likely to go out there and make sure everyone knows. It's as though we can broadcast a "you are here" map to everyone and every time, and out of nothing, the cell phone allows, as Rafael suggests, creates an insta-community.

I think simultaneity is vitally important in the creation of ad-hoc communities, especially if it has a project identity like the Filipino case. Creating a sense of what one stands for in real-time, and then acting it out, contributes to the experience as much as the protest itself. Being both a creator, a contributor, a producer (and a dissident) adds to the flavor of protest - suddenly, one is not just a faceless member of the disgruntled and disenfranchised but a community organizer and rabble-rouser. Not only can you be a member of the opposition but a link to others.

And that is what cell phones enable. By giving the tools of communication to all, we enable all of us to know where and when everything that may happen. Because cellphones have become a part of everyday attire, because it is with us, sending and receiving data without our specific behest, it is, more so than the internet, a part of the fabric of our communication. We can, with the cellphone, rally our information at our command to all others within our circle and network - we broadcast where we were and instead of telling people if they remember that time, we can become that time

Google Maps - different story. Things have happened in a meta-past; you can see it in real-time, it has the illusion of real time with the active movement and input, but it's most definitely already gone by the time you zoom in. So in this round of readings, I'm afraid cell phones win.

Being able/willing to share seems to be one of this species' innate desires - it's the entire basis of Twitter. We all want to be able to catalog what happened at that time so that when people ask you "do you remember?", you do. The immediacy of the moment almost instantaneously becomes a moment of history; to be remembered, filed, and then recalled with nostalgia/trauma. We want to know and to share; so perhaps the better question to come out of this post would not be "how do you remember" but "why do you choose to remember" and then, subsequently, spread it like a virus?

If' it's a truly large moment in history, every single camera will be there recording it from grainy cellphone pictures to massive telescopic lenses. Is there some unique vantage point that can be gained via the act of instantaneous history creation that we so desperately all want to a part of? And if so, isn't that a real kick in the balls to individualism - we are only there because it's larger than us?

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