At the Tracing Mobilities symposium someone asked a question about the relationship between the work shown on the panel I was on and a global imaginary, it was a really good question that I didn’t really answer, here’s what I should have said:
Firstly I think its important to think about the global not simply as an over view, as Ingold says in his book ‘The Perception of the Environment’
“Our perception of the environment as a whole, in short, is forged not in the ascent from a myopic, local perspective to a panoptic global one, but in the passage from place to place, and in histories of movement and changing horizons along the way.”
When we say the global we think global travel, global trade, global economics, but if we try to see that overview what we end up finding are links between specific places, and its worth attending to that distinction between an over view and how its lived out on the ground in detail. The specific places that are linked, why they are linked and what the power relationships are between them, how the complex politics and material realities are enacted on a day to day basis, socially, geographically, economically, and on the ground. Anna Tsing discusses this very eloquently in ‘Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection’ (2005) in relation to deforestation in Indonesia. Thats why I think Kate Rich’s project Feral Trade works so well, because its making those global supply chains visible, between individual places and individual people.
In relation to my own work my wider research is to try to find ways that GPS as a record of movement can be used to make closer links between those abstract global imaginaries and specific lived journeys and places, which was why I mentioned the Reindeer tracking as an actual example of how GPS mediates several aspects of a specific, localised relationship.
Doreen Massey puts it perfectly in her description of a global sense of place in which the local is always linked to multiple global places, through specific objects, practices, media and people.
“Imagine for a moment that you are on a satellite, further out and beyond all actual satellites; you can see ‘planet earth’ from a distance and , unusually for someone with only peaceful intentions, you are equipped with the kind of technology which allows you to see the colours of people’s eyes and the numbers on their numberplates. You can see all the movement and tune in to all the communication that is going on. Furthest out are the satellites, then aeroplanes, the long haul between London and Tokyo and the hop from San Salvador to Guatemala City. Some of this is people moving, some of it is physical trade, some is media broadcasting. There are faxes, e-mail, film-distribution networks, financial flows and transactions. Look in closer and there are ships and trains, steam trains slogging laboriously up hills somewhere in Asia. Look in closer still and there are lorries and cars and buses, and on down further, somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, there’s a woman – amongst many women – on foot, who still spends hours a day collecting water.”
Space, Place and Gender. P148-9. Massey.
To return to the iphone example I gave kind of inadequately on the day, what had intruiged me about having an app on the app store was that by distributing the software I was suddenly connected to a handful of very specific places, it wasn’t about ‘global’ distribution as such, but about a link between me and those individuals.