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Posted by on Feb 10, 2015

Three impressions of Seoul with three different tools: technology as co-creator

I was putting some materials together for a workshop I am doing next week in Helsinki on mobile learning and open space (my normal playlist) and I came across different applications I had used in the past to create compositions on Seoul. I am using composition in the broad sense here: a representation or aggregation of materials designed to present meaning. My colleague Pekka and I will be making the case that these rough representations, or first sketches, of meaning are critical to learning in open space (as in learning in the everyday of Lankshear & Knobel, 2011). How we perceive our environments, align ourselves to those environments, compose, and iterate on these impressions is, we believe, paramount to a literacy (however overused that term is). This approach to composition is non-exclusive in terms of mode or format (whatever suggests the meaning that has been gleaned from the experience); it is, however, recyclable, meaning I can return to these impressions and build upon them in more sophisticated representations of meaning. Hence, the use of the of the term impression as opposed to full-blown representation. I record an impression to log the significance of its gaze or focus, (if only to myself) and the significance of the materials used to record that gaze or focus (modes, materials, practices); it is like taking notes to splice out signal from noise. It is the first act of discretion.

Yet, the choice of technologies (digital or otherwise) that we use to record these impressions is an act of discretion as well. Applications bind representations in a particular structure. They dictate that A and B are compositional, but C is not. A and C can be assembled, but B is purely supplementary. We can hack and work our ways around these structures, but they are coded to be as such. We adopt their language of inclusion and exclusion through our decision to use them. Our choice of technologies, as such, is as important as our gaze, our choice of semiotic materials, even our arrangements.

In this instance, I am presenting impressions of Seoul using tools I will be using in some capacity in the workshop: Thinglink, Padlet, and Vimeo. Vimeo I wouldn’t classify explicitly as a compositional tool as such, rather a platform, but the choice of dissemination tool is akin to that of production tool. I am crafting these impressions knowing full well they will be hosted on Vimeo. So I include Vimeo here.

More importantly is the nature of the impression itself. Thinglink and Padlet are, essentially, mindmaps to some degree. Thinglink I use explicitly as such by including the subway map base layer to mark up. I am arranging space as I experience it broadly in Seoul: through public transportation. There is no walking from one end of this city to the other. It is broad and spread out and an aggregation of a thousand different discrete neighborhoods all with a subway stop as a node on a larger grid. In some ways, the nodes of the transportation grid are the only thing holding it together. Seoul doesn’t gestate organically out from some center like London might. It sprouts in sections like a garden. The subway map and the impressions recorded there suggest that.

Padlet is a different animal as it is much less about markup (although that is supported) and more about aggregation. The base layer is non-existent; the impression emerges from the aggregation. So I assemble images and text, groups emerge from the bric-a-brac of imagery. Sound is not included, although I could have put it there. I don’t include documents, although that is an option. What is fascinating to me is the distinctions between the types of space I am presenting through each. With a base-layer in Thinglink, I can scale out and make my observations and impressions in the broader sense. Space is large, connected, and approachable. The city and its nodes are familiar and navigable. With Padlet, and without a base layer to organize my activity, I immediately shrink into the micro: the corners, the niches, the underpasses, the cozy spaces I have always associated with Seoul (but once referred to as claustrophobic or cramped). With complete freedom, I composed bounded space. I looked for corners and nooks and found them.

Vimeo, and the video that is contained there, is the presentation of motion itself. I bind mobile elements across mediums, across geographies, even across gazes. I append an incongruous ambient audio to a serene cityscape, layer motion behind all of it. The engine of perpetual activity. I think that if Thinglink encouraged me to present the broader boundaries of Seoul space, and Padlet encouraged an investigation of the interiors of that bounded space, Vimeo allows me to present the motion through those spaces, the blood circulating through the veins. I am not sure I could have presented all of this with one tool, nor I am sure I would want to. I was forced to revisit my impression of Seoul with each medium and they added just as much to the overall impression or composition as any semiotic material might. We are co-creating these hybrid spaces; we are all bound by these sets of sociomaterial relationships.

Seoul Sunset Activity: August 2014 from Michael Gallagher on Vimeo.

Seoul Morning, Afternoon, Evening: 2013 from Michael Gallagher on Vimeo.

Either way, a good dose of reflective practice is good every so often. What I am gaining, what am I giving up.

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