My friend Mark posted this on Facebook a few days ago, a plaque on Chapel Street that says ‘DEEDS NOT WORDS’. I was wondering what others think of the statement? As an activist I like deeds, but I often find that when we start
doing things we need to talk and reflect about what we’re doing, what the outcome is, if we need to revise what we’re doing… I think we end up in a dangerous situation if we get to the point of thinking we know what we’re doing and how to go about it, and that we no longer need to reflect on or discuss the work. At the same time I think that we can get bogged down in reflection. My friend Rob has said that we can end up in ‘paralysis by analysis’. We need to have a constant rhythm of action, reflection, action, reflection,
A few days ago I wrote a short post about Pokémon GO, and I have been reflecting further on the game. I have noticed some folks saying, ‘It’s sad that people need a game to get you them outside, exercising and socialising.’ I wonder about why it is that some of us need a reason to go out, exercise and socialise? Might it be because in our society the outdoors had become an empty, meaningless space? One of the things I think Pokémon GO is doing is re-enchanting users’ experience of place. When a user walks around their neighbourhood there is suddenly something more, something magical, something invisible to the naked eye going on. I think that street art can have a similar impact.
I also think that we can experience something similar by mapping the stories of the neighbourhood, by paying attention to the stories of our neighbours, by learning the history of the places, and by paying attention to the stories being told by our architecture, monuments and advertising.
Teach us how to negotiate the streets and danger by teaching us every community safety trick you know and having done this, when and how to risk it all for the sake of love.
– Marcus Curnow, Seeds Covenant
Last week Niantic released the new Pokémon game Pokémon GO. I downloaded it the morning after it became available in Japan, Australia and Aotearoa/NZ. I found it was fairly glitchy – it crashed a lot, had trouble connecting with the server or getting a GPS signal. I found this kind of comforting because some of the issues are a little bit similar to issues we’ve had while testing a similar (but much smaller) project I’ve been working on. There seem to be still a few issues connecting to the server, which is understandable when an app that has been out less than a week already has almost as many users as Twitter – so it’s a good problem for the developers to have!
What I’ve been most interested in has been the way the game has brought people into public space. To find and catch Pokémon you need to get outside and walk around. Different kinds of Pokémon are found in each area, so to find some Pokémon you’ll need to venture further and explore unfamiliar areas. (For some reason in Carlton North there seem to be a lot of water creatures, which I don’t get, but there you go.) Specific landmarks (like murals or historical buildings) are marked as places where you can pick up items that you use in the game or battle other players – so if you head to one of these spots you might run into other players in real space.
On Thursday, when I installed the app, I was working from the State Library, and when I went outside at 5:30pm to grab a halal snack pack for dinner I saw that the grounds out the front of the library were scattered with people playing the game and chatting together. When I was there again this afternoon there was a similar scene, except it was now more like a crowd. Considering that some of the consistent concerns about digital gaming has been that players don’t get outside, don’t get exercise, don’t have interpersonal skills, this seems like a good development.
I’ve noticed that there have already been a few stories of people being mugged or sustaining injuries while playing Pokémon GO. I guess going out and walking around your neighbourhood is always going to be a little bit risky. If many of us have been alienated from the skills and instincts that help keep us safe we might need to need to relearn those community safety tricks.
On Sunday we were anticipating the result of the federal election. It’s Tuesday and we still don’t have a lot of clarity. We should by the end of the day who has won each seat, but if there is a hung parliament it might take a while to work out whether the Coalition or ALP can form government. In the meantime I have seen a lot of people freaking out about the fact that Pauline Hanson will be back in the senate. In the 1990s she was saying that we were being ‘swamped with Asians. Now it seems she isn’t so worried about Asians – unless they’re Muslim. I’ve seen a lot of people ridiculing her and have to admit I have joined in on that. I laughed at Sam Dastyari’s offer to take Hanson out for a halal snack pack.
Meanwhile, I’ve also been annoyed by the ALP and Coalition’s determination that they will not work with the Greens to form government, and I know a lot of my fellow lefties have felt excluded by this. In the seat of Melbourne some of us have been asking, ‘Does my vote not count?’ We’ve gotten responses like, ‘Maybe this will teach you not to vote for the Greens!’ A lot of people are still unhappy about the ALP working with the Greens when Julia Gillard was Prime Minister. I think it is a bit ridiculous for those of us who are at the left end of the political spectrum can expect our voices to be included if we are at the same time marginalising people from the other end of the spectrum. I certainly don’t agree with Hanson’s brand of nationalism but I think we need to listen to what she has to say. She represents people who haven’t benefited from the strength of our economy and are afraid that their voices don’t matter. I don’t agree with their fear of Asians and Muslims but I also think that further marginalising Hanson’s supporters is just going to make the problem worse.
What I am basically suggesting is that we should treat others as we’d like to be treated. If we ask our society to include our voice but not theirs, we will find that the voices at both ends of the spectrum are excluded and ridiculed.