Knowledge is Powe(r)?
... and some nice student work
Earlier this year, I gave a talk at ArtEZ in Arnhem. This was part of a larger series of talks, under the theme of “Knowledge is Power” with the view to address what visual communication doesn’t communicate, or communicates only selectively.
Since this was the prompt I was given, it seemed fitting to address this question straight-on. At the time I had just finished watching Rain or Shine (also known as Just Between Lovers, both names are bad), a K-drama about a shopping mall collapse.
Once we’re past the romantic triangles and the fluff necessary to keep a general audience entertained, the show really is an 16-episode-long exploration of a series of topics all very closely related to my MA research: an unthinkable disaster and the ensuing trauma, and the usage of narrative (or failure to do so) as a way of overcoming that disaster and starting anew. Is knowledge (in this case, memory) of the disaster a source of empowerment? The show answers this question directly, a position which is then reflected on the story’s development.
To bring this back to my own work, the rest of the talk focused on working with and creating databases: in specific, Invisible Voice and CFBCA. Why? My own answer to the “is knowledge is power?” question is that there is more potential for empowerment in guaranteeing access to knowledge than in the possession of knowledge itself. This reflects Rain and Shine’s and my own views that the question itself is, in a way, nonsense: sometimes knowledge is power, but not always.
With all of this in mind, I spoke about some of the conversations that were had in the making of Mark Farid’s project Invisible Voice; the initial preconceptions that led to creating CFBCA and how + why it was important that none of those preconceptions were reflected in the website itself; geopolitical considerations (what is a country?); data organisation (how and why?); and funding (how much is this costing and who is paying for it?).
Looking back at the talk, the connecting thread seems to be the topics of impartiality and/in archives (I use the word ‘archive’ here loosely, as neither of the two projects really classify as archives in the correct meaning of the word).
…here is some of my favourite student work from the past year of teaching:
A collaborative spreadsheet that maps different theories and their relationships, created by the students from the MA Internet Equalities at the UAL Creative Computing Institute.
And a selection of handmade books that record a journey through a fictional world, conceived by students from Year 1 of Digital Media Arts, Environmental Design, and Visual Communication at the Institute of Creativity and Innovation in Xiamen, China.