Participatory culture and reinvention of everyday life

This text was presented in the International webinar “Post-Pandemic, Participation Matters” organized by School of Communication in Catholic University of Indonesia, Atma Jaya, on 26 June 2020, in Jakarta.

Selamat siang, good afternoon everybody,

First of all I want to congratulate School of communication in Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia for its 11th anniversary, and want to thank my esteemed Indonesian friends Professor Dorien Kartikawangi, head of School of Communication, Dr. Eko Widodo, dean of Faculty of Business Administration and Communication Sciences and their colleagues, for the organization of this international web Conference, in which I have the honor  to participate. My regards go also to the speakers, Professor Peng Hwa Ang, dearest Nia Sarinastiti, dearest Santi Indra Astuti and Láisa Rebelo Cavalcante.

It is a great pleasure for me to be with you, as if I am presently in Jakarta, this beautiful city close to my heart as the father of a batawi baby, and where I met admirable fellows and professors. Which you all good health and good luck in this webinar.

In the following minutes, we will question the concept of participation as a set of socio-cultural practices located in a physical space and a temporality, as well as in the digital environment. Furthermore, we will emphasize the need to invest in digital education – also known as transliteracy – and its accessibility, to include those whom the new post-pandemic world excludes.

The appearance of the novel coronavirus has deconstructed social space as we know it, and significantly disrupted our participation in its spheres. The physical and social distancing, in addition to the closing of state borders, are barely the tip of the iceberg. As a matter of fact, and in the name of safeguarding the public health, it is the very notion of participation – as an act located in space and time – that was significantly turned upside down, and must, therefore, be rethought, restructured and reconstructed in a world where humans and Covid-19 must now coexist.

However, participatory culture existed long before the internet. As for digital, it has and always will revolutionize the way we approach the different aspects of participation.

In his book The Practice of everyday life, French intellectual Michel de Certeau evokes daily invention and creativity through user operations. He proposes a distinction between two concepts: space and place.

“A place is (…) an instantaneous configuration of positions. It implies an indication of stability. A space exists when one takes into consideration vectors of direction, velocities, and time variables. Thus, space is composed of intersections of mobile elements. It is in a sense actuated by the ensemble of movements deployed within it. Space occurs, as the effect produced by the operations that orient it, situate it, temporalize it, and make it function in a polyvalent unity of conflictual programs or contractual proximities. On this view, in relation to place, space is like the word when it is spoken (…). In short, space is a practiced place. Thus, the street geometrically defined by urban planning is transformed into a space by walkers.”

Interestingly today – we are witnessing yet new forms of space, in the light of the ongoing pandemic and its impact on our digital culture.

The exemplifications are: (1) the pre-pandemic space; (2) the confinement space; and (3) the deconfinement space. Their respective representations vary according to the geographical, cultural and political context of each country. The pandemic has significantly altered the face-to-face participation in each of the space models.

Let us take the example of natural parks in a Geneva – Switzerland and the Pays de Gex, across the borders in France.

Before the pandemic, the local authorities and different users invested in the digital technology (such as websites, mobile applications, photo galleries and others) in order to develop architectonics that enrich physical spaces. The institutional websites provided information such as a description of the premises, accessibility, regulations, events and maps. Many digital projects flourished, focusing on the intersection of spaces, their stories and socio-cultural practices. Visitors in both areas could, however, swing by and have a first-hand discovery of what the place has to offer.

Nonetheless, when the confinement measures were enforced, albeit to different extents for both sides, visitors in France were asked to carry a travel certificate before leaving home. A simple task, like visiting a park, now required online research. The partial or complete closure of parks in France prevented any participatory activities. Those parks that remained open in Switzerland closed their shops and catering services and imposed severe restrictions on visitors, like precluding the gathering of more than five people or group walks.

Lately, and thanks to the deconfinement, the old participatory practices have taken a blow: despite the reopening of all parks and limited catering services, some shops and areas remain closed to limit social interaction. Other practices emerged, like off the counter orders and self-service, all while respecting strict hygiene rules such as prohibiting handshakes and hugs, wearing a mask, and enforcing the registration of contact details for people going at restaurants for contact tracing.

But what about the participatory culture in all this?

As we all observed, the social networks, blogs and websites, peer-to-peer services and online communities continued to grow and develop. Instead of merely popping by the parks, netizens debated measures taken by the authorities and enquired on how to get there by relying on the individual or collective experiences. In this participatory process, users were looking for accurate information to avert uncertainty.

There is no doubt about it: Sars-Cov-2 disrupted our society and our lives. It now dictates a new way for almost everything, a “new normal”, and we are still struggling to understand how, and why. The “virtual urbanism” professed by Milad Doueihi in 2011 has become our refuge, our new space.

The distinction between real and virtual no longer holds. Digital design structures, developed in the image of the architecture of our homes, parks and cities, is everywhere we look. Its technologies offer possibilities for interaction, action and visibility. Its architectonics recall the architecture in the physical world. They also connect conception and design to social dynamics.

As we may well imagine, working from home and physical distancing measures encouraged and empowered the emergence of participative online communities. It is significant to note that this pandemic has awakened the problem of the digital divide and digital illiteracy, further excluding people and groups from digital environments and online communities.

Today, the architectonics that we have built in the digital world, and that resemble our urban architecture need to be rethought. New digital urbanism, inspired by the changes we made to our lived spaces, must follow suit, and become more user centric.

User experience – a significant factor in the design of websites, platforms and digital applications – must be at the heart of our participation in the physical space, otherwise known as the lived space. Since we now live in both worlds, we should redesign one to reflect the changes we had to bring to the other, thus enabling the new ecosystem to fully function.

We must reinvent our everyday life so that our web and urban architecture complement each other. As such, our participation models must also be reviewed for better and fairer inclusion.

The immense acceleration and growth in the use of digital technology throughout this pandemic require a serious investment in the digital education (transliteracy) and digital accessibility to include those who find themselves excluded from this new world.

Participants should be aware of what they are participating to. They must know to what extent the production and circulation of their media content would contribute to their collective well-being.

Exchange with Dr. Dorien Kartikawangi

This pandemic has taught us many lessons:

  1. It reminded us of our animality and fragile biology. We were social beings long before we became digital subjects. It stands out as an intruder that enforces the adjustment of our space, and of our way of life if we want to survive.
  2. It showed us the similarities between our two worlds, where an urban exodus of individuals who move to the countryside is replicated in the digital, and on how we consume and look for information and share it.
  3. And finally, it teaches us that information is the essence of our civilization and that its presence requires cooperation at the local and international levels to achieve a new participatory culture in what has become our new normal.

Thank you for your attention.

Como “manufaturar” no mundo digital?

Este texto é a intervenção de Dr. Hadi Saba Ayon na reunião do grupo de pesquisa TIPEMSE na Universidade do Estado da Bahia no Brasil sobre a “Emergência da Literacia Digital no Cenário da Sociedade Pandêmica do Séc. XXI”. 

O que é o digital? Por que manufaturar hoje no mundo digital?

Manufaturar é produzir com trabalho manual. Manufatura significa obra feita à mão.No processo manufatureiro vigora a divisão do trabalho, onde cada operário realiza uma operação utilizando instrumentos individuais. A manufatura sucedeu o artesanato, no século XV, como forma de produção e organização de trabalho[1].

Eu uso o verbo “manufaturar” como metáfora, porque o uso da tecnologia na era digital ainda passa pelas mãos. Computadores, celulares, tabletes, objetos conectados, todos esses dispositivos precisam da mão, de dedos para produzir e compartilhar um conteúdo. Mas o ecossistema digital, na sua essência e no seu funcionamento, não é manual nem opera artesanalmente. Ele é informático, computacional, binar, e consiste num conjunto de dispositivos eletrônicos (hardwares) capazes de processar informações de acordo com programas (softwares) e em rede.   

Seguindo Milad Deouihi, historiador de religiões e detentor da cátedra de humanismo digital na Universidade de Paris-Sorbonne, o digital é a ultrapassagem da tecnologia computacional para os usos culturais no mundo digital. Ele é:

Um ecossistema dinâmico animado pela normatividade algorítmica e habitado por identidades polifônicas capazes de produzir comportamentos perturbadores (Doueihi, 2013).

Este “urbanismo virtual nascente” está mudando as nossas sociedades e a construção dos espaços que habitamos. Ele se caracteriza com:

Fronteiras e limites que definem espaços íntimos ou reservados para o culto, espaços de conhecimento ou entretenimento, espaços marcados pelo uso e frequentados pela prática. “Um urbanismo híbrido, portanto, habitado por rastros, pedaços de documentos, fragmentos, mas também animado pela voz e corpo, uma temporalidade outra (Doueihi, 2011).

Brutalmente, o SARS-CoV-2 invadiu as nossas sociedades colocando a nossa civilização em perigo. A pandemia de Covid-19 nos obrigou a mudar muitos hábitos de vida. Ela impactou a interação social transformando nossos modelos de viver (morar, trabalhar, se socializar, estudar, viajar etc.). As circunstâncias dessa situação nos levam a pensar no surgimento de um novo mundo. Quais serão suas figuras? Como fazer saber, informar e comunicar? Como tomar parte e intervir em uma ação? Como compartilhar e fazer parte integrante em uma atividade, de uma comunidade? Como associar-se pelo pensamento ou sentimento? Como participar e construir uma sociedade digital e de conhecimento? Quais identidades e habilidades neste novo mundo? Quais comunidades? Quais trabalhos?

Muitas questões, que nos perguntamos, eu e o Professor Carlos Antonio Villa Guzmán da Universidade de Guadalajara no México, em nossa inciativa/texto escrito (que vai ser publicado logo) para emergir um coletivo internacional PANDEMIA, CULTURA DIGITAL E PARTICIPAÇÃO, que pensa a cultura participativa no mundo digital, pandêmico e post-pandemia.

Como explicar a cultura participativa e reinventar o nosso cotidiano? Como a pandemia redefine o nosso espaço e as estruturas arquitetônicas no ambiente digital? Mais questões para debater com um grupo de colegas em um webinário intitulado “Post pandemic, participation matters” (Pós-pandemia, questões sobre a participação) na Escola da Comunicação na Universidade Católica da Indonésia em Jacarta no final deste mês. Muitas questões, e poucas respostas até o momento.

E hoje estou com vocês no Grupo de Pesquisa TIPEMSE na Universidade do Estado da Bahia para debater sobre a “Emergência da Literacia Digital no Cenário da Sociedade Pandêmica do Séc. XXI”. Pensar a educação no digital começa para pensar o digital, não só como suporte e mídia, mas sobretudo como ambiente: Isso é o primeiro passo para uma literacia ou uma transliteracia que nós precisamos.

Seguindo Louise Merzeau, Professora e pesquisadora francesa que faleceu em 2017 e deixou um trabalho científico notável, a transliteracia se refere as:

1. Habilidades criativas e produtivas (como conceber, realizar, modificar);

2. habilidades do ambiente (buscar, achar e entender a informação, analisar uma situação ou um processo);

3. e as habilidades reflexivas (entender que os sistemas digitais tem valores, e seu uso e seu domínio permitem fazer sociedade com um olho crítico).

A transliteracia envolve 3 dimensões:

1. Uma capacidade para desenvolver competências individuais;

2. uma capacidade coletiva para agir com os outros;

3. e uma capacidade política para agir no ambiente e mudá-lo.

Neste sentido, mais de que restringir ou proteger nossos dados, nos temos interesse em fazer um rastreamento, ou seja, inserir nossos rastros digitais em uma comunidade, um contexto e uma temporalidade para sobreviver no mundo post-pandêmico e digital.


[1] No site dos Significados: