Notes: Place as Opportunity

Birrurang River node

Re-invigorating our relationship with place and each other

‘…association of ‘quiet’ in the library was directly challenged by the game.  The game changed the library social attributes from learning to fun, games and noise…. The game also erased the divide between parents and children with one mother commenting “…it brought his world into my world”.(Adkins and Grant. Ethnographic Report. Internal Document ACID. 28.09.2006)

Since the first iteration of SCOOT, the search for positive aspects of place replaced the theorectical study of place as a problem. As Lefebvre states, “Spatial practice is neither determined by an existing system, be it urban or ecological nor adapted to a system, be it economic or political. On the contrary, thanks to potential energies of a variety of groups capable of diverting homogenised space to their own purposes, a theatricalised or dramatised space is liable to arise.” (Lefebvre 1991) This quote introduces two important aspects of ‘place’ related to the development of SCOOT; that homogenised spaces can be redeemed by intervention and by doing so can reveal dramatic potentials for alternative performances within that space, regardless of the pre-established systems embedded.

Potential and Redemptive Space.

In his analysis of Benjamins argument Savage [“Thinking Space” 2000] points out that, although an auratic object would normally be ‘received in a state of concentration’, the built environment on the other hand ‘tends to be experienced in a state of distraction.’ This lack of ‘aura’ means that the objects are free from any ‘sanctifying tradition’ and from past ritual leaving the environment as a site filled with ‘the potential for the recovery of memory which is an essential element in redemption.’ What is needed are ways to perceive personal, plastic versions of place, superimposed by individuals and hopefully sustained and manipulated by groups of likeminded individuals. These personalised visions can be customised for certain cultural systems and need not be negotiated or diluted to account for opposing views, and in turn these visions inspire different co-existing rituals and sets of ‘semantic actions’ (Ricceour) for people to interact and affect as true agents of cultural experience.
Benjamin acknowledged two particular groups as playing important roles in this potential redemption, the flanuer and the surrealists. The flanuer is a street wanderer who is able to “subvert conventional meanings and values and thereby offers a critique of the impersonal notion of the mass” … “aimless wanderings can reveal things hidden to those intent on purposive linear goals” (Savage p38 and 40). The surrealists ‘used chaos and variety of urban experience to sabotage tradition and order… disrupting meaning, but also recovering it’ (Savage p41). Benjamin refers to the surrealist activities as ‘profane illuminations’ (Benjamin 1979 p230). Disrupting meaning, but also recovering it. (Savage 42) Benjamin refers to the surrealist activities as ‘profane illuminations’ (Benjamin 1979 p230). These illuminations not only reveal notions of ‘tradition and order’, but they ridicule them and make them contestable and vulnerable to change. This makes them very powerful acts, regardless of whether the ‘sabotage’ is understood or accepted. By offering extreme alternate views, they offer a method for the spectator to reconsider their own ideas about many things including tradition and order, relinquishing their ability to negotiate meaning in and of a place and it’s sematic systems. Without engaging in a constant and evolving reading of our places and relationships, we lose a great deal of living potential.

By disrupting established and authorities routines and habits… brings into question the conventions and may restore the ‘childhood experience of wonder, fear, and hope’ (Savage 45). Zoe Sofia discusses the notion of ‘potential space’ as ‘spaces experienced by the infant are the inner world of fantasy and the outer world of sociotechnical reality, bits of which become caught up as “transitional objects” in a third space, called “potential space”…. Sofia goes on to say that ‘being able to play in this potential space… is the foundation for later creative experiencing and cultural production which plays or works on the borders of fantasy and reality.’ [Sofia, Container Technologies. Hypata. Vol 15, no 2 Spring 2000].
Anderson suggests that ‘narrative devices play a vital role in constructing such imagined communities, as they allow people with no intrinsic connection to each other to be joined together by their specific roles in a plot constructed by the author and comprehensible to the reader” (Anderson Imagined Communities, 1983 Verso, London)

‘Now Everything Looks Like A Game’

On many occasions, players would comment that everything in the site became potential clues in the SCOOT narrative when they were in fact not related. In doing so, the groups of players were creating and superimposing their own memetics into place. By making ‘everything looks like a game’ I can assume that the various objects in the place have been perceptually transformed into props bound by a narrative… very much like in theatre…that the participant (player) has developed an alternate relationship to the objects. The objects that were once discardable are now filled with potential and interest. If these objects have potential then maybe, just maybe, they can become artefacts of interests that may transform into sources for creative thoughts, inspiration and creation. In this way SCOOT not only reveals an alternate view of the objects but also demonstrates how they can be used to re-invent an alternative personal narrative that can be shared by a community connected by a simple group activity.

“Hey Guys, I’d just like to say a massive thanks to everyone out there who entered scoot, and who ran scoot because i had so much fun along the way, and met some really great people. I know everyone who entered worked really hard and i sort of feel guilty for winning it, because so many peoples efforts deserve to be rewarded. i really really appreciate this prize, and i really appreciate all of you who felt just as silly as i did running around campus taking two looks at anything that looked remotely out of the ordinary! Cheers to everyone…Andie” (email communications 05-12-04 21:34, SCOOT user name: Spunkster)

SCOOT is an attempt to move people from simply relating more deeply with their environment, to using it in a different way. SCOOT not only looks at the relationships between people and objects (nodes) in place, but also concentrates on the explicit pathways between these nodes of interaction. This I nbetween space is now filled with anticipation and new potential as the player seeks out game related objects of play in the naturally occurring interfaces in the site. They are never certain when an object, surface, corner etc will become a clue to uncover… to be revealed narratively through interactions between the object, player and game.
The potential of this space is in the way that it is opened up to the players imagination as the anticipation grows… becoming involved in the formation of their own unique experiences. Even though the experience at each node may be similar for each player, the stories of the path they took, how they found it, who found it, getting lost… are unique and become another layer of shared memory for the collaborating group.
Cities as dramatic spaces, as narrative machines. SCOOT is not concerned with treating objects as ‘auramatic’, that is contained with an original authenticity… but as sites and objects of personal narrative potential. Transforming them from practical and bland, to sources of meaning and expression. SCOOT simply uses the objects as a wire frame for the developers and players to create and share a narrative… treating the city as a stage full of props in the theatre of memory and performance. SCOOT exposes the trivial and demonstrates a creative way to superimpose meaning and memory for a group of people engaged in an act of historic and fictional disruption.
As Osborne points out ‘lived narratives engender “structures of feeling” that bind people to their worlds by their grounding in place.’… “as historic and mythic narratives provide a template for national identities.” Quotiang Holtsi (1996) – “emotional and sentimental glue’.

Performative Space

“Reinvigorating the public life of our towns and cities requires improving the quality and range of public experiences available and the confidence and ability to access them” (Mean and Tims p58). These sites typically are a cluster of both commercial and cultural organisations designed with the ‘public interest’ at heart. Although it is not obvious at first glance, they are in fact an open invitation to perform. They are built with a kind of expectation that the local inhabitants are culturally active, or at least, culturally curious. The plasmas, walls and rooms are filled with what seems to be a mix of amateur works as if this promotes the site as local friendly. The proximity of the museums and galleries to the public space indicates that we are all part of the cultural machine of making and critiquing.
The CIP does recognise this fact and, to their credit, have attempted to create local interfaces in the form of public displays to broadcast the creative activity and personalities that may be hidden by physical walls and faculty boundaries. However, these very large and loud displays (plasma screens and LCD projections) find themselves in mostly empty spaces due to the fact that the physical flows of people are broken by acess limits and are not motivated through the provision of active social places such as cafes, parks etc.
Marshall McLuhans vision of the “global village” has resulted in a rhetoric maintained primarily by the marketing machines behind new urban developments. … “with every member of humanity interacting with every other in a real-time simiulacrum of a Neolithic village” (LeGales and Stout City Reader p 531).
SCOOT acknowledges this rhetoric and sets out to exploit it and test the actual limits of the stakeholders who make the claims of cultural and social inclusion. It offers the stakeholders an opportunity to demonstrate the values inherent in the original design intentions. Once this objective is agreed upon, SCOOT can begin to view the space as a potential muse for creative inspiration (muse) and intervention (stage).
Gerards games

SCOOT 2 and 3

The university context clearly provided a great deal of opportunities for technical, social, spatial and cultural intervention. Most importantly SCOOT CIP revealed it’s potential to provide an excuse for ‘players’ to
1. met and interact (sustained over a week, many players met either competing in labs, searching for clues on campus, )
2. make themselves ‘at home’ (reappropriating spaces for social and creative activities and critique)
3. be co-conspirators in he intervention

All of these factors seem to create a new feeling of membership to the site, but more importantly, as a group of creative collaborators.

However, it was an exclusive space only available to those with membership as a student or staff of the institution.

For the second iteration of SCOOT, the more public institution of the city square and adjacent museum was selected. Then for the third iteration this was expanded to include six public cultural institutions. The other very important shift for SCOOT was to promote the family group as the intended player.

The museum environments provide many opportunities for collaboration with multiple stakeholders and