DIS/CONNECT: on Digital Division & Diasporas

Diasporic media can be broadly defined as media forms which interweave multiple cultural elements to create a production which is relevant and appealing to people from numerous ethnic and cultural backgrounds. According to Khorana (2016), “marginalisation and stereotyping of racialised communities makes diasporic media vital”. Diaspora enables us to “study some of the ways in which media users connect to different public spheres and communities, while sustaining particularistic, diverse and multiple trajectories within and across boundaries (Georgiou, 2014). In turn, diasporic media has the ability to help lighten the transition of migrant communities into their new community and environment, in a way which reduces intimidation (Khorana, 2016).

Diaspora comes from the Greek word meaning “to scatter”. In modern terms, the expression can be used to describe a group of people who live outside of their place of ancestry, yet uphold a dynamic connection with their heritage, both geographically and culturally.

In a rapidly globalising media landscape, this centralised idea of people scattering from their homeland or origin to places of new geographical and cultural existence is profound. Despite the ongoing incidence of travel and dispersion, the one element which tends to remain uniform across all cultures is the prevalence of the smartphone. Whilst the use of the smartphone does differ significantly from one culture to the next, its incidence in daily life has become ubiquitous, as has its role in maintaining connectivity and relationships. Whether the phone is being used for communication, navigation, a torch, a calculator or a camera, the perceived necessity for day-to-day existence is apparent.

This piece is inspired heavily by the work of  Eric Pickersgill and his photographic series called “Removed”. In this project, Pickersgill captured portraits of people posing as if they have a handheld device in front of them, but instead has “edited out” (prior to shooting) the as Mollman (2019) describes it, posed “so that people stare at their hands, or the empty space between their hands, often ignoring beautiful surroundings or opportunities for human connection.” Aside from the examination of numerous differing cultural associates, it is hoped that the omission of any dialogue enhances the transnational appeal of this work.

My intention for this short film is to draw attention to the role that technology may play in diasporic populations, but also the barriers that it may create in establishing human connection. The film has been edited with rapid cutting, reversed footage and a focus on motion to further accentuate this notion of moving from one place to another, and the apparent confusion or discomfort which may result. The removal of the appliance in each of these shots heightens the sense of reliability that we have towards our phones, and in turn, exaggerates the absurdity of this phenomenon. As Wester (2019) writes, “by eliminating the source connectivity, Pickersgill rescinds the veil of contemporary technology’s hold on our devotion.”

Human connection is undoubtedly paramount in the ability of people to feel a sense of belonging and association, especially when moving from a place of origin to a new environment which may be completely culturally dissimilar. My hope is that this work forces the viewer to question whether technology has enhanced our ability to maintain connection with our homeland, or instead, has become an uncomfortable barrier in forming genuine human relationships.

Feature Image Credit: “Angie and Me”, Eric Pickersgill, 2014

References:

Georgiou, M 2013, “Diaspora in the Digital Era: Minorities and Media Representation”, Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, Vol 12, No 4, p. 84

Khorana S, 2016, “The Crossover: Diasporic and Inter-cultural Film and Media” PowerPoint slides, BCM111, University of Wollongong, delivered 23rd August 2016

Mollman, S 2019, ‘Photographer removes our smartphones to show our strange and lonely new world’, Quartz, blog post, August 28, viewed 10 October 2019, available at <https://qz.com/523746/a-photographer-edits-out-our-smartphones-to-show-our-strange-and-lonely-new-world/?fbclid=IwAR28mp_FvCXXBi2nKvrg_U9GuLzJOXhx6PcZDVBuX-3VV7Bkahdg6sk1L2g>

Wester, R 2014, ‘Removed’, ERIC PICKERSGILL STUDIO, online portfolio, viewed 10 October 2019, available at <https://www.removed.social/>

Published by susiealdermann

Fifth Year Bachelor of Communications and Media/ Bachelor of International Studies (Dean's Scholar) student

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