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GoodNeighours_credit_ Kgabo Mametja and Koos Groenewald

Blog

A Sense of Place

By Klasien van de Zandschulp and Natalie Dixon

In popular discourse we’re often confronted with surveillance concerns on a global scale; ranging from Facebook’s Privacy Policy to transnational voter interference, Russia, Snowden and surveillance capitalism.

By contrast, Good Neighbours turns to the micro-politics of surveillance culture that manifests in intimate WhatsApp neighbourhood groups that operate in buildings, streets and housing complexes.

 

A Sense of Place — York Mediale
Good Neighbours turns to the micro politics of surveillance culture

We believe it is here, at one of the most micro levels of engagement that we can gain rich insights into how surveillance culture shapes people’s sense of place and their feelings of belonging to a place and/or community.

Notably, at the level of the neighbourhood, we might also reflect on the dynamic relationship between the local and the global. In this sense, we draw inspiration from feminist geographer Doreen Massey. Massey wrote in her 1991 essay ‘A Global Sense of Place’ that the local is still highly relevant in debates about place, albeit through the lens of global dynamics, or what she terms a ‘global sense of the local’. Places, according to Massey, should be considered beyond simply the street or the neighbourhood. She wrote that a ‘sense of place is extroverted’ and thereby also constituted by its links to the wider world. Massey emphasised communication links and information flows as critical aspects of a ‘sense of place’.

Most importantly, Massey considered questions of a power-geometry. She emphasised how relations of power relations are implicit in the flows of people between places. Said more plainly: some social groups can move more freely than others. She raised the question: How does ‘our’ power over mobility and communication entrench the spatial imprisonment of other groups? In this context, Good Neighbours explores how a ‘sense of place’ is entangled with communication technology in Amsterdam and Johannesburg – two cities with a shared, albeit complex history. More explicitly, we are attentive to how practices of privacy and community ethics (even care) are exercised through mobile surveillance technology.

First published here December 2019
A Sense of Place — York Mediale