chapter  14
14 Pages

Street hauntings: digital storytelling in twenty- first-century leisure cultures

BySPENCER JORDAN

Introduction Stories­are­at­the­heart­of­how­we­understand­the­world.­They­allow­us­to­pass­ on­knowledge­in­a­way­that­is­at­once­personal­and­subjective­while­at­the­same­ time­rooted­in­the­wider­world.­It­has­even­been­argued­that­stories­lie­at­the­very­ heart­of­consciousness­itself,­what­Jameson­(1981:­13)­called­the­‘central­function­ or­ instance­ of­ the­ human­mind’.­ From­ this­ ontological­ position,­ concepts­ such­as­‘place’­are­no­longer­fixed­and­stable.­Instead,­they­are­‘created­through­ performance’­(Coleman­and­Crang,­2004:­1),­where­performance­describes­both­ the­physical­interaction­of­the­body­with­the­external­world­and­cognitive­sense-­ making.­ This­ notion­ of­ the­ active­ construction­ of­ experience­ provides­ a­ key­ theoretical­ underpinning­ for­ this­ chapter.­ Critical­ here­ is­ the­ degree­ to­ which­ stories­not­only­augment­existing­perceptions­of­the­world­but­also­facilitate­new­ ways­of­understanding. ­ This­ need­ for­ adaptation­ and­ change,­ for­ the­ radical­ and­ transgressive,­ has­ become­ever­more­significant­as­cities­across­the­globe­come­under­new­challenges­ and­pressures.­Population­growth,­ecological­impact­and­social­unrest­are­just­some­ of­ the­ issues­ placing­ enormous­ strain­ on­ communities­ and­ governments.­As­ the­ United­Nations­Population­Fund­(UNFPA,­2007)­recognises,­urbanisation­remains­ one­of­the­world’s­most­pressing­issues.­But­if­there­are­challenges,­then­there­are­ also­opportunities.­The­technology­company,­Ericsson,­estimates­that­the­number­ of­mobile­phones­in­Africa­will­rise­to­930­million­by­2019,­almost­one­per­African­ (Economist,­2015).­In­the­United­Kingdom,­80­per­cent­of­households­are­already­ connected­ to­ the­ internet­ (Economist,­ 2014).­ In­ the­first­ quarter­ of­ 2014,­ 61­per­ cent­of­UK­adults­owned­a­smartphone­(Ofcom,­2014). ­ Understanding­the­potential­that­such­technologies­afford­society­is­an­imperative­ recognised­ by­ an­ increasing­ number­ of­ global­ organisations.­Yet,­ as­ the­ collection­of­chapters­in­this­volume­demonstrates,­a­tension­exists­here.­On­one­ side­ is­ the­ view­ that­ technologies­ simply­ extend­ systems­of­ control­ and­hegemonic­surveillance.­On­the­other,­digital­technology­is­seen­as­supporting­what­ de­Waal­ (2014)­ calls­ the­ ‘libertarian­ urban­ ideal’­ (p.­ 11).­ This­ chapter­ offers­ insight­into­these­debates.­A­particular­focus­is­on­the­degree­to­which­digitally­ enhanced­leisure­activities­can­change­the­way­in­which­the­urban­environment­

is­ itself­experienced.­The­outputs­of­ two­research­projects­are­discussed­which­ have­ specifically­ examined­ the­ role­ that­ digital­ storytelling­ can­ play­ in­ this­ process,­both­in­terms­of­the­creation­of­stories,­but­also­as­a­means­by­which­the­ physical­ journey­ through­ the­city­ itself­can­be­ re-­envisioned.­ It­will­be­argued­ that­ such­ narrative­ construction­may­be­ understood­ as­ a­ transgressive­ form­of­ ‘mapping’,­ a­ re-­haunting­of­our­ cityspace­ in­which­ the­evocation­of­ ‘the­past’­ remains­a­significant­feature.