The Games We Play
|December 21st, 2016|
|tags:||African-Americans, Mobile Apps, phone game, refugee|
With a specific focus on violence enacted by police in America against African Americans, volunteer run C op Watch organisation in New York City is a significant example of the growing need for personal video (not state run CCTV footage) to act as a tool for justice.
Undoubtedly, photographs and videos are easily deleted, modified and manipulated. But the real deal breaker here is in the act of live streaming; the ability to instantaneously share one’s position, whether it be at gun point (seen in the recent video depicting the murdering of Philando Castile), or unjustified arrests as depicted in the recordings of C op Watch’s archives. The immediacy of streaming does not allow intervention in the truthfulness of the footage. What we are watching, is what is happening.
Global viewers are transformed into online witnesses of an event taking place far beyond their own reality. And through this instantaneous involvement, audiences can eventually denounce the acts of injustice around the world. With that in mind, the possibility for our mobile phones to act as instruments for higher justice is an enticing thought, to say the least.
But in today’s world, hopeful digital breakthroughs are often linked with questionable moral choices. Will our screen savvy civilization grasp technology’s ability to emancipate us from our own chains, or will we simply use its mechanism to further dive into our VR, social media and gaming mania?
We are constantly taking part in ‘global tests’ with apps either changing our lives, or quickly disappearing. And a recent example to note is the c ontroversial story of I Sea by Grey Singapore.
The app’s functionality is described as a refugee-locating app inspired by the ‘recent migrant crisis which has swept Europe and the Mediterranean since 2015’. By allocating a specific section of the Mediterranean sea to each user, the app offers its users the opportunity to remotely flag migrant boats through live satellite footage. Supposedly notifying local aid stations with every find, the app promotes itself as life saving. It was made possible as a collaborative result with MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station), a Malta-based foundation committed to safeguard the lives of refugees crossing the sea.
At Cannes Lion I Sea won a Promo & Activation Bronze award, before an inevitable controversy began to infiltrate media channels to reveal it did not use real-time footage. Triggering MOAS to drop their collaboration, the removal of the app from the App Store and a vexed return of the Cannes Lion prize.
At closer look, the ‘life saving’ app shares many of its attributes with virtual gaming: engaging users from anywhere and everywhere, appealing across cultures and languages. As it sets points to be won – it invites users to become players. I Sea, however, is distinctly different from any other digital game: it carries with it a sense of moral highground, of time not wasted and of a guilt-free passing of gaming hours.
The perfect mobile phone game for the ethically driven, new-world citizen.
The power delegated to citizens by the consensus of a private app, a governing body, or even the police itself, can deceive its users to believe that they are acting autonomously, raising their powers as mere civilians. But power produced by speculative apps can turn users into (un)conscious cooperators, luring citizens to censor their very own surrounding, through game points and social credit checks.
There is a shared, if not utopian believe that a digital collective consciousness can unlock possibilities in the fight against daily struggles; such as the increasing violence and injustices happening globally. We can all agree that technological progress can become an empowering tool for collaborations in the pursuit of transnational social projects. But we must approach such advances with extreme caution, and with a clarity in our united intentions to carve the next steps towards the field of virtual collective forms of ‘help’.
If these steps of progress are to be made, we must remain vigilant in continuing to separate the virtual from the tangible, game from reality, witness from reporter and not let the blurriness that surrounds our screen to allow a further confusion of our role, both as individuals and collective subjects within the quicksand spectrum that is the virtual world.