Jan ChipchaseOf the many personalities that are found online, one whom I tend to be a fan of (probably more than many) is Jan Chipchase. I don’t know exactly when I stumbled upon his work (photo journal, research, observations, and everything else) at Future Perfect, but I do know that he very much threw a fork in the road towards how I view, use, and understand (mobile, web) technology and the cultural narratives that create technologies while also being a product of technologies. In a very honest sense, he made me question my faith, my mobiles, and my life within the story of the rest of the world, not independent of it.

The other day on Twitter, Jan Chipchase opened a can of questions within the topic of framing and rewriting history (tweet). Initially, I just did the usual high-level attention gazing at his statements/questions. Then a few started to hit me in between the eyes. He was asking (again) core questions that define and refine some of the recent conversations online about the voice of/behind history. I had to stop the gazing and start answering (to myself, if not out-loud in part), these are questions that we have to be able to answer. Else, how can we make statements like “social networking fuels revolutions,” or “let’s put it in the cloud.” Again, Chipcase made me think.

For the benefit of summarization, I’m going to quote his tweets here. I need these to reflect on, and Twitter really is too short-lived for me to even remember that many of these are here later and that I’m confident in Twitter to hold them for me (this gets saved on WP, Evernote, and my backups).  I’ll toss a few answers in there, but hopefully, they’ll also cause you to take some inventory, and some rightful reflection of how you listen to and frame history and the history to come.

Thinking about our motivation for framing and rewriting history (tweet)

What is the internet penetration in #egypt? (tweet)

Weirdly enough, I never heard this being quoted in any of the news or discussions complaining about Internet access. Therefore, to whom was it really important that it was cut off?

What % of those on the net on #Egypt read/write English? (tweet)

If I viewed the web differently, I’d have the perception that the web is mostly English. Its not. And did the English world notice the non-English world before those issues which led to things being cut off?

What motivates a native Arabic speaker to communicate in ~English? (tweet)

Western associations I would gather; but I’ve got a current project that might show me otherwise there.

Through what media/medium did you follow events unfold in#Egypt? (tweet)

Al Jazzera. Uhmm…

What is right mix of online/on-the-streets to overthrow a government? (tweet)

Is lack of affordable internet access ‘censorship’? (tweet)

My answer to this is Yes. And its something that bugs me to no end. However, I’ve not done what I used to do in the past here to address it.

Is the lack of affordable internet access *in your country* ‘censorship’? (tweet)

Again, the answer is Yes.

Is it possible to tweet with one hand and fend off a baton charge with the other? (tweet)

I laughed here, but its a good question. Can a person be both a reporter and a participant? Or, are there voices that can only be heard through the mouths/eyes of others? Does my/our view of social media feign some kind of righteous action which must be recorded by us that can’t be recorded by us?

Who is the first to take to the streets? (tweet)

Who takes to the streets only when the Internet is switched off? (tweet)

Can’t remember the term, but in reading this I thought of the term that some folks gave to people who donated to events by pushing a button/clicking a mouse, but never left their comfortable seat. They called themselves “doing something about it,” but really didn’t have any hands-on proof that they did anything. Are these the people who can/will only take to the streets when the Internet is shut off? And if so, are they really effected by anything more than an umbilical cord that’s been cut – not the actual matters at hand?

In a surveillance/traceable society is the online activist in more danger than a face in the crowd? (tweet)

Good question, and the online activist is in more danger. They can’t hide as the nature of digital is such that everyone is unique, down to the behavioral tracking.

Who didn’t want to communicate in English? Why? (tweet)

Great question here; and totally popped me in the mouth for not reading/speaking more languages (current project has helped here).

Does $billions in military aid for the Mubarak regime affect who wants to communicate to an English audience? (tweet)

That’s got to hurt.

Whose voices are you yet to hear? What effort are you making ti hear them? (tweet)

I (personally) make a point to look for histories of cultures and groups that aren’t the norm. It was one of the few reasons I liked going into bookstores. The hard thing is finding the story (there). Once finding it, its really amazing the lens that’s given. I need to do a better job of this, even if I’m going to go digital with reading.

In a real-time/near-time world does the emotion of the moment affect what is communicated? How it is received? (tweet)

Is switching off the Internet for a digital elite censorship or democratic? (tweet)

Matter of perspective perhaps. But probably democratic to those who didn’t have access and now feel that the ground is level enough that all can “feel the pain.” Censorship also, but not censoring the voice, censoring a dialect of the voice.

Is a revolution in real-time addictive? To whom? What are comparable addictions? (tweet)

How many heroes and heroines of the revolution can the mainstream narrative support? (tweet)

Need to define mainstream, and even then, its only going to be supportive of a few over-arching models, maybe a few more local ones. But mostly speaking, heroes/heroines eventually lose voice except for certain types per generation.

How many non-English speaking heroes and heroines of the revolution can the mainstream english language narrative support? (tweet)

Should I admit that it is am embarrassment that I can’t answer this; or even that I’m afraid that this answer should say “more than the English speaking heroes/heroines?”

Is writing a book about your experience in the revolution heroic? Your duty? Cashing in? Selling out? (tweet)

Duty. Always is a duty. Everyone is responsible for telling their part/perspective in the story – even if only a few grab the pen to do so.

What are you doing to follow the Arabic-speaking narrative? (tweet)

Whatever I’m doing, getting followed by religious sites who don’t like what I believe seems to be the effect (hi there, thanks for reading/watching).

History doesn’t write itself, or does it? (tweet)

I answered this, but think that I’m going to restate. By its definition, history writes itself. But, what’s heard from history is filtered, so that no matter what is written, what’s spoken is always a subset. The voices can be expanded to include more of what history contains, but I’m not sure that it can write itself unless history is being seen as being spoken as its being written (it doesn’t speak until after in my opinion).

If we didn’t have heroes and heroines would we need to invent them? (tweet)


Can you learn more from a revolution that succeeded, or one that failed? (tweet)

Personally, I learn more from the failures. Its just hard to find those failures so that something can be learnt. At least, its hard to find them without weeding through aspects of the failure that are beyond the comprehension of my understandings (its too beyond my contexts).

Do we hear/read/seek out more about revolutions that succeed or ones that fail? Why? (tweet)

Said above, I look for the failures. Hard as they are to find, they are the better stories.

How many phone numbers do you remember by heart? (bear with me here) (tweet)


How many faces/names/sites/addresses/… do you need to remember by heart? How has this number changed over time? (tweet)

I like this one. While I don’t remember names and numbers, I do do remember faces and places – even places I’ve traveled to once and/or at night only. Over time, I’ve not forgotten a lot of those – while names are totally gone without certain contexts to jog the memory.

To whom or what do you devolve your need to memorize? (tweet)

Started with my first Palm, now is my mobile (for some things). Eh, this isn’t good.

Do you trust them? Why? What will it take to maintain/challenge that trust relationship? (tweet)

Trust is the name of today’s economy. I can’t say that I trust services, but looking harder at this question, I do. I trust for access, immediacy, security. If there were compromised, I’d move my data (but past data stays with them, uhmm…).

What happens when more of what you need to recall is reliant on algorithmic choices? The whim of a interface designer? (tweet)

There’s an incentive then for UI designers to want to be exalted since they are literally framing what people read/receive. Dang, UI design points to idoltry (wish I would have seen that in Exodus).

Again, who is history’s gatekeeper? And who do you trust to be the gatekeeper of your history? (tweet)

Therefore, if I can’t create, speak, read, listen, interpret, etc., I’m subject to someone else being the holder of my narrative. Dang… open source that doesn’t espouse education is just another death sentence for historical narratives.

What happens when history’s gatekeeper needs to bolster its share price? Has an overt political agenda? Has no apparent agenda? (tweet)

History is muted. It speaks in a non-flavored voice. It kills.

Just how elastic is history? Just how elastic do you want it to be? (tweet)

Never would have thought of the word elastic along side history. Adds something to my thinking here.

Could a digitally generated immolation spark a revolution in a country where the mainstream media is not trusted? (tweet)

Good question. I think it could, but I don’t know that the revolution will have much of an effect until that media is also over-taken somehow.

What’s so special about the streets? (tweet)

I’ve been asking that of the holy hip-hop culture for years (I know, wrong context of viewing the question, but it really is the first one that came to mind).

What drives people to the streets? (tweet)

What would an online revolution look like? In which country is this closest to reality? Why? (tweet)

Maybe something like what people were doing about the GAP logo, or the Facebook privacy changes, or even Google Wave discussions. Which country is closest to an online revolution – the US – or the nation of Facebook.

Why do we get ‘caught in the moment’? Who is motivated to create moments to be caught in? Why? (tweet)

The moment is psychological. We are addicted/attracted to it. I don’t know that we couldn’t be attracted to it at that level. I think that creating that moment can be done, thereby becoming a controlling agent – for whatever reason. Who’d be motivated to do that? Easy, someone who wants your eyes averted to some other truth.

Channelling @changeorder: Is it better to capture a moment or to be caught in it? (tweet)

Going back to something that I said above. You can only be present in or present watching moments happen. I think we’d all like to feel the effects of being in the moment, but its always safer to be watching it. Folks move to safety where possible.

What is the optimal mix of those capturing or caught in the moment? How is this mix changing over time? (And optimal mix for what?) (tweet)

I’m spent. Thanks for your feedback and comments. Remember: you are what you allow yourself to be, explore the edges of what you don’t know (tweet)

The wild part is that I actually spent the time to pull this out of the history of Twitter to frame it within my own timeline. How’s that for some revisionist history happening 😉

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