In a somewhat questionable marketing endeavour, the Eastern Cape Region has been sign posted, ‘Frontier Country’ and indeed this is what it is. Historically it is the site of the 9 Frontier Wars and much brutal conflict and living here presently can still seem the edge of nowhere by comparison to many major South African metropols. With Grahamstown at the heart of it, it is also a cosmopolitan space not without vestiges of past pain but - like many colonial outposts in a post-colonial time - it is no longer a satellite to an absent motherland, a mere microcosm of elsewhere, but also a world unto itself.

A potential space of intellectual, debate rather than military conflict – geographically isolated from metropolitan trends – a melting pot of many places, a crucible. In more recent history, this frontier space has been a site of culture, of experiment. Home to an annual arts festival, how is it that Grahamstown with a population of just under 140 000 can command so much creative imagination in novels, plays, poetry and art? Frontier, Border, at the end of the world but not about to fall off – merely at a vantage point to observe a view to come.
- Rat Western

DISCHARGE 2012             COLOUR COLLOQUIUM 2010             SYNTHETIC DIRT 2011

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Alette Schoon: Digital sh1t: mobile phones, gossip website Outoilet and the marking of territory

The digital urinal: mobile phones, gossip website Outoilet and the marking of territory The notorious and recently banned mobile phone based website Outoilet has been using gossip, insults and explicit sexual commentary to create specific experiences of space and representation among communities in South Africa. While some have hailed the advent of the mobile internet as an escape from the local to the global, characterised by "timeless time and the space of flows", Outoilet's ghetto anarchy questions this sanitised notion of technology with its idealised freedom. Through a flurry of crude text-based postings on its geographically-specific bulletin boards, the hyper-real township here becomes simulated on the mobile telephone screen.

Outoilet's interface allows one to highjack other people's identities and discard them at whim, so creating layer upon layer of representation and doubt, generating speculation, talk and community. Through communal surveillance practices of everyday scrutiny these text postings become visual and spatial, drawing boundaries which are both geographical and social, policed by online notions of the logic of the streets and the neighbourhood.

Alette Schoon teaches Mobile Communications and Television in the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes. This paper is based on her MA research into young adults and mobile phones. Before working in academia Alette made documentaries and educational films in Johannesburg, taught activists how to produce media in Cape Town, and programmed computers in Pretoria.

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