Meaningful messages can be delivered to a public audience in many ways be they music, as discussed in the last post, art, particularly street art, or other forms of media. Of course there are many places to find your target audience depending on your choice of media. But in capital cities of the world such as London, the streets and its variety of public transport systems, are where you find the biggest mass movements of people.
Arriving in London, which if you’re familiar with it or not, does have a reputation for being a seemingly cold and mercenary city. Of course, like most major cities in the world, it is a place where huge masses of people, despite coming into relatively close physical contact, have the bare minimum of actual interaction on a daily basis. Interaction, at the most, often solely involves a sideways glance at those with whom you will be sharing very-precious-because-it’s-somewhat-limited oxygen on a packed tube that morning. It’s likely to even be the same group of people for a successive amount of days, working weeks, months and even years.
What is unlikely to happen in that time however, is that you strike up a conversation with said fellow oxygen-sharer. If you did, you would initially be looked upon with some degree of suspicion. When someone starts talking to you in London the first thing you are programmed to think is ‘What does he/she want and why are they talking to me?’ It’s like an automatic switch that comes on when someone tries to interact with you. You quickly get sucked out of your individual bubble, as if someone had stuck a pin in it, burst it and your head came popping out under considerable pressure. I always envisage people walking around in bubble-like pods in London. I mean, each person actually walking around with a physical oval or pod-shaped bubble that extends from the bottom of their necks up over their heads. The pod would be transparent, and ultimately pretty much bubble-like. It could be made of plastic or some kind of galvanized rubber so as not to cause discomfort or be too heavy. Ideally, people wouldn’t even really feel that it’s there. Inside the pod people are connected to their music, their media, their literature, their own thoughts, their own language, tastes and smells: their own veritable mini-universe. When they sit down next to someone else on the tube, then the bubble extends down to the elbows, leaving just enough room for the necessary forearm and hand manoeuvres for the turning of pages or electronic device operation.
Nothing much can disconnect you from the pod. Its very existence allows you to virtually ignore other human beings, even and especially when they are in times of need. There are of course the few who actually want to open their pod. Or, being new to the city and due to the pod’s lightweight and almost invisible qualities, they aren’t fully conscious of its presence yet. They tend to breach pod protocol by having a moment of interaction with you that goes beyond pod-world norms. Interaction has a whole range of levels of intimacy in pod-protocol. The base level being a standard acknowledgement of another person, that is acknowledgement not as in direct eye contact, but just a simple feeling of recognition that there is another person next to, in front of, or behind you. It’s almost telepathic. You can do this without disconnecting any of your senses from your pod. The most intimate in pod interaction would probably be the dreaded conversation, or even worse the emergency situation where you might have to be one of the small percentage of people in pod world that actually offer to help someone out in such a situation.
The only other interactions or distractions that lead you to think about the world outside the pod are the invariable announcements you hear from the tannoy. The tannoy, which neatly connects directly into your internally fitted pod-speaker, delivers regular and repetitive messages about delays to your service, as well as the incessant warnings about the destruction of left luggage and safe-guarding of your personal belongings. This instils a feeling of constantly being watched and under threat simultaneously, despite the protective shield of your pod.
Funny thing being that all this pod-living directly contrasts the idea that floats around of London being a free and liberal city.
However, there are a few glimmers of hope when some people leave their house deciding not to wear their pod. Having not lived in London for quite some time I tend to be one of those, but after 4 weeks have realised that people tend to think you’re an escaped care-in-the-community-case, so most of the time I partially slip unwillingly back into the pod of conformity, always poised to take it off.
The people that battle on without their pods though are inspirational to me. They decide to step out of the grid and give us, the pod-wearing public a chance to hear their thoughts and actually try to interact with us about issues that matter to them. These are the mostly-silent protesters who stand, camp or live in the streets with signboards. They have really had an impact on me because of the very nature of the city just described. These people have really decided to shout their message out. And quite cleverly so, as in a world full of pods, no one will hear words being shouted, but the impact of reading words in the street through our pods can be phenomenal in terms of the message hitting home. Thankfully for us they disconnect from pod world, because how stale street life would be without them. Often written off as madmen, I’d like to suggest they be nominated as metropolitan superheroes.
Some camp outside of Parliament for days to years.
Others are homeless and make their home a place of political argument by relentlessly trying to tell us something through their boards.
Maybe it’s nothing new, but in a city full of tightly sealed pods, it seems refreshing to at least see some trying to get their message across. It’s particularly uplifting and effective that they protest alone, and continue on through adversity.
The pod makes the messages all seem real. Real, exaggerated and in neon-bright colour. Their message gets amplified because the people that don’t instantly dismiss them as mentalists*, really take a moment to disconnect themselves from their world and enter another’s. And this, I think, is the ultimate in effective message delivery.
*Mentalist (n) (adj) One who is mental – first coined by UK sitcom “I’m Alan Partridge” (Episode 5) “What are you doing, you mentalist?”
“Mentalist” has more recently become a tongue-in-cheek insult for when someone is behaving oddly or wackily, thanks to tv series “Alan Partridge” and “The Office”. (From http://www.urbandictionary.com)
From ‘mentalism’ (noun) Philosophy
The theory that physical and psychological phenomena are ultimately explicable only in terms of a creative and interpretive mind. (Apple dictionary version 2.1.3)
Group protest to be criminalised ‘lone protesters’ come together for mass impact
Dale Farm evictions
Mark Quinsey/Freemasons protestor on bus
‘Doing Battle in a War of Words’ – Meaningful messages on the streets of Dubai.