Eric Laurier and
Angus Whyte (2001) ''I Saw You': Searching for Lost
Love via Practices of Reading, Writingand Responding'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 6, no. 1, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/6/1/laurier.html>
To cite articles published in Sociological Research Online, please reference the above information and include paragraph numbers if necessary
Received: 12/7/2000 Accepted: 28/3/2001 Published:
604. It is easy to have a false picture of the processes called "recognising"; as if recognizing always consisted in comparing two impressions with one another. It is as if I carried a picture of an object with me and used it to perform an identification of an object as represented by the picture. Our memory seems to us to be the agent of such a comparison, by preserving a picture of what has been seen before, or by allowing us to look into the past (as if down a spy-glass). (Wittgenstein 1953: 157)
'We characterize this work as empirical, but not empiricist. While we have little use for social-science methods that use the management of data sets to supplant the commonsense understandings of social affairs, we nonetheless see a point in making a painstaking effort to come to terms with the details of the audiovisual record...'(Lynch and Bogen, 1996: 9 )
Figure 1: Postbox, postcard holder, advert, talking point, designer artefact (click to enlarge)
I saw you in the City Café - you wore NHS frames & a headscarf, I had a George Michael beard. I love you. Box Z/737/4
Figure 2: Column Arranged Scannable Documents (click to enlarge)
Figure 3a: Short animated clip of I Saw You zone in theatre bar
on a Saturday night (Click to play)
Figure 3b: Animated view in opposite direction (Click to play ).
I saw you glamorous Hungarian; since then I can't stop dreaming of you. It's love! I want my champagne back. Nicole. Box No Z/654/32
Figure 4: Reading handwriting as showing someone's hand (Click to enlarge)
Late on a Friday night a group of five friends were out drinking in a bar in the city that had an I saw you postbox and postcards. Slightly wild with alcohol they decided to amuse themselves filling in I saw you postcards and posting them in the postbox. Of the five, two had been in a loving relationship for about 4 months. As each of the party took turns, they were urged on by the others to do something outrageous. So one wrote a card about a guy who had tried to chat her up while she was ordering drinks 'just to see what would happen'. Another made up a card which was about nobody at all but made everyone else laugh by its mockery of the form of normal I saw yous. When it came to the couple, one of them decided to take the game seriously, she hid her postcard while writing it so that no one else could see it, though they could see she was writing one. Then allowing everyone, including her boyfriend, to witness; she posted the postcard in the box. When she came back, she was asked what she wrote, and refused to disclose what it was and simply said that they would have to wait and see. When the couple went home at night, he again asked her what she wrote. She refused to tell him, saying only that it would be a surprise. He waited three weeks until City Events came out with their I saw yous, not all of their submission had been published since some of them had included a fair selection of censorable statements and others were basically illegible. Having bought a copy of the magazine, he scanned the columns of I saw yous looking for his name, or one of their nicknames for each other but could not see anything obvious. Flummoxed he read each I saw you word by word until he found about four entries that he thought were possibilities. He wondered whether his girlfriend's I saw you had maybe not been published after all. With no way of discerning which was the actual I saw you he started to plan ways of not giving away the fact that he had not been able to identify an intimate message from his loved one in the columns of the magazine.
Figure 5: Witnessably writing an I saw you (Click to play)
Figure 6: Witnessably posting an I saw you (Click to play)
Figure 7: A non-deceptive magazine rack (Click to enlarge)
2 For an argument along these lines about commodification of personhood see (Wernick, 1991)
3An outstanding rendering of Oliver North as an accomplished deconstructor of text and meaning during his famous trial over the Arms to Iraq scandal is given in (Lynch, 1996)
4Some of the key critiques of the subordinating opposition between paper and electronic documents have come from the workplace studies of Computer Supported Co-operative Work (CSCW), in particular (Harper, 1998; Mambrey & Robinson, 1997; Suchman, 1987)
5Note 'real-world' is surrounded by quotation marks to indicate our suspicion of a term which seems to imply a mundane world as domain which is separate from non-real virtual worlds or cyberspace(s) as domains. However 'real world' in the design of information and communication technologies has been used as a marker for a useful corrective to the often overly mentalist, abstract and fantastical versions of shared spaces used by designers and engineers.
6Having used the possessive pronoun 'its' several times in the preceding sentence, we would want to warn the reader off making any a- priori assumptions about a city neighbourhood as a pre-existing, superordinate region. For the practical purposes of research project agreement between designers, ethnographers & engineers a fairly arbitrary UK postal code area and parish division were used.
7There are necessarily a multitude of definitions of a Living Memory system since as a prototype design and engineering project it has to hold together the interests of interaction designers, concept designers, multi-agent system engineers, information management scientists, computer software coders and their non-human counterparts software agents, database structures, transmitters, fibre-optic cabling, European Commission funding programmes, industrial funding etc. For a more detailed set of definitions (which may take the reader several days or weeks to gain an adequate grasp of) the project's deliverables can be visited at http://www.??, for a shorter summary seeWhyte et al (forthcoming)
8Labelling the readers, writers and editors of a dating column as a community may seem like inappropriate use of the term 'community,' not though if we consider the varied work done on virtual communities (Buckner, 1999), communities of practice (Wenger, 1998), anthropology of reading (Livingston, 1995) and ethnography of television watching (Morley, 1992).
9'City Events' is not the actual name of the publication, all PO box numbers in the quotes from I saw you have also been changed. Changing names and other identifies as we are doing here is indeed one example of managing privacy in publication. It is not foolproof, nor is any particular method of encryption which also must make itself accountable in various ways.
10For Living Memory the distributed presence of these many interfaces for 'I Saw You' in informal gathering places provided an interesting equivalent for a possible electronic submission point for an eletronic postcard. They are an additional mediator for I Saw You which takes its point of connection right to the present/place of so many 'brief encounters.'
11 We are treating I Saw You as a language game from which we can learn about our topics of interest in the way that has been outlined as an antiskepticist reading of Wittgenstein's comments on 'rule following' (Bogen, 1999; Lynch, 1992; Wittgenstein, 1953).
12 T. Lawson & Anna Claybourne reporting in The Scotsman newspaper, Tuesday 16th May 2000, p3 on a romance that bloomed from an 'I Saw You' provide a wonderful example of how other intermediaries (i.e. James Thin (a placename), a member of staff, a photocopier and 'the tea room wall') can help a you be found. It also signals how using a locational formulation involving a workplace can be particularly successful (pointed out by 'City Events' editors) since there a team of decoders at work yet it then also increases the risk of the sender and addressee being liable to exposure, embarrassment and public rejection. The ad read:
"I Saw You working in James Thin. South Bridge. Friday 2/2/96. 7.30pm. You tall(ish), long brown hair. 3rd year Economics. I interrupted your phone call, bought some books, chatted but left without asking for your number. My mistake. Box No u/273/9"It might well have been a forlorn attempt: Ms Leslie was unaware of the I Saw You column. Her friends, however, were not: they recognised the girl in the advert and took action. The trainee accountant, now 23, said:
"I walked into the shop one night and somebody had spotted the ad, blown it up, and pinned it on the tea-room wall." "I was flattered and a little scared. I was worried it may be someone weird who might start following me home. All boys I told said, no, don't go near him. But all my female friends said that they wished it had happened to them."
13The mis-spelling of glamorous has been preserved both in City Events and in quoting again in the article since such mis- spellings are often, though not always, part of the poetics, recognisability and addressivity of writing a submission, similar to the use of nicknames or 'a George Michael beard.'
14A further lesson from the 'faking' of 'Nicole', easily detectable though its fakery is, is whether the 'fluidity' of identity that is associated with internet chat rooms and e-mail correspondences is somehow restricted to those computer mediated communications.
15As Latour (1998) puts it these are the de- formations necessary to make in-formation. An I Saw You through de-forming for in- forming goes some way to being rendered an 'immutable mobile', though we can offer it as a case which escapes Latour's bi-polar opposition of the utter nowness of 'I Love You' as their condition is neither quite immutable, all that mobile nor have they achieved quite the condition of felicity of a loving couple saying 'I love you'.
16In tune with the ironic manner of quoting of referring to the 'beliefs' of ordinary people, or the 'folk' (Slack, 1998; De Certeau, 1984).
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