Recently I was very fortunate to be able to spend some time with the student/Occupy protests known as the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong.
My photos included this astonishing map of the Admiralty area, which was located in the Admiralty MTR (mass transit railway) station, created by the protesters. It tells people where you can find first aid, supplies, social workers, “the stage” from which people sing and make announcements, and a self study area for students.
On looking at the map, which many people were stopping to study, I realised that for me one immediate visual reference was the official map of Admiralty station, which I’d seen further inside the station.
So I went back inside and took a further photograph of that map.
I used these maps among other images in an exploration of multimodality in a lecture I gave on returning in my undergraduate Understanding Media course. I couldn’t have been more delighted than when after the lecture two students came up to me and offered to help me further with my interpretations. Since then they’ve suggested that in its detailed indication of details of everyday life, the protesters’ map may evoke a painting, attributed to Song Dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan called “Along the River during the Qingming Festival”. The painting captures the daily life of people and the landscape of the capital back then from the Northern Song period.
Looking into this painting I found indeed that it is “widely considered to be China’s best known painting” by: the Columbia University (2013) Asia for Educators: The Song Dynasty in China 960-1279. Life in the Song seen through a twelfth century scroll.
Further, I discovered that in the tradition of Chinese art,the practice of creating new versions, sometimes adding contemporary details, is a much respected practice. Take a look at this presentation of a Qing dynasty version in the collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, completed in 1736 and now with a contemporary reworking on the Museum’s virtual media site. It’s really worth playing to show how imaginatively they’ve added animation and music to the presentation of the 18th century scroll.
All these images vary, of course, but have in common a panorama which includes many details illuminating everyday lives, including as to social interactions and even the idea of people of different social classes co-existing. This photograph shows the extraordinary disjunct between the tiny tents and the buildings of the business district.
So I’m now engaged in turning this into a research project, which means of course that I need to think ethical procedures through properly and make a submission to our ethics committee. That’s why I can’t name the helpful students, yet, although I intend to find ways of developing a proper collaboration and crediting their work.
What was I doing in Hong Kong for a week in the middle of term? Well, I had quite a few things to do. I taught Research Methods to a wonderful group of students on our MA TESOL (Hong Kong) who are about to embark on their independent dissertation projects. I also visited the School of English, University of Hong Kong, and the Department of English in the City University of Hong Kong. By the way the latter is now housed in a rather exciting site: the School of Creative Media, in the Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre. I presented papers on my Edwardian Postcard Project. I also met up with Winnie Ho, one of my PhD students – so we’ve had a good laugh about how far Lancaster Uni supervisors are willing to go to meet their supervisees! Finally, I was fortunate to catch up with Carmen Lee, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, a long term associate of the LRC, including, of course, co-author with David Barton of Language Online: investigating digital texts and practices.