Laboratoire mobile & Simon Harel

On Wednesday, May 20th we had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Simon Harel as he explained his ‘mobile lab’ project at U of M. I have included a film clip of the mobile lab in action as well an article on the project. Essentially Dr. Harel is interested in capturing the stories of people living in Montreal (through film) as he and his students go to specifically chosen locations around Montreal. It’s a different way of conducting research. 

Pluralism and the Montreal are the main focus. We constantly talk about the effects of globalization, as we live in a world beyond the nation/state. Cities are becoming hubs, what happens to people in the process of being marginalized, what are their stories? We are living the “dream of electronic proximity’ and at the same time the feelings of  'alienation’ seems to be growing exponentially. We are at the “crossroads between technological innovation and exclusion”. Dr. Harel is very passionate about his project and wants to capture the “narrative of self provided by the subjects living in vulnerable or precarious condition”. 

He is an excellent speaker (and dare I say story teller). I loved the way he used anecdotes, analogy and metaphor while speaking to us to create the ‘narrative’ of his project (here’s some quotes that don’t do the talk justice):

  • self-narratives are created locally and diffused globally in real time through geo-tagging…[this is] is the future of literature and narrative… no longer the privilege of the elite… main stream is the new digital divide
  • the iPhone is like the ancient roads all leading to Rome... Every day the iPhone mediates our relationships.
  • teaching is not solely a fixed and sedentary posture
  • universities can be a place of ‘emotional’ depravation
  • I am not interested in testimony but fiction… it’s not pessimistic…
  • I want to exam the seriousness of fiction… fiction is the subject matter(?) of dreams

I think that Dr. Harell's talk helped highlight some of the concepts or ideas that we are covering in the course. Does urbanism influence architecture or is it the other way around? How does space in the city affect our notion of time and place in the ‘real’ world and in our memories. Are the images we see and remember real? Does memory, space, and time affect how we see the world when we are walking in the city?  Is our notion of time and space the same as the post modernist view or have we moved beyond this? Are images simply simulacra in the postmodern sense or have we moved to an understanding of the after-image? Barthes raised some important questions: How does meaning get into the image? Where does it end? And if it ends where is there the beyond? Dr. Harel’s project helps to bring some of these questions to the forefront in a practical way. I was struck by the notion that Dr. Harel practices research in the city itself and the project is not simply reflection in the ‘ivory’ tower. In other words, it’s really cool and I will come back and expand on this blog ~ after the course is over. There’s just too many ways that the talk can be linked to the books, movies, and articles we are reading this semester. The project and the ideas behind the project have been a real eye opener for me.

© Sam Bruzzese 2022