Reading Response – CH 1 Annette Kim, Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City (2015)
This reading was really interesting as I have never really considered how to “conceptualise the purpose of a sidewalk.” As it is something we simply use everyday without conscious thought it is usually looked over- perhaps this is a cultural thing also.
I’ve noticed here in Singapore the commonness of street vendors/stalls/locals selling food etc and so pedestrians then share the sidewalk with these activities. As I am pretty much a tourist I would just walk around them if they were in my way, or be engaged in conversation and not really notice if they were situated inconveniently. Therefore I find it fascinating that there seems to be so much discussion around this topic and the dynamics and design of such space. More specifically, how the rules and regulations with property rights get involved as street vendors are simply making their living who can say its not allowed? Particularly as it is so involved within the culture of HCMC. Even when ethics is involved it almost seems like silly rules when you have to enforce regulations regarding to personhood and the kinds of behaviours that are allowed in this space.
The debate around ethnographic research is one covered too in the previous reading and the same issues apply here of the researcher being as objective as they can be. I liked that they noted the benefits of taking photos because it limits the perspective of the viewer, you can only see what is in the frame which removes some of the context or opinions added to the experience.
I think that the level of social empathy is really nice to read about. How even the police use their discretion when dealing with street vendors and enforcing rules. It just shows how much this practise has become a part of the culture in HCMC. Therefore I wonder what it would take to really shut these places down? Despite the argument that the sidewalk is for pedestrians, the locals obviously support the cause therefore I support the idea of a ‘mixed-use’ area. It would be fantastic if the sidewalk could serve several purposes and continue the tradition and livelihoods of street vendors.
When the reading discusses mapping you begin to really understand what a challenge it is to gather data from a culture and country you aren’t local to, and then present it in a manner targeted towards other cultures. It made think when would the data collection end? When would researchers be satisfied they had the correct and most accurate information? I imagine that they start the project with ideas on what to research but must come across other areas or ideas that need to be included. I agree with the idea that mapping is a process or performance because it is not the end product, you don’t use a map once you have arrived at the destination its purpose is instead to guide you -something I hadn’t thought of as a performance before.
Experimental and Non-traditional Mapping Techniques
As the reading explored the true and local aspects of HCMC it would be great to have a map that expressed these parts of cities- the bits that make them unique and that travellers should experience. This could also work to advertise the parts of Singapore that are overlooked. Similar to guide books but with more input from the locals. I suppose my attitude of wanting to learn about different cultures and contexts makes me even more interested in how the essence of a city can be communicated through a map- particularly as all maps often look very similar! Perhaps also creating different categories of maps that target specific audiences based on age/interests etc.
Using various senses would be an interesting way to provide a sense of place- a audio representation for instance? Providing audible directions/interesting facts of the area/typical sounds of the space to guide you or to add ambience. Or using design to communicate different sounds of the area. Mapping emotions would be tricky as everyone experiences them differently but also at different times. Using colours could potentially work to represent the different emotions, or even giving different recommendations of places to go based on your emotions.