How to Drive in Istanbul?

How to Drive in Istanbul?


In a two-day workshop at the PixelIST festival in Istanbul Erik (Unsworn) and Åsa (å+k and Malmö University asked the participants: How to communicate, share, and distribute local knowledge in a digital and networked world?

In creating the workshop we started from Åsa’s previous attempts to learn how to drive in Istanbul, despite the fact that she was in Malmö:

From the official workshop description:

The workshop “How to drive in Istanbul” deals with the potentials and problems with translations of local knowledge into digital packages. A number of examples will be presented and a short exercises will be carried out before the students start working with the main brief. Through audio recordings of voices the participants will be asked to translate their record of local embodied knowledge into a format that fits the digital channels of communication. The workshop ends with a reflective discussion where everybody is expected to contribute with experiences and ideas of how these recorded learnings could be distributed via the Internet. What format is appropriate? Do we need a new format? What would it look like? What gets lost in the translations from oral, embodied story of local knowledge into edited sound clip – and from local sound clip to global knol?

Local knowledge

Using a sound recorder, the participants were asked to capture sonic slices of local knowledge and then interpret and edit it into a short sound piece, accessible to the world. (Read the full workshop brief here.)

Listen and learn:

Naime: How to love a person that you don’t love

Güneş: How to sit down without bending your knees

Nazli & Ozge: How to make Turkish coffee

Gülsen: How to play Turkish instruments

More sounds to be added here as they arrive in our mailbox…

What gets lost on the way?


A workshop is a learning situation. It demands planning and also a readiness for the unpredicted, since it involves people and people are unpredictable.

Nathalie edits her flying carpet manual

It all started on the Wednesday with a presentation by E+å and some thought-provoking discussions that started off by Nathalie saying that there is control involved in recipes and manuals. It continued by a connection to the philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis, born in Constantinople (talking about local knowledge…) in 1922, who wrote in ‘The Imaginary Institution of Society’ about autonomy of people and our relation to laws. He articulated a difference in thinking, on the one hand, that laws are given by god and unchangeable and on the other hand that we are autonomous and that we can work on changing the laws gradually.

This workshop demanded the impossible: to make an instruction of something as complex as knowledge. And no matter what knowledge a description of it will always end up short of some aspect. Short of the situation, short of the body, short of the time, short of the place.

In comparing the workshop theme with the participants’ previous experiences of following tutorials on the web one person made the comment that “sometimes you miss steps”. Yes, it might be that simple!

Some students appeared on the second day saying that they were forced to go to the workshop. In trying to change that attitude into something that reflects a more self-driven approach to learning, we tried to make the students figure out what they are interested in themselves. One girl said Playstation. She went off to explore how to get to play on expert level on Guitar hero. When hearing the call for prayers we started to discuss how to train your voice to become a good muezzin? One participant suddenly remembered that her dad had been a muezzin (the person, so far always men, who call for prayers) at the age of 11. She decided to start by asking her dad and then continue by asking professionals that are doing it now. Another question arouse from an aching knee: “How to sit down without bending your knee?”

Other questions that were being worked with during the workshop were: How to make a flying carpet in Istanbul? How to love somebody you don’t love?

One less obvious ‘learning’ that can be made in a workshop like this is how to benefit from the others in the workshop group. When one participant said that she was always working alone, a challenge for her could be to collaborate while making the sound piece as a way of understanding local knowledge: to recognise that there are more resources in a group than in one individual.

Cardboard score

bell hooks wrote a book in 1994 titled Teaching to Transgress. Education as the Practice of Freedom where she uses her own educational experiences in connection to pedagogue and activist Paulo Freire and the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh as well as feminist critical pedagogy.

In the introduction she writes that ”…the will to share the desire to encourage excitement, was to transgress. Not only did it require movement beyond accepted boundaries, but excitement could not be generated without a full recognition of the fact that there could never be an absolute set agenda governing teaching practices. Agendas had to be flexible, had to allow for spontaneous shifts in direction. Students had to be seen in their particularity as individuals […] this excitement could co-exist with and even stimulate serious intellectual and/or academic engagement.

bell hooks sketches out strategies for participatory spaces for the sharing of knowledge. It isn’t enough to talk about things, it also has to be done, by the teachers as well as the students, LIVED in order to succeed in reaching state of practice and contemplation, action and reflection as well as awareness.

A fine day for local knowledge production

Knowledge and teaching situations, in her mind, is something that requires that the teacher see the students “as whole human beings with complex lives and experiences rather than simply seekers after compartmentalized bits of knowledge.” (page 15) hooks contrasts with “… the objectification of the teacher within bourgeois educational structures seemed to denigrate notions of wholeness and uphold the idea of a mind/body split, one that promotes and supports compartmentalization.” (page 16)

Mayday, Friday 1st May, made an already cut-up workshop schedule even more cut-up since the Taksim area in central Istanbul, was blocked off and shuttle buses were cancelled. It became a workshop without workshoppers. Or, more optimistically: it became a distributed workshop where those who could work from home did so. Some tutoring was done via email.

We were wondering if this was a consequence of lack of local knowledge in the planning process of the workshop.

The top story of the day in

2009 becomes historic year for Turkey’s troubled May Day past

ISTANBUL – The year 2009 is set to become a very important turning point in the history of Turkey’s May Day celebrations that have traditionally been dominated by violence with the government’s declaration of May 1 as an official holiday and the limited opening of a symbolic square for celebrations.

Hurriyet Daily News, 01 May 2009

While starting to edit her recordings one participant said that she was very conscious of the tone, the formatting, how it gives an authority to the knowledge, recognition of knowledge, and what is considered knowledge. Perhaps it’s more in the packaging than in the actual content…

Warm thanks to the participants who made great efforts in trying to learn something and communicating their knowledge! And thanks Pixelache and VCD/Bilgi for inviting us!

More Istabul pixels

Here’s a bonus gallery from our PixelIST week:

/Erik and Åsa