The Reading Room : 9th Visit: Snapchat, Kuwait and Tunisia and June 25th

27th June 2015:



Over the past few months I’d been using Snapchat as part of an investigation into unfamiliar social media. Most 58 yr olds don’t Snapchat, as I discovered when I wanted to find people to Add! One friend who uses it to communicate with her daughter and my son ( the one who didn’t block me! ) were the only contacts I had.

I really enjoyed it.

I’m not sure when they started but I got messages from someone I didn’t know.

They were frequent. Sometimes several a day.

They were from a young woman in an Arab country.

I saw her smoking shisha, putting on makeup, out with her friends, playing with the young members of her family and a young baby.

Often the messages included Arabic text and occasionally misspelt simple English.

I knew I didn’t know her, she’d added me by mistake but the Chats weren’t physically intimate, just personal and I enjoyed looking into the life of a young Arab woman.

I felt an element of deception and voyeurism  and did not Share back to her as I know she would realise she did not know me; which felt dishonest.

Every few days I watched the Chats, usually movies in a short session, one after another.

I showed them to my sons as I thought it a wonderful example of how social media lets us understand the lives of others….

One day one of the Chats had in English ‘ I ♥ Kuwait’ .  I realised this was probably where she lived.

Snapchat came to Kuwait on April 28th 2015.

I fooled myself into thinking that she was the daughter of a friend of mine who lives in Kuwait and is married into a Kuwait family.

I was aware of the voyeurism and deceit even though she had sent me the images without any prompting by me.

Some friends of mine  had  visited Tunisia just after the bomb in the Museum on the 18th March. They were to visit the same museum.

Then they travelled to Sicily, around the time of the migrant boats

.They brought me back some newspapers from both countries.

After the events of 26th June; the massacre on the Tunisian beach, the mosque attack in Kuwait and the French beheading I decided to take  the Tunisian newspapers and read them in the Reading Room, and buy English papers for that day.

I videoed myself reading the Tunisian papers in the Reading Room, linking it to Tunisia in a sort of …. ritual? memorialising? empathetic action?

When I heard about the mosque bomb I was concerned for S., my contact in Kuwait, and her family.

I wanted to ask if they were OK…..?

I  decided to open the latest Snapchat messages from S. whilst I was in the Reading Room and video me opening them.

They had been sent the day of the bomb and massacre.

I did this and some stills are visible here.

Snaps disappear once they have been opened so I couldn’t retrieve any of the previously opened messages.

The images which should have been ephemeral are archived,now,  without her knowing.

Even more poignantly, these were the last Snapchats I has from S.

Whether she realised, somehow, that she didn’t know me or maybe the networks were closed down selectively after the massacre, I don’t know.

I wonder how she is and miss seeing her.

On the same visit I took my laptop and projector to experiment with projecting some of the videos and play with the webcam and camera.

Jane and Richard watched some of the early videos which happened to be on the Flash drive and some of the Screen recordings but I did not show them any of the videos I’d shown for the Tutorial or Group Crit.

Jane has been excited by my ideas of re- filming and re- projecting.

Here are Jane , Richard and Rosie the Dog watching some video in the Bar at the side and me messing with infinity!


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