yuh hand and meck fashion'
The Container Project
Mervin Jarman is co-ordinator of the Container project, an operation
to take a mobile media centre to the streets of Jamaica. The Container
is represented at: http://www.container.access-it.org.uk.
Jarman is also part of the London based Mongrel collective. He was interviewed
by Matthew Fuller.
Matthew Fuller: Can you let us know what the Container project is? In
simple, straightforward terms - what is the actual physical make-up
of the project? The technology?
Mervin Jarman: The Container is an effort to take creative computer technology
to ghetto people and deep rural communities in the Caribbean. The physical
thing is made up of a shipping container on wheels converted into a mobile
workstation/access unit. Transportable by truck, it'll be equipped
with some 14 workstations and a server networked with local area network
access and remote Internet connection. The Container will make its maiden
voyage into the Caribbean where its first port of entry will be Jamaica.
We are then hoping to move into Trinidad, St. Lucia, Monserrat, St. Vincent
and a number of other Islands over a 5-year period. This of course is
subject to negotiations...
As far as the people goes... We are aiming to engage people effected by
various divides - be that political or social. It is true to say that
a vast majority of the Island's underprivileged won't deliberately
stay in that scenario if given a choice, and this is absolutely what this
is about. It's about giving people incentives to feel good about
themselves without being patronised.
Most of the people that will gain access to the Container are no different
to you and I except that they have no significant reasons to interact
with computers, as it is not presented to them in a meaningful way. This
is to say in a way that it becomes relevant to their every day activities
as determined by them.
Our main target group is therefore going to be some hardcore bad boys/girls.
People from a non-digital low-educational background who have not been
working with other types of artforms. Thus never had the time or incentive
to investigate what computer technology can or can't do for them
in a constructive and creative manner.
MF: What is going to happen in the Container? What might be going on on
a typical day? What is its relationship to say the different music scenes
in Jamaica? At the same time you're going to be pulling in digital
art stuff from all over? It sounds like a crazy mix.
MJ: Crazy and mix-up it will be indeed - thing is as a youth growing
up in Jamaica we had a kind of figure head in folklorist Mrs. Louise Bennet-Cobally
affectionately Miss Lou - now Miss Lou always say fe her Auntie Rochi
used to say 'tun yuh hand and meck fashion' which is the mentality
responsible for Jamaica's creativity and dynamic energies. So yes
indeed the Container shall see a very interesting explosion of creative
flair, I can't give you any specifics but I can guarantee a dynamo
of exciting activities.
The technology will emphasise interactive digital media plus some basic
life skills thus the technology is about resourcing humans with communicative
skills and tools.
My hope is to get more ghetto people to develop an appetite for using
computers productively and if I can pass on the little that I have come
to know to at least one person then I would be grateful.
MF: Why is it important for you personally to do this?
MJ: This is as significant to me now as football was in my early development.
As a socially recreational activity football kept me out of many mischief
and strife. It also expanded my social group taking me into places that
would otherwise be inaccessible to the likes of me. The same is true for
computer technology - especially interactive media where now I am
celebrating in circles that's usually the domain of the reserved.
Whilst there most people see me as unique, exotic, all kind of shit. Not
to say I don't appreciate all the attention, but there is something
inside that keeps reminding me that this is only happening because I got
a chance and this chance was the privilege to work with some brilliant
computer artists and technicians at a time when I had no knowledge or
experience with computers. This also came about because, before that,
Artec's programme at the time allowed me to investigate my own resolves
based around topics that mattered to me.
So in a sense this is what I would like to achieve through the Container
project: a lot more "socially acceptable" outcasts or outsiders.
People who have a hell of a lot more to contribute to society than the
misery that gets strapped to us.
MF: So, what kind of effect do you see the project having for other people?
MJ: Hopefully, in terms of the non-computer-educated participants, it
will stimulate them into using computers as a tool to enhance their craft.
For the learned digital artists and others that will participate in the
project that this experience helps to rejuvenate their creative genes
and influence them in a more communal outreaching approach to their work
if this is not already the case.
MF: How is the Container being put together in terms of sourcing finances,
material, computers, satellite time and all the many other things that
you need to get the thing done?
MJ: This again is another milestone in the dynamism of the media that
I now have the privilege to work in and the kind of people that I get
to work with or meet as a result of my work. It is largely based on their
good sense and generosity, where people have given time to help to administrate,
donate equipment, and just to share ideas or contact details of people
who they think might be able to help out.
So most of the efforts so far have been from donations of some sort or
another. However, we are still hopeful that we will be able to attract
some kind of sponsorship from business or anyone else. The container and
the shipping costs have been donated by JP Fruit Distributors, and various
amount of time and effort by a group of people already too numerous to
mention in this interview.
For all the other things, we are still seeking sponsorship commitments
from companies or other kinds of organisation that will be offered advertising
profile as a result of their participation.
MF: What kind of kit do you need?
MJ: Along with the kit for use in the actual container we are asking people,
companies, organisations etc. to donate material. A basic unit should
be a PC with 166 Mhz Pentium processor, 32 MB memory and 15" monitor
capable of 800 x 600 pixels - 16 bit colour. Or a Performa Mac/ Power
Mac with similar capabilities with a baseline modem speed of 28.8kbps
connectability. These computers along with peripherals like printers and
scanners will be given to community groups that have participated in the
Container project on its tours. These will provide connection to the Container
project team and the World Wide Web and allow the community to continue
to push things after the Container has left a site. If anyone has anything
like this, or access to resources we'd love to hear from them!
We are also advocating for sponsored connection for public access and
are focussing on both local and international telecommunications companies
to assist us in this quest. Satellite time, or other ways of connecting
to the net, is going to be important.
MF: What should people do if they can support the Container with resources?
MJ: Get in contact with me immediately <firstname.lastname@example.org>
or any one you know that is affiliated with the project.
MF: What is the situation with regard to the net in Jamaica? Any good
initiatives worth checking out? Are there any organisations or groups
of people that you will specifically be collaborating with?
MJ: In Jamaica there is a number of interesting developments taking place
around the media however many of these take a kind of corporate approach
to their initiative and that is primarily because these users/ developers
are from uptown so that's what is accepted by their peers. But by
all means - type Jamaica into any search engine and you will be bombarded
with a catalyst of interesting sites.
MF: This is a very informal model of going about getting it done. It's
a different way of going about things than most people would try in say,
the UK and the rest of Europe where you'd get jumped on by x-amount
of bureaucracy before things could get moving. On first hearing, the idea
of just getting on and doing something this major, sounds almost unfeasible.
Is Jamaica any different?
MJ: When we start talking bureaucracy, in Jamaica it's no different
from anywhere in the world. The thing is what would seem normal time span
for as huge a land as Europe or even the US seems like eternity to the
average man in the street and we are not known for our patience. My old
lady used to say 'always take the bull by the horn' - so
when you see the need to do certain things you just have to go out and