On a scale from one to ten, how depressive is it to live in Rotterdam?

“Rotterdam as the most depressing place to live”. That was the basic premise of my not-so-serious project for the seminar Social media, prosumption and identity that I took in the first term of my second year.

We were supposed to engage ourselves in a social media activity we haven’t done before and then critically evaluate it mainly in terms of our identity. For a few weeks I was trying to capture the city that has been my home for a year now as gloomily and as depressively as possible on the Instagram profile @depressing_rotterdam (http://www.instagram.com/depressing_rotterdam).

Instagram is a virtual space where most attention is received by photos with perfect sharpness, bright colours and positive themes. I was thus intrigued to see if it is possible to succeed in such environment with a profile providing content so different. With my bleak and often black and white photos with rather low artistic value I was trying to prove that even a city as shiny and impressive as Rotterdam can be easily portrayed as gloomy, or even depressing, especially when the weather is not nice. Unfortunately, I sometimes feel that way about Rotterdam myself. Nonetheless, quite surprisingly I have realized that such a public way of dealing with an inner issue seems to alleviate these feelings in me. That is probably because of the feedback one receives in such instances – it enables one to relativize the whole situation and also serves as a non-material reward: virtual appreciation from other users through the “likes”. However, at the same time I also realized that my perspective on Rotterdam wasn’t any more authentic than the one of those who present the city on their pictures as infinitely fascinating and practically flawless. While performing social media activities we always resort to some sort of distortion, which we often don’t realize is the case and subconsciously believe these actions to be a reflection of “real” world.

To make sure that the reader doesn’t get the impression that Rotterdam is indeed a city full of greyness and frustration, here I attach a photo showing the exact opposite.

I do realize that for someone not involved with my study this sounds like a nonsense far from reality. However, I am convinced that it was a useful course – my generation got used to making their impressions about others largely based on on-line activity. Theoretical understanding of our behaviour on the internet enables us to realize that everything is a theatre performance we play for our contacts with the intention to imprint a certain impression in them. Thus, it truly is not more real or objective than face-to-face communication. Nevertheless, the other courses I took in the first term were a bit less abstract. The Quantitative Methods was an extension of the courses on introductions to research and statistical analysis I took last year and was meant mainly as a preparation for our bachelor thesis research. In International and Global Communication we discussed the role of the media and PR in a number of issues of world-wide character – global warming, war conflicts in the Middle East or terrorism. At that time we had no idea how relevant this would be in a few weeks due to the current events in Paris and in other places around the world.

What can also be seen as highly relevant is the Honours Programme, which I became part of as one of only 18 students from the entire year. Its theme for the first two terms is borders of Europe and the refugee crisis. On these meetings we attempt to apply the theoretical knowledge we have from other courses and additional academic materials to contemporary media discourses about these issues and thus understand why media choose to inform us about the refugees the way they do. We then try to apply this to our media campaign designs for various organizations that are involved with these issues. We then present these prototypes to the representatives of the institutions with the intention to potentially start some more intense cooperation. Last week we visited the organization VluchtelingenWerk Nederland, which provides help and support to the refugees who came to the Netherlands. We presented their employees with our media campaign designs aiming at changing the perception of the part of the Dutch population that is, similarly to part of the Czech population, very hostile and aggressive towards the refugees. This is often the case because they lack information or they are simply afraid of strangers. Some of our ideas seemed to resonate well, so now we are curious if they could actually be used in a real campaign. We would be naturally flattered if that was the case.



Na škále od jedné do deseti, jak moc depresivní je život v Rotterdamu?

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