• Michael Weeding

Desperate for a signal

It could be just be one of the many photos that are uploaded every day, but it is not. This image that was taken by John Stanmeyer for National Geographic has just been awarded the 2013 World Press Photo of the Year. So when you actually do take the time to look at the image you may be wondering firstly why are these people holding their phones in the air and secondly why is this image so powerful?

The image depicts African migrants standing on the beach in Djibouti, holding mobile phones aloft in an effort to get an inexpensive wireless signal from neighbouring Somalia so they could reach family abroad. Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, is a common stopping point for migrants attempting to reach Europe or the Middle East.

It is a powerful image because it could be interpreted in many ways by different groups of people as is evident by the many different comments from the judges when commenting on the image. Jillian Edelstein, said the photo raised issues of “technology, globalization, migration, poverty, desperation, alienation, (and) humanity.”

We have all been desperate for a signal at some stage in our lives. For many there is nothing more frustrating than not being able to get that connection so you can upload that image to Facebook.

Then there are those who are so desperate for a signal that they would stand down on a beach in the middle of the night holding their phones in the air in the hope of a signal just so they can connect with their family and friends.

It does pose the question, is technology really connecting us or actually creating a bigger social void between those who have a signal and those who do not? Something to think about today when we move forward with our lives totally immersed in technology.

The scary part is you may not need to venture to the other side of the world to find this void, you may need only to venture to the other side of your city.


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