Broadcasting Voices. Inspiring Agency.
The Media Studies Masters Seminar “Creative DIY Cultures and Participatory Learning” at The New School for Public Engagement investigates creative Do‐It‐Yourself cultures of “hacking, tinkering, and inventive practices from crafts and electronics to digital media production, networked design collaboration, and participatory learning” (Sawhney, Nitin, Class Syllabus 2011). Throughout the semester students have been encouraged to explore various DIY and DIT (do-it-together) practices as forms of cultural, political and/or subversive expression. This class has spent the semester critically considering the nature of emerging networked DIY and DIT communities and hacker/maker spaces, and these communities’ role in creating new forms of cultural production, interaction, participatory learning, and civic agency and engagement.
As part of a semester-long project combining theory and praxis students have been expected to investigate and participate in various maker/hacker DIY communities and initiatives in order to better to formulate sound critical reflections. Students have also been expected to propose new pedagogical concepts and design platforms that support creative DIY and DIT cultures.
Voices is the result of a three-month long – continuously devoloping – exercise in DIY formulation, production and critique. We (see authors) have explored, analyzed and critically reflected upon existing DIY practices that re-mixed other people’s voices with the purpose of fostering civic agency, all while exploring new forms of potential cultural production. These similar projects have often implimented the practice of appropriation – for instance, the borrowing of strangers’ voices in order to create entirely new works and perspectives.
Using the framework of Voices as our primary platform, we have also engaged in our own experiment entitled: sLogs. The concept behind sLogs is that of discovery: both the practice of and the messages resulting from re-mix and collage culture – through the use of selective appropriation. sLogs stands for “street logs”: the collection of isolated street voices (documented in image and textual mediums) that are then collaged into amalgamated messages. Our overarching hypothesis, which has continued to evolve, is that by collaging street voices we would then be able to read or “take the temperature of” the streets, conceptualizing the latter as a unified voice of a particular time and place.
We were inspired by numerous projects, such as “Twitter as the World’s Mood Ring” – where professors from Cornell University used Twitter to follow global shifts in mood by analyzing half a billion tweets from 2.4 million people in 84 different countries. Of course, our sample has been significantly smaller – however, it was not narrowed to include only those with access to both the Internet and a Twitter account. We purposefully sought out those messages that populate the streets of the environments we traverse on a daily basis. The street is our canvas, our proverbial thermometer – a richly filled ecosystem of various eclectic messages, coming together to form one holistic macro-system. Our critical reflections on the experiment, and of other projects that have been implemented using similar and/or inspirational techniques, are elaborated upon in further depth on this website (see Reflections).
About the Site
streetlogs.org hosts our cross-cultural and inter-disciplinary investigations and inspirations. The Voices platform is one of appropriated images and messages – a virtual “scrap-book,” a living archive. In this blog we have collected and chronicled a myriad of voices – not just street logs as we define them. We have scoured the web and revisited texts, literature, and other written mediums. We collected quotes, featured photography and occasionally video and often linked to the wonderful blogs of others. Like BrainPickings we have attempted to select ”pieces that enrich your mental pool of resources and empower you to combine them into original concepts that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful — [this is] a modest, curiosity-driven exercise in vision- and mind-expansion.”
We should note that for the purpose of the sLogs experiment, we have mainly collaged and re-mixed those images that we ourselves have taken in the streets of New York City and other towns and metropolises around the globe – imprinted as graffiti art, protesters’ messages, and other various creative guerrilla messaging tactics.
About our Research Interests
We are deeply interested in discovering the ways in which social media can be used to drive social change. Moreover, we believe that the streets are the quintessential social media environment – a place where existing social networks gather and where new networks emerge. Is in the streets where strangers with similar interests congregate to share, experience community, and voice themselves into the world. In the streets, these communities of inter-est physically connect, producing voices that can later be amplified through the vast online social media engine we have come to know as the Web.
In Collective Intelligence, Pierre Levy proposes what he calls an Achievable Utopia. “He asks us to imagine what would happen if the sharing of knowledge and the exercise of grassroots power becomes normative. In Levy’s world, people from fundamentally different perspectives see a value in talking and listening to one another, and such deliberations form the basis for mutual respect and trust. The challenge is to create a context where people of different backgrounds actually talk and listen to one another” (Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture, 246).
Like Natalie Bookchin, whose ongoing series of video installations entitled Testament – made from fragments of online video diaries – “reflects on the peculiar blend of simultaneous connectivity and isolation that characterizes social relations today”, we select images and collage them together in startling juxtapositions to show how isolated individuals are in fact connected through similar voiced expressions –hope in particular being a primary theme we have encountered.
The website virtualvoices.wordpress.com is a continuous work in progress, a sustainable, evolving and expanding collage of its own. The street logs reflect our points-of-view, our own voices: one that composes the voices of others into a unifying narrative of hope and boundless expression. We invite the audience to offer their own interpretations and critical reflections of our work, and to create compilations of their own – for we understand that author bias is a given and what is shown and reflected here has been filtered through our lens – try as we might to adopt the stance of the critical Urban Media Archaeologist cum Artist.