When I arrived at The New School in the fall of 2011, a vibrant social movement emerged in the streets of New York City and soon spread to many urban centers around the world. Occupy Wall Streetmobilized thousands of students, activists, blue collar workers and working professionals from all walks of life in an unprecedented series of actions, protests and sit-ins around the city. Along with several New School faculty including Radhika Subramanian and Carin Kouni, I established #SEARCHUNDEROCCUPY, co-curated as a collaborative exhibition with performances, teach-ins and hackathons in March 2012 at the Sheila Johnson Design Center (SJDC) in The New School. I led the development of a digital media platform as a “living archive” to amplify and extend the exhibition online, hosting the emerging collection of audio-visual works, public programming, and social media commentary about the movement and works exhibited. Both the physical exhibition and digital platform were designed as open spaces with ongoing public exchange and were curated to allow a diverse cross-section of voices, along the intended spirit of the Occupy movement.
I organized a series of open public OccupyData Hackathons for designers, activists and artists to collaboratively understand, analyze and visualize emerging aspects of the Occupy movement. These were conducted as distributed events with live video conferencing among similar hackathons held in Cambridge, San Francisco and Los Angeles. These hackathons, hosted every 3-4 months at The New School and the CUNY Graduate Center from 2012-2013, facilitated a sustained form of participatory data-driven activism across institutional boundaries. They each focused on a unique set of timely civic issues including housing and gentrification, patterns of police brutality and “Stop and Frisk” in New York City, and coordination of relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy; the co-design process, datasets and outcomes were regularly shared online.
Citizen Digital and Urban Activism in Russia
July 20, 2012
I advised my graduate student Nathanael Bassett in conducting ethnographic research examining collective identities and political agency emerging in the diverse cultures of these hackathons; this work subsequently received a distinguished thesis award in the School of Media Studies in 2014. We organized a forum for activists and scholars to examine the social practices and collaborative processes emerging, titled “Hackathon Yackathon: Conversations on Hacking as Civic Engagement” at The New School in April 2013.
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