May 2013

Public space, place to place connections using emerging global communication technology for a greater common good. I’ve been searching the web for projects and works that bring these together. Do send along suggestions for projects (my zero1 email). A few from what I’ve gathered thusfar follow:

Spontaneous Interventions:
Design Actions for the Common Good at the Chicago Cultural Center from May 24 to September 1, 2013. Organized by Cathy Lang Ho and in affiliation with the New York Institute for Urban Design, an event and series of works that focus on the city and public space. From the curator: “Our goal is to use the exhibition as a framework for understanding a larger movement, in which citizens all over the world are devising and implementing clever, low-barrier urban interventions to make their cities more inclusive, sustainable, pleasurable, and safer…we have organized a rich roster of programs that will place the trend of tactical urbanism in the context local urban issues and citizen action.”

I remember when the NY Stock Exchange first felt the impact of the newly emerging internet and global communication systems. Trades began to take place outside of a fixed and centralized location. Communication changed from a centralized model to a decentralized one. The site itself, in spite of its long history and prominence, diminished in relation to its function and purpose, as work and events that had previously required a location to house communication and exchange functions, were now no longer limited to location. The NY Stock Exchange, as site and purpose, gave rise to questions of future use.

Public space now seems to be in a similar state. What is its purpose or use? Who occupies it and for what reasons? Is public space public? How are global networks alterning the use and occupation of public spaces, the kinds of engagements that historically took place there? How has corporate occupation, design and influence of public space altered its function and appearance, and choreographed what takes place there?

The Virtual Dinner Guest Project:
While not taking place in public space, this innovative project uses Skype to create local to local/person to person and place to place connection over dinner. Eric Maddox, the founder of the Virtual Dinner Project, describes the birth of the project in an interview:

Imagine engaging in a videoconference call from your dinner table while you and members of your community share a meal. The only difference: you and your community members are participating in a moderated discussion with people in another country. … The dinner table represents the world’s oldest and most universal social forum. The Virtual Dinner Guest Project draws upon this notion and then extends the concept of the shared dining experience across borders and cultural divisions. Imagine dinner tables extending into the living room of a family in Cairo, the Yale University cafeteria or a rooftop Café in Tunis.

Intimacy extending local to global.

The project to end genocide and crimes against humanity and The Satellite Sentinel Project 
Harnessing the satellite eyes in the skies, The Satellite Sentinel Project uses data collected from overhead satellites to monitor activities in the Sudan. Conceived and developed by John Prendergas, co-founded of Enough, and George Clooney, The Satellite Sentinel Project is a collaboration between Enough and DigitalGlobe to gather and analyze data from the DigitalGlobe satellites to look for evidence of atrocities and civilian threats in the Sudan.

From their site:
The project works like this: DigitalGlobe satellites passing over Sudan and South Sudan capture imagery of possible threats to civilians, detect bombed and razed villages, or note other evidence of pending mass violence. Experts at DigitalGlobe work with the Enough Project to analyze imagery and information from sources on the ground to produce reports. The Enough Project then releases to the press and policymakers and sounds the alarm by notifying major news organizations and a mobile network of activists on Twitter and Facebook.

Originally developed with partnership from Google, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Trellon and the United Nations UNITAR Operational Satellite Applications Programme, The Satellite Sentinel Project initially crowd-sourced data analysis sending the results of the analysis to government officials and news organizations.

Treading a fine line between surveillance and global witness, the project reminds me of Machsom Watch (, which, since 2001,has been the collaborative eyes on the ground in the West Bank. Volunteer Israeli women organize around checkpoints throughout the West Bank, physically standing on site to witness events as they occur on the ground. They write, record (when they can as although recording is legal, it does instigate antagonism of soldiers) and report events and circumstances as they occur, acting as visible witnesses at the checkpoints throughout the region. Their website is the repository, collecting reports and photos from the volunteer witnesses. When I was in the West Bank, I joined volunteers to accompany them on their checkpoints route standing with them at checkpoints in Qualidiya and Hawawa.