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Friday, June 9 • 9:50am - 10:00am
Locative Media and Do-It-Yourself Activism

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Repurposing locative technologies (such as GPS, GIS, AR) as tools for cultural critique and activism gives students the chance to produce meaningful interventions that connect physical locations to memory, history, collective identity, and civic engagement. The ongoing critical making projects from my classes covered in this presentation propose new ways of using augmented reality (AR) apps and other locative media (such as GIS mapping tools) to expand collaborative activity beyond the classroom through a type of educational and activist geocaching, where students “hide” virtual AR messages in specific NYC landmarks and/or cultural events that relate to the course (e.g. street art, gentrification, gamification, feminist monuments, experimental architecture) and then share clues online (hinting at the location of their AR) before embarking on a quest to uncover each other’s real-world hidden messages; this provides a playful way of “testing” students’ applied knowledge of the course material, and was inspired by our cinematic exploration of psychogeography and Situationist-influenced urban drifts (dérives). The dérive provides a productive metaphor for experimental pedagogy that is more focused on process-oriented praxis rather than fixed expectations.Another critical making project I would like to discuss took place during the turbulent post-election period (and inspired subsequent projects that took place during other periods of sociopolitical turmoil). The desire to utilize technology for political activism became even more pressing for many students in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and several members of my class found it cathartic and liberating to repurpose the technology at their disposal for sociopolitical reflection. The subversive use of AR (Augmented Reality) and locative media for social critique and historical preservation is becoming more commonplace as an artistic counter-cultural practice, as evidenced, for instance, in projects I teach in class, such as the FutARist movement and Mi Querido Barrio (My Beloved Community, Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, NYC, 2016), an augmented reality tour of East Harlem that aims to make visible gentrification’s unseen implications of cultural erasure. In the next class project I will discuss, I challenged my students to embark on a scavenger hunt around campus, where they used their mobile phones and the customized form we created on Fulcrum (a locative Geographic Information System database) to document –through images, audio, text, and video –the various instances of activism and protest during the post-election period of 2016. Through this and other critical making projects, not only did students learn more about locative media such as GIS and GPS through practice, but they also created their own archive that makes visible and virtually permanent the multiple efforts for civic participation and free speech. The ability to capture ephemeral moments of protest further added to the meaningful aspects of the project, and helped the students experiment with different ways of documenting and sharing transient experiences. The scavenger hunt also gave them a chance to interact with their community (e.g. through interviews with protest organizers and participants) and become more aware of how their seemingly neutral surroundings become politically charged in times of crisis.

avatar for Marina Hassapopoulou

Marina Hassapopoulou

Assistant professor, New York University

Friday June 9, 2023 9:50am - 10:00am EDT
PS 308 (Design Center)