December 2003

Road Kill

Courtesy of Ken Avidor:

Bulldozer“Highway expansion in America is big business. The Highway Expansionists enjoys the support of both Democrats and Republicans and sometimes Greens. Millions of dollars are spent on propaganda to support the notion that the destruction of the People Zone for the Auto Zone is an inevitable and desirable part of “Progress.” If you add the billions of dollars the auto and oil industry spends on advertising and public relations, it is no wonder that opponents of highway expansion face a public wall of apathy and suspicion. It is not easy to break through that wall of conditioning. Words alone cannot correct the positve mental images people have of automobiles and highways from acquired from a lifetime of viewing TV commercials.

STRIDE (Southside Traffic Reduction Initiative to Determine our Environment) uses photos, art and comics on its website to counter the industry PR images. Comics and satire are also a fun way to convey complex ideas. They can also attract attention to more serious stuff. We are hoping to add music and animation to the STRIDE site in the near future.

These are some sites that have art and comics against highway expansion [in Minnesota]:

>  26 December 2003 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Designs on Democracy: Communication for Liberation

The Design Action Collective, the Ruckus Society, and Change the Game are holding a conference on design for social justice.

Designs on Democracy: Communication for Liberation is billed as:

“a forum for networking and dialogue on the strategic role of graphic communications, public relations and guerilla marketing in the service of organizing for Justice.

The Designs on Democracy conference is for activists working in graphic design, communications, public relations, Web and new media, issue advertising, guerilla messaging, and emerging and student activists in these fields.

Through three days of speakers, workshops, panels and networking, participants will:

  • Strategize about the role of activist design and communications in supporting critical struggles in the coming years.
  • Build and strengthen long-term working relationships between individuals and firms specializing in activist design and communications across the United States.
  • Share skills and experience to improve the services available to movement organizations.
  • Create a forum where emerging designers with activist interests can connect with established firms for career, intern and volunteer opportunities.
  • Provide an opportunity for campaigners and organizers to connect with design and communication activists.”

The conference will be held from March 26-28, 2004 at the University of California, Berkeley. Contact the organizers for more info.

The provisional agenda seems to focus heavily on marketing, but the organizers are open to suggestions. I’d recommend a session on design that facilitates organizing and public pariticipation. Perhaps one on information design and mapping for advocacy.

I attended the Tech Toolbox Action Camp that the Ruckus Society threw back in June 2002 and certainly got a lot out of it. I might just try to make it to this one, too.

>  19 December 2003 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Bombing Iraq

Iraq Graffiti

From Reuters, November 13, 2003:

“As political parties and businesses take advantage of a power vacuum in a country with as yet no elected government, constitution or parliament, Baghdad has become a city of graffiti.

Walls around the city of five million have been smothered with competing slogans since three decades of stifling state control and dictatorship ended in April with the ousting of Iraq’s president Saddam Hussein.”

From Al-Ahram Weekly via the Utne Reader:

“[Graffiti] has quickly become an important mode for Iraqis to freely express opinions of every nature. Nermeen Al-Mufti, reporting from Baghdad, writes that during the last two months the walls near her house have ‘been witness to the sentiments and longing of the Iraqi people.’ Before the fall of Baghdad to U.S. forces, the walls were entirely blank except for the face of Saddam Hussein. Now buildings throughout the city are covered with political and personal commentary from hugely differing perspectives.

Much of the writing is political in nature. After American troops entered Iraq many of the pictures of Saddam were defaced. A poster near Al Mufti’s house that had previously read ‘yes, yes to Saddam,’ was changed to ‘no, no to Saddam.’ Later someone added the word ‘criminal’ in front of Saddam’s name. However, anger and resentment is not, by any means, limited to the former leader of Iraq. One wall reads, ‘Americans, sooner or later we will kick you out.’ And at times the two opinions clash, ‘Thank you Mr. Bush,’ was later crossed out by someone else.

Ali Omer, a young writer in Baghdad, commented, ‘I discovered the draw-back of democracy, it dirties the walls!’ Metaphorically, the ‘dirty’ masses of opinions covering the walls reflects the greatly commingled ethnic and religious groups in the country. Shatha Hassan, a teacher in the Institute of Fine Arts, says that the walls reflect the massive instability of the country. Thus, some of the writing directed towards the future possibilities of an Iraqi government. Walls read, ‘Yes to a secular government,’ or, ‘There is no democratic Iraq without resolution of the Kurdish issue.’ On this note, there is also the positive outlook, ‘Arab and Kurds together will rebuild Iraq.’ Sadly, the walls are also representative of a war-torn country where positive steps forward are taken very slowly. One university student writing on the wall said, ‘We still don’t know if we’ll be taking our exams or not. Nobody reads the papers, so maybe our demands will be seen on the walls.’”

For a few more translations see Newsday.

>  2 December 2003 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

On to January.
Back to November.