Monday, April 06, 2009

Read/Write City

"Our city is read-only. You’re free to read advertising, business signs, and city signs. But dare you write or hang anything of your own; you will be labeled as a criminal - a graffiti vandal. In many cities it’s even illegal to hang a sign for a garage sale on a light pole. If you happen to have a several thousand dollars, you might be able to say what you want - as long as it’s not too political.
But this is public space. You’re free to say whatever you want in public space, but freedom of speech does not extend to the visual environment. The visual environment is pay to play. Public visual space has become commercial space.
The visual environment is read only.
Why is read/write better? Because you can consume, process, and respond. This is how we think critically. This is how we learn. You can talk back. You can express yourself. You don’t just consume expression, you create expression.
Read/write is how democracy works.
There’s a reason kids want to write their names on walls. There’s a reason why people take graffiti seriously. Granted, graffiti writers don’t always know how to direct this energy, but I’d argue there’s some overlap with the reasons one writes their name on a wall and the reasons one runs for the school board. Being able to write means being able to affect your environment. To change it. You exist in the world not as a consumer, but an active citizen.
Read only culture creates apathy."

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