Here are a selection of early prototypes of the Crown Heights Mic created during Salome's thesis year (2013-2014) at Parsons. Special thanks to MFADT faculty advisors Marko Tandefelt, Loretta Wolozin, Melanie Crean, and Andrew Zornoza.
This is an early skeletal prototype where I hacked old iMac G4 external speakers and two-way handheld radios. A quick test proved these radios to be functional almost a mile apart. With better quality antennas, these radios could operate at longer distances.
In trying to answer my initial question about how to create an honest and fair platform for discussion, I set out to test three potential interaction models through different structures for conversation:
1. a structure that is naturally developed by the participants
2. an applied structure for conversation (that is to say, a conversation with rules)
3. a floating facilitator
In this prototype, I gave participants colored lights with rule sets to re-create three ways I could design access to and use of these sound funnels. Participants responded to the last conversation structure because it reminded them of a protest's People’s Microphone in that it provided affirmation. The person initiating a People’s Microphone immediately knows she or has been heard undeniably because the message has to be repeated to reach a large crowd. Secondly, the initiator, standing at the center of the conversation, feels supported and recognized by the group as it disseminates the initiator's message/voice.
From here, I was drawn to creating a communication system that creates a similar interaction to a People's Microphone or a broadcast network.
Above are various iterations of sketches and models for the Crown Heights Mic. I was initially really drawn to images of ant hills and bee hives, but moved away because the metaphor seemed too obvious for a neighborhood. I moved towards creating an object that when placed outdoors would read familiar and playful and that through its industrial design, a resident would intuitively know how to operate it with little to no instruction.
This was a quick prototype using an online voicemail box to see how people respond to non-facilitated public prompting. Andy and I printed and hung colorful posters around the neighborhood that asked questions like, "What on this street is new and what on this street is old?" and "What is something you'd want local police officers to know?" Residents were directed to a phone number where they could record their answers and add to an online archive. I used GoVoGo to set up the online voicemail box. When messages are recorded, they are delivered to me via email as an .mp3.
A super special thank you to Sam Huber, Carl Chen, and Leila Tamari for providing input regarding these public prompts.