Hypothetical futures of the crowd spectacle
Building on our Public Display: Crowd & Spectacle research, our AMP Studio work culminated in the design and production of a book of our research and speculations.
For this project, we were asked to create some physical output of the initial research we had engaged in, which examined how public spaces and crowd events are now communication spaces.
Development of Research
One of the most interesting items we discovered in our initial research phase appeared in just one small graph. The graph plotted Google searches for “Occupy Wall St” against Google News coverage for the same keywords. We noticed that the searches began a significant period before the news coverage. This seemed to be a really rich area for further investigation.
This discovery lead us to develop this diagram of overlapping triangles to represent our thesis: that the events we were exploring had three distinct elements. The Hype that saw a groundswell of interest through social media and word-of-mouth. The actual event itself, or Happening, which in many ways seems the least important of the three. And the Broadcast which was when the Media caught up with the Hype and transmitted the Happening itself to a broader audience.1
Working with Annie Needham, we decided to design a book combining our research and speculative future crowd events. The Hype, Happening, Broadcast model which had emerged from our initial research became the central lens through which we rexamined our research and developed a number of speculative future trends for crowd-based spectacles.
The first part of the book combines aspects of our initial research including a number of the political protest and pop-culture crowd pairings which we had made after observing the eerie similarities between their photo coverage. The book then introduces the Hype, Happening, Broadcast model which emerged from our initial research.
Speculative Future Events
As the diagram/concept of Hype, Happening and Broadcast continues to grow and mutate, what might these projected changes mean for the events, crowds and spectacles of the future? Our visualization becomes instrumentalized; now an interface we push and pull to ground these future speculations.
The research we engaged in throughout this project brought together some methodological ideas I’ve been exploring in projects such as Alternative Logic Futures and Biolumanoids. Moving between different modes of research included primary source investigation, diagraming, mapping, graphing, photo-pairing and theorizing through graphic forms.
Having compiled a large body of research during the first half of the project, it was just one small part of a single graph that inspired the remainder of the project. For me, it’s important to learn to recognize these little nuggets of potential within a larger design or research project which can be mined further and may lead to entirely new and richer areas of investigation.