I chose “Mapping Police Violence,” a project by activist DeRay McKesson (who is also famous for this one blue vest he wears, apparently) and activist, policy analyst, and data scientist Sam Sinyangwe. This project utilizes data visualization to help raise awareness about the problem of police violence, specifically police violence towards African Americans. The pair’s work is based off of two separate online databases of police brutality, which they cross-referenced against each other and supplemented with their own research. They then created info graphics, maps (like the one pictured above), and a police-rating tool based off of the accumulated data, to contribute to what they describe as a “digital Harlem renaissance” that will help people visualize the solutions to and unintended consequences of oppression of blacks in America.
As admirable as their project is, from an artistic perspective, their work isn’t particularly revolutionary. We’ve all seen maps and infographics before. That being said, their work is presented in a clear manner, which is of great importance when presenting data (their color scheme was nice as well.) One thing that DeRay McKesson said that particularly struck me was “the truth is damning enough that it should radicalize people.” Here, he is speaking in the context that he doesn’t have to embellish the facts to portray injustice. However, if art’s purpose is, as many argue, to reveal the truth, one can deduce that based off of this statement, art can be the most direct tool for effecting social change.
I’ve included the link to McKesson’s Twitter feed, as he himself in the video states the extreme importance of Twitter in his activism
See some of Sinyangwe’s visualizations for the project here.
The above links to one of my favorite pieces of their work, where the pair track data from specific police departments. In the lecture, they explain how the purpose of tracking police dept. data is to identify good policy or pinpoint when good policy isn’t being followed.