ENTRY #537

Freedom of Speech Silent Disco: Tactic for Performative Urban Citizenship by Santiago Giraldo Anduaga / Mark Kanters / Antwan Rucker


Identify a public space

The right to assembly, access to public spaces, and democratic expression have today been incrementally marginalized away from the physicality of urban spaces. Free speech and assembly in space have been increasingly replaced by virtual manifestations of common grounds that have served as catalysts for mobilizing ideas, opinions, protests, and physical demonstrations as was seen during Occupy Wall Street. The internet has created an extensive open source platform for free speech with a global capacity; reaching and mobilizing individuals into a collective commons that is an alternative to conventional methods of protest, assembly, and expression. This ether-commons creates a catalyst for creativity and acts as a springboard for extended creation of conversations; generating and sharing knowledge that reinforces the rights of citizens by activating dormant spaces for engagement as alternatives to spaces where these rights are constantly renegotiated to become less impactful.

Union Square Park, a historic venue for social and political mobility, entered a public-private partnership that sought to create a flourishing business climate in the wake of economic turmoil. As a result, use of common spaces and assembling without a permit became highly regulated and controlled. So where can people freely exercise these rights in the modern city? Activating the historically rich and contested space of Union Square North, our proposal seeks to converge precedent with evolving methods of freedom of speech by facilitating physical representations of created active virtual networks that exercise citizen’s rights to free speech and assembly in integrative and innovative ways.

View the Current Space

Design Proposal

Our proposal, “The Freedom of Speech Silent Disco”, seeks to create performative urban citizenship that merges collective knowledge about free speech with an active virtual assembly for extended knowledge creation and long-term public discourse. This multi-layered commons will have four components:

Site specific lectures by provocative urbanists, architects, and activists:
The content of these presentations will serve as an information springboard for extended dialogue, knowledge, and action creation. Possible topics include: The Public-Private Paradigm, Free Speech in Modern Public Spaces, The Future of Urbanizing Worlds, and many others.

Intermediary Soundtrack:
Music will be used to strengthen participation between presenters, participants, and spectators. A dynamic score will critically engage the interstitial space that music occupies; stimulating movement and active participation within the space.

Chalk as Physical Expression:
Chalk will be used to add depth to lectures and conversations by grounding content in the physical space. Participants will also use chalk to creatively express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas during the event. When the event has finished this will leave behind a space of inquiry as well as information about where to access the content and enter the discourse.

Creation of an Ether-Common:
The physical manifestation is merely a co-created expression of where the actual assembly occurs: The virtual common space. Through this process we will document and share all documentation of content using publicly accessible platforms of social media and open source information networks articulated to create extended conversation about issues of free speech and the city.

View the Design Proposal

Video Link


“Silent Disco is a unique way of experiencing live [content]…Guests wear wireless headphones and a silent atmosphere instantly transforms into a high energy…performance.”
-Silent Storm Sound Systems

The Freedom of Speech Silent Disco seeks to challenge exclusionary elements of assembly and free speech while articulating new possible platforms for free expression. This is done through tactics that allow people to become active participants in the process of co-creating common ground.

Using ‘live-stream’ technologies, the lecturers and music, located in Union Square North, are curated in real time. This will engage the crowd and all participants in the ether-common assembly across a variety of theoretical and progressive topics that are historically and actively grounded in the physical space.

The low cost nature of articulating both the virtual and physical creation will allow our team to focus our resources towards creating widespread public inclusion with accessibility tactics such as: open Wi-Fi connection hotspots; providing headphone receivers; public exposure using social media and flyers; and building permanent online hubs for discourse using blog platforms such as WordPress.

This first Silent Disco will serve as a pilot for creation of an ongoing performative urban citizenship that can be adapted and expanded democratically by members in the virtual commons to address wide ranges of issues across various contested spaces. This will at the same time further intensify and expand the virtual public engagement and potentially create powerful public movements that seek to explore the betterment lives through free speech.


Santiago Giraldo Anduaga is an integrative systems designer, permaculturist, and environmental and social researcher from Bogota, Colombia. His current endeavors seek to critically explore the urban fabric of cities through process design strategies. Santiago is currently a graduate student in Design and Urban Ecologies at Parsons School for Design.

Mark Kanters is interested in multidisciplinary design that engage in social issues. He has a user centered design approach that creates moving designs. Besides studying architecture at Eindhoven University of Technology, Mark did a minor at the faculty of industrial design and studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam

Antwan Rucker has a background in architecture and construction, migrating between roles as designer and project manager in various sectors including Non-Profit, Commercial, and Educational. Antwan is currently a graduate student in Design and Urban Ecologies at Parsons School for Design, Exploring urban politics, housing, environmental, and social issues.