ENTRY #553

SpeechBooth by Maria Vidart-Delgado / Rex G. Baker IV / Katarzyna Balug

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Identify a public space

SpeechCorp is honored to present the SpeechBooth, an exciting opportunity to monetize consumers’ exercise of First Amendment rights! SpeechCorp’s inaugural SpeechBooth will be located in Corona Park, home to the 1964 World’s Fair, and a monument to the American consumer. Formerly a site to celebrate the kind of entrepreneurship, market freedom and self-reliance that have made this nation the envy of the world, Corona Park today has languished under public stewardship, all but disconnected from the rest of New York City. By leveraging American consumers’ patriotic desire to exercise their First Amendment rights, we can revitalize this potentially lucrative site, and perhaps even pave the way for private development!

SpeechCorp recognizes that not all speech is created equal. Our proprietary technology separates speech rights consumers (SRCs) into two groups, optimal and suboptimal, depending on their integration with financial markets and access to consumer lines of credit (colloquially called “credit cards”). For the eminently attainable price of $2.00 per minute, optimal SRCs may broadcast their voices and opinions over a connected low-power, FM radio transmitter. If a suboptimal SRC attempts to access the SpeechBooth, a network of sensors will immediately alert the police to the ongoing violation of the SpeechBooth terms of service. This system protects the speech rights of optimal SRCs from the interference of those who, quite frankly, do not deserve to be heard.

View the Current Space

Design Proposal

The SpeechBooth is a personal radio booth featuring a microphone and audio inputs connected to a low-power, FM radio transmitter. Inspired by the modernist architecture of the observation towers in Corona Plaza, the SpeechBooth is a clear, plexiglass enclosure with three thin concrete rings around its upper third. Each ring is embedded with a different color LED light. The bottom ring flashes a green light to indicate to SRCs that the booth is available for use. The middle ring flashes a yellow light when the radio booth is in use. The top ring flashes a red light to indicate that a suboptimal SRC is attempting to use the booth. To optimize accessibility (and potential profits), the SpeechBooth’s door will be unlocked at all times. The credit card reader is located next to the door outside the SpeechBooth. SpeechCorp offers an innovative security system that calls the police with a prerecorded message when a suboptimal SRC attempts to transmit.

[Cueing the ironic tone of this intervention, an entanglement of rods and wires lies on top of the SpeechBooth. The wires and rods evoke the informal processes and “hacks” that those excluded from substantive democracy, or from the fruits of “modernity,” must resort to. By presenting dystopian means to access “free” speech, we critique consumerism and market capitalism as vehicles to actualize civil liberties. We hope to give any revenues collected to the Queens Museum to sponsor a media-based civil liberties workshop with local residents.]

View the Design Proposal

Implementation

SpeechCorp radio booth is a sound- and bullet-proof plexiglass structure with concrete rings reminiscent of its modernist surroundings. The booth has a wireless microphone connected to a transmission system, run from a Raspberry Pi, that will broadcast to a low frequency community radio station via a 4G hotspot. The tangled cables on the top of the structure contain an antenna for transmission.

To operate in Corona Park, we will need permission from the NYC parks department. For broadcasting, we will identify and partner with a New York-based low frequency FM community radio station willing to donate airtime. One possible partner is queens.ourcityradio.com/. We would also like to partner with the Queens Museum education program, and pull power from the Queens Museum for the microphone and hot spot.

We estimate that materials and fabrication would cost approximately $6,000. Depending on whatever security steps the City would like to take, e.g., police presence, additional funding may be necessary. We would likely apply to private foundations and crowdsourcing platforms for funding.

Team

Maria, Rex and Katarzyna are part of the Department of Play, a Boston-based collaboration that establishes temporary urban play zones to collectively imagine alternative civic worlds.

Maria Vidart-Delgado
A postdoctoral fellow in Anthropology at MIT, Maria researches the commercialization of electoral politics and the emergence of an American-inspired political marketing industry in Colombia. Maria’s work explores the possibilities for political participation when democracy and business intersect. SpeechCorp formulates these questions through a tangible spatial intervention.

Rex G. Baker IV
A recovering corporate attorney, Rex works as a freelance lawyer and board game designer, focusing on contemporary issues such as resource management and the war on drugs. Rex crafted the market-centric voice used throughout the proposal, and will consult with licensing and other legal matters if the project is greenlit.

Katarzyna Balug
Katarzyna is an artist and time traveler whose work addresses systems so familiar that they are easy to forget, such as rituals of work, play, and urban experience. She helped conceptualize the site and design, and will elaborate on the design and fabrication of the installation.