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The VCFA MFA in Graphic Design Program Blog

Heather and Adam Hack High Capitalist Real Estate!

January 29, 2021

VCFA alumnx Heather Snyder Quinn and Adam DelMarcelle will present their talk “The Proletariat Hacking of High Capitalist Real Estate”
on the panel “Digital Resistance: Emerging Technologies as Tools for Design Activism” at the 109th College Art Association Conference (CAA) Feb 10-13, 2021

The panel will hold live QA on Friday Feb 12th from 3-3:30 EST

https://caa.confex.com/caa/2021/meetingapp.cgi/Session/7752

Panel description
Emerging technologies, including augmented reality, virtual reality, machine learning, and the internet of things, are quickly expanding as vehicles for design that bridge digital technology with physical experiences. Their value is regularly exploited for commercial purposes, in which digital processes are utilized to enhance the physical consumer experience and amplify brand loyalty. However, such powerful tools for design hold potential for social impact as well. Immersive digital experiences are utilized as tools for social innovation, community organizing, empathy, visualizing a more equitable world, or inserting marginalized people into spaces from which they have traditionally been excluded or erased.
This panel explores the possibilities of emerging technologies for resistance, activism, and social design. Today, designers, artists, and activists leverage the power of emerging technologies by bridging digital forms of resistance with lived experiences of oppression. What opportunities might digital experiences, embedded within social and physical spaces, provide for addressing lived experiences of injustice, inequity, and oppression? How are traditional methods for social design being applied and expanded in digital spaces? What are the ethical considerations and potential for harm that these new technologies present?

As designers and artists continue to explore new digital tools and processes, they are also increasingly expected to be held accountable for the social, political and environmental impact of their interventions. By capitalizing on the affordances of emerging technologies, they can design outcomes that address issues of systemic inequity and oppression to bridge gaps not only in our individual experiences but also in our shared humanity.

The Proletariat Hacking of High Capitalist Real Estate
Mariah is an augmented reality experience that narrates stories of historical injustice through the backdrop of significant cultural institutions and the funding that has allowed them to exist. Mariah reveals memorials to those that have perished so that “philanthropists” could have their names carved into marble walls. She is a witness to injustice and an actor of protest. The project’s first location is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. By utilizing a virtual landscape to augment a physical history, we rebuild an earnest foundation on top of the owner’s bedrock. Filling this great hall with the voices of those gone and those left to carry the burden of loss, we amend history through the virtual hacking of space with these memorials, exposing the power structure’s status quo and an understanding that our blood is in the artifact. While this project has a lens on the opioid epidemic, it brings to light much larger concerns— the future of activism and the charting of seemingly unstoppable censorship, the challenging of the capitalist system and its destruction of the working class, and the timely need for those with the ability to speak truth to power to step forward and act. This will allow for engagement with emerging technology via the democratization of the smartphone by bringing attention to the power associated with such technological tools. Through user engagement at this level, we can allow people to understand and speculate what the future could hold, and give them the means for a people’s takeover.