In the wake of the National Security Administration leaks, Americans have become a bit more wary about the issue of privacy. Which makes what New Orleans is doing with recording devices even more interesting.
The Big Easy is using them to spark conversation about local news. How so, you may be asking?
Local NPR affiliate WWNO teamed up with nonprofit Internews to create a few digital recording sculptures scattered throughout the city. These “Listening Posts” are a community media project that encourages residents to share thoughts, commentary, and ideas on anything from health care and coastal erosion to football and city tourism.
Each week, the radio station asks a group of questions on a topic and invites locals to speak up, using the microphones or a text messaging response system that sends out a survey. WWNO then selects the best responses to share on the air, online, and with community groups and city departments, according to Ozy.
Local artist Jacques Duffourc was tapped to design the four sculptures, which are made from earth-friendly recycled cardboard. The sculptures shaped like a lamppost, a tree, a fish and a totem pole with a bird sitting atop it, and the microphones are hidden within each structure.
“We wanted to take the scariness away from the microphone,” says Duffourc.
Internews journalist Jesse Hardman came up with the idea with WWNO news director Eve Troeh in an effort to include more positive coverage aside from shootings and crime that typically dominate news coverage. Hardman said he wanted to create a “citywide conversation” while Troeh posed the idea of dropping a mic into a neighborhood. From there, the “Listening Post” was born.
The result has led to a more engaged community on important issues, with some using the media project to voice what they would like to see covered in the news. Residents are asked to spend time with the public art devices, which are located at two libraries, a barbershop, and a mobile unit that appears at various events citywide. The radio station also enlists interns to help people with the devices.
While online comments sections and social media enable news organizations to gain more local insight, the “Listening Post” aims to more directly strike up a conversation with its listeners. If residents know that someone is listening, that just might be the solution in developing a more active and engaged audience.