Tutorial // FMP

Tutorial with Matt this morning.  I’ve reached and gone through my (possibly) final impasse and perhaps most important point.  I finally know what I’m doing/saying.

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So rather than have this great nebulous subject that people are forced to make a decision on, the whole premise would be awareness.  That is awareness of yourself, and of others, within the context of a wider subject.  The crux is about personal positioning, and how we find ourselves drawn to things or forced away from them, and what things we listen to or don’t listen to.  Why do we listen to some news and not others?  Why do we believe in certain politicians but believe the other ones to be liars?  Most importantly, this experience is different for different people and it all depends on so many different factors.  That’s why I’ve reached this point – I was trying to give people a topic or a subject and get them to choose.  Some graphic designed version of Sophie’s Choice.  But I’ve come to realise now that it’s not some binary choice made between black and white, yes or no.  There is a vast middle ground that’s not explored or questioned, which is where my project lies.

What if the goal was to create awareness?  Not of a given thing, but of themselves, and of others.  The whole idea at this point is to demonstrate our differences, how we are the same, and importantly demonstrate what things are important to different people.  This awareness of others comes back to how we position ourselves in a wider whole.  The ‘whole’ in this case is society, not a particular topic.

I can’t give people one thing to pick from, because it needs to come from themselves.  By making a choice, or way finding, they become aware of their needs/wants/desires/dislikes, in relation to different people.

I discussed with Matt the Degree Show itself.  People will be forced to make decisions on unfamiliar topics and unfamiliar things, and be encouraged to think laterally, liberally, and a bit left of centre than perhaps they would have previously.  Matt said “They should leave feeling as though their brains are a little bigger.”

So I saw this the other week which has spurred a lot of my decision.

Getting the attendee to make the graphics in your booth. "Great way to add some interactivity" -triadcreativegroup.com::

I’m not going to recreate this, of course, but something similar that explains the journeys of other people along with some visual aid, that also makes you aware of your position in relation to others.  It becomes this map of “What Made You” – but of course the finished product is the sum of what made a number of different individuals, and not just one person’s choices and feelings.

For my subject and topic area, this would be a little more divisive.  I think the ‘pins’ in my case would be a topic, and the string would be an emotion.  Perhaps if you followed someone’s journey through anger or fear, and what caused those feelings and what encouraged them to feel that way?

Basically, what would be the pins and what would be the string?

Of course by the time I come around to designing this myself I won’t be using this method, but I think the mechanism is there.  I want it to be some visual story of peoples’ journey, their way finding through the topics, and your position in relation to them.  Together, this provides a visual ‘map’ if you will of the way that people think, and the way that people found themselves thinking that way in particular.

I think one of the most important things I’ve always looked for in my practice is to encourage people to think about themselves.  Be excellent to each other is a perfect way of describing what I always want to achieve.  With the Pearson D&AD brief, or the Big Idea, or Real World back at the start of the year, I want people to think differently and for the betterment of themselves, and as a whole.  By creating an awareness of other peoples’ journeys and feelings gives the viewer the perfect opportunity to think of themselves as one of many, and to realise the importance of the journeys of others.  We are always told that we don’t exist in a bubble – nobody does.

If people leave my exhibition with perhaps a little bit more awareness of themselves, and that they are not the only person with a journey and a story, then I’ll have done what I set out to achieve.

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Something to Think About // FMP

Societal norms and how this impacts our decision making process in relation to how we project ourselves and assess our self-worth.

“Social norms or mores are the rules of behaviour that are considered acceptable in a group or society. People who do not follow these norms may be shunned or suffer some kind of consequence. Norms change according to the environment or situation and may change or be modified over time.”

Mass media and its impact on our understanding and collective consciousness – how are we impacted by what we see around us?  Do we make conscious decisions based on this or are we ‘groomed’ into thinking a certain way?

How does a Culture of Fear in modern media impact our general well-being and how we perceive the world around us.  Is it positive or negative?  What is the impact?

In what ways do we ‘choose’ a path.  Are we simply pin-balled between ideas and information at random, eventually finding a path that is linear in line with social norms and what is ‘expected’.  How much of our actions are choice?  How much is inaction?

How does the media influence our perception of what is normal?  What would happen if we were left to our own devices and encouraged to make decisions for ourselves, free from the influence of what is being told to us?

Media provides new information that persuades individuals to accept it (individual channel), but also, media informs listeners about what others learn, thus facilitating coordination (social channel).

https://wp.nyu.edu/ericarias/wp-content/uploads/sites/641/2016/04/AriasCommonKnowledge.pdf

Pessimism, Optimism, empathy and sympathy.

Is the media responsible for the dissemination of facts, or as an influential tool of governments and organisations to impact what is considered normal?

“Social norms marketing includes marketing techniques, such as mass media and face-to-face campaigns, that are designed to alter individuals’ perceptions of social norms, specifically perceptions of attitudes and behaviours that are typical or desirable in their community.”

“Public information not only causes individuals to update their personal beliefs, but
also allows them to update their beliefs about how widely these beliefs are shared (Morris
and Shin, 2002). That is, public information is used to know that others received the information, and that everyone who received the information knows that everybody else that received the information knows this, and so on, creating common knowledge. In this vein, some authors argue that “attempts to change public behaviours by changing private attitudes will not be effective unless some effort is also made to bridge the boundary between the public and the private.”

http://www.personal.psu.edu/bfr3/blogs/applied_social_psychology/2011/11/medias-influence-on-social-norms-and-identity-development-of-youth.html

“So what is identity? For starters, we technically are not born with identity; it is a socially constructed attribute.  The self-concept, which is the knowledge of who we are, combines with self awareness to develop a cognitive representation of the self, called identity (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2010, p.118).  In other words, who we are is controlled by internal and external factors that combine to make us who we become. Add in new media outlets, such as the internet, and media is now considered an “extension of everyday life and a tool of cultural change” (Singh, 2010).  Thus, identity formation, as a social concept, is being transformed in new and even more global ways.”

Cause and effect between Social Norms and Mass Media.
Does Mass Media simply act as a mirror to our social norms, or are our social norms dictated to us by the media?

https://www.google.co.uk/search?client=firefox-b-ab&biw=1280&bih=721&q=impact+of+social+media+on+identity&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjri5fIiLTSAhViIMAKHU35ASoQ1QIIVCgA

https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2013/01/is-social-networking-redefining-identity

https://www.google.co.uk/search?client=firefox-b-ab&biw=1280&bih=721&q=media+influence+on+identity+formation&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjri5fIiLTSAhViIMAKHU35ASoQ1QIIWSgF

Pentyrch? How did I not think of this before!

At the ripe old age of 85, some may confuse my Grampy for someone who doesn’t remember an awful lot.  How wrong you would be!  I’ve always been curious about the place that I grew up: the place my family have lived since the 1700s.  Coming back from Berlin I found myself in a sea of information about anything and everything from Nazi Germany onwards.  Focussing on Power and Technology within a city helped me to narrow it down, but the thing that stood out was definitely street art and the more ‘primitive’ methods of communication.

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Grampy

My family have lived in Pentyrch for hundreds of years, and the stories handed down through the generations are still told with surprising accuracy, considering that these stories are almost as old as Pentyrch itself.  I’m fascinated by the idea that even without technological advances and the bettering of worldwide communication, people communicated with each other just as well without the internet, if not better.  Granted, there are numerous upsides to 21st Century ways of communicating, but there is of course the argument that we do in fact really communicate less than ever.  We sit around the dinner table, phones in hands, simultaneously connecting to everyone on the globe.  But are we connecting with each other?  Do we tell stories?   Exchange information face to face?  Communicating with one another has become a bur of tweets, texts, status updates, likes and hashtags.

I keep returning to the brief, and the key sentence “Make the ordinary into something extraordinary.”  Berlin is extraordinary as it is, with an extraordinary amount of history.  I don’t see a way of communicating the events of Berlin’s past in a way that would be good enough, effective enough.  Coming back to Pentyrch triggered a lot, and has pushed me into exploring it in much greater detail.  I want to make ‘ordinary’ Pentyrch into a very extraordinary place indeed.

The Power of Technology Within the City

With the advent of modern technologies such as cameras, mobile phones and the internet, the platform for public speaking and freedom of expression is huge.  In the 20th and 21st Centuries we have seen the impact of technology on political process.  The power of mass images is not a new thing.  In the 1960s and onwards, images of wealth in the West eventually exposed the weaknesses of the Communist regime running the old Soviet Bloc.  Nikita Khrushchev narrated a film of Harlem in the 1960s to demonstrate poverty in America.  Instead, his poor beleaguered constituents focussed on the nylons hanging on clothes lines and the number of fine cars lining the streets – they saw wealth, not poverty.

“The transformative power of the mass media has changed governance and made it more difficult for the state to wall off the outside world.” The Impact of Technology on Political Communication

There are now 4 billion mobile phones in use throughout the world, many of which can capture and transmit images.  When coupled with social networking sites, they make millions of people both producers and consumers of information.  The internet allows people to quickly spread ideas, information, and to organise political protest.

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EXAMPLES

  • The video of Tank Man in Tiananmen Square, placing his body in front of a tank in an act of defiance.  Instead of a handful of news photographers hiding to capture images at Tiananmen Square we now see millions of people in the street, mobile phones in hand, taking increasingly better quality photographs of state oppression.
  • Every day pictures surface from Iraq and Afghanistan, appearing in graphic detail on our screens.  Technology was the downfall of several American soldiers following their treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.  They took pictures of the humiliation that they inflicted, beaming with pride at their achievements.
  • During the impeachment trial of Philippine President Joseph Estrada, thousands of Filipinos, angry that their corrupt leader might be let off the hook, organised themselves via text to converge at a major crossing in Manilla.

twitter infographic sketchbook

 

From Berlin, to the Ukraine, to Pentyrch.

After my course tutor Olwen’s further feedback, I have chosen to narrow my field of research to a much smaller area.  My chosen theme of Power and Technology within the city initially led me to research the history of Berlin in great detail, and the effect that political power can have on a place and the people within it.  As a self-confessed history nerd, the prospect of studying Berlin in great detail was very exciting, but admittedly the further I delved the more doors it opened, and I was struggling to reign it in.  I ended up with so much knowledge that I was struggling to pick an avenue to go down.

Ironically enough, one of the first things I had written in my sketchbook was how I would be choosing to focus my research solely on Berlin, because it was “vastly more interesting and appealing to me as a city than Cardiff is.”  How wrong I was.  After my tutorial which involved myself and several students from my course where we discussed each other’s ideas and various methods of taking our ideas forward, after much discussion with Olwen I decided to bring my area of research back to Cardiff.  I was pursuing the idea of how political power can change the entire dynamic of a city very quickly, as demonstrated by the recent turmoils in the Ukraine, particularly in Kiev.  Massive public demonstrations happening daily, with thousands of people voicing their opinions and messages.  During the unrest, for a brief time there was a ban on the use of various social media sites in the Ukraine which limited the people of Ukraine as far as communicating with the outside world was concerned.  In this modern age where almost everybody has a mobile phone and a large number of those have photo capturing capabilities, it’s hard for anything to go unnoticed.

independence square Kiev

Independence Square, Kiev.

During this brief time where more technologically advanced methods of communication were made difficult, the people of Ukraine still had ways of spreading messages of tolerance, peace, or conversely, hatred.  People were and still are scrawling messages on walls, drawing graffiti, and writing messages of hope for all to see.

Seeing the effect that modern methods of communication can have on the dynamic of a situation got me thinking about the past, when the methods of getting messages to one another could now be described as almost primitive.  Hundreds of years ago without mobile phones, cameras, the internet – how did this information get out?  Without modern technologies it would take weeks for news of a crisis in the Middle East for example to reach BBC headquarters in London.

“Breaking news from the Ukraine… from several weeks ago, it’s just that we’ve only just heard about it.”

Trying to bring my focus a little closer to home, I thought about where I had grown up.  Pentyrch.  My family have lived in Pentyrch since the 1700s, and stories of people from hundreds of years ago are still mentioned around the dinner table.  Tales from the 1800s and 1900s which you could assume would be lost to the ages are told in remarkable detail, again and again, as if my current family members and fellow Pentyrchians were there to witness them.  Yes, they’re largely conjecture and hyperbolic, but the fact that I even know about them is fascinating to me.  In an age where it’s commonplace to Instagram one’s lunch, or check-in your every location on Facebook, you may start to think that modern technology is 100% necessary in remembering an event, person or occasion.  Perhaps if we weren’t so dependent on social media to store our personal histories for us, we’d take greater care in remembering them in the first place.  With such a reliance on social media documenting our every move, it’s easy enough to mindlessly take pictures and update statuses, but will these be remembered in years to come?  Doubtful.

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If I didn’t know so much about Pentyrch I wouldn’t have narrowed my site research to such a small place, but fortunately for me I have hundreds of years worth of family history to draw from, and also a wealth of Garth Domain publications.  These publications are centred around Pentyrch and the surrounding Parish areas of Creigiau, Gwaelod-y-Garth and Taffs Well.  They’re published by a family friend, who I hope to talk to and glean further information from.

(If you’d like to read them or are interested in Pentyrch/Cardiff history, you can find them here)

There are reams and reams of articles to sift through, so I’d better get started…

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Berlin Reflections, Research, Development

Willkommen in Berlin!

Well.  I’ve never had such an incredible week in my life.  Berlin is an incredible place, full of history, memories, art, but a lot of pain.  Firstly, the nature of the place I was in felt very heavy on my shoulders.  The sheer amount of history that Berlin has seen was something that I, a self-confessed history nerd, was keen to explore.

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Berlin – own image

I’ve always wanted to travel to Berlin, and I’m glad that I’ve finally had the opportunity to visit such an incredible place.  There was a bit of malarkey to start with upon arrival, as we were taken to the wrong Generator Hostel.  We found out later that there was more than one – we had landed at the wrong one.  Shortly, some taxis arrived which all bore an interesting slogan – ‘Plan B Taxis’.  Sweet, sweet irony.  The hostel was clean and modern inside, and had only been open in the last year.  There was a bar, a small cafe which sold paninis, sandwiches, bagels, pizzas, burgers, and of course, currywurst!

It. Was. Freezing.

I don’t think I’ve ever been somewhere so cold in all my life.  It was between -7 and -10 all week, with an awful wind that made it feel ten more below.  I was not prepared in the slightest.  I knew it would be cold, but not that cold.  The kind of wind that cuts through whatever you’re wearing.  The kind of cold that freezes you as soon as you go outside, and you won’t be warm again for the rest of the day.  As unprepared as I was for the cold, I couldn’t help but think about the history of where I was, which kept my attention for seven days straight.  The camps, the marches, the treatment of those Jewish citizens who were forced to leave their homes and families behind.  There is something I think about seeing a place in Winter that gives it an eerie, haunting feeling, particularly in Berlin with Germany’s chequered past.  Seeing Auschwitz-Birkenau in the Summer would no doubt be a totally different experience to seeing it in the Winter, covered with snow.

I had a long to-do list, and by my own admission didn’t visit a single indoor art gallery or art museum.  To be frank, there are better things to be seeing and doing.  I can see art in Cardiff and London – I did not want to miss out on seeing the iconic city of Berlin for what it was: a city with a terrible past, with some awful history, but a city that is trying its best to move forwards.

TO DO LIST

  • DDR Museum
  • Reichstag Building
  • The Berlin Wall and East Side Gallery
  • Topography of Terror
  • Checkpoint Charlie
  • Jewish Museum
  • Brandenburg Gate
  • Holocaust Memorial
  • Berlin Wall Memorial
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Natural History Museum, Berlin – own image

The Natural History Museum of Berlin – It houses the world’s largest dinosaur skeleton and one of the most impressive taxidermy collections in the world.

OranienburgerStraBe, the street that our hostel was on, was formerly a centre of Jewish life in Berlin.  In the 19th and early 20th Centuries this was the main Jewish area of Berlin.  I’m not sure why but being in Berlin in Winter, particularly as it was snowing, made it feel extremely eerie and sad.  There were a number of memorials to the former residents of the area, including the sites of former Jewish schools, orphanages, old people’s homes and cemeteries – all of which were closed or destroyed during the Nazi regime.  The great majority of the area’s Jewish residents were deported to their deaths in extermination camps in Poland.  Also, there was a half-derelict graffiti covered building next to our hostel.  It had been covers in layers upon layers of paint and posters, and one would presume that it had some history behind it.  Turns out it was a base for the NSDAP in the 1930s and later became the central offices for the SS.

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Kunsthaus Tacheles – own image

The German Workers’ Front established offices here, and at the same time it beame the central office for the SS.  In 1943 the skylights were removed (and the corresponding turrets) so that French prisoners of war could be held in the attic.  During the Battle of Berlin, the second cellar was flooded by the Nazis and remains under water to this day.  The building was heavily damaged during World War II, though a large portion of the building survived intact.  After The Wall came down it was taken over by artists who called it Tacheles – Yiddish for ‘Straight Talking’.  The building contained studios and workshops, a nightclub and a cinema.  Outside the garden featured an open-air exhibition area of metal sculptures as well as galleries and studios for sculptors and painters.

Themes to Address:

  • Migration – Jewish, Homosexual, Roma, disabled people and other minority groups fleeing Nazi Germany and almost certain imprisonment or death.  The impact on other cities due to their emigration?  Obviously ‘migration’ could include an absolute ban on migration.  Those wishing to leave the GDR for the FDR were faced with death for attempting to cross the Death Strip between the Berlin Wall and the containment wall.
  • Power and Technology – Political power is the catalyst to most, if not all of Berlin’s major events certainly from the 20th Century onwards.  From Nazi rule from 1933-1945, to a country divided by Soviet ideals for a model Socialist state.  The impact of ‘The Wall’ on Berliners was huge, and still felt to this day.  One side battled poverty, the other basked in prosperity.  Nazi rule obviously upended an entire area of Europe, with Berlin at the centre.
  • Hidden City – I feel like the ‘hidden city’ element is the one that I connect with the least.  I do feel that the hidden city element could be addressed by highlighting a sense of Berlin’s ‘hidden’ past, in a sense that most native Berliners would have an interesting story to tell, either about their family’s position in Nazi Germany, or the effect that the Berlin Wall had on the dynamic of their lives and their relationships.

I feel that through Berlin’s traumatic history, it could easily fit into any of the themes.

Something that struck me whilst being in Berlin was the prevalence of street art and graffiti.  Not only that which lives on the Berlin Wall, which is of course a dedicated open-air gallery, but just generally in all of Berlin.  Every street corner has a new story to tell, with someone new sharing something interesting.  Post-Communism, cheap rents and ramshackle buildings gave rise to street at in ares such as Mitte, PrenzlauerBerg, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain.

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Berlin Wall – own image

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‘My God, help me to survive this deadly love.” – own image

 The East Side Gallery, the name given to the remaining stretch of still-standing wall, is a fascinating and haunting place.  With an average grasp of the German language I could figure out many of the messages, but many were written in Hebrew, Spanish, Russian, and several other languages.  It serves as an international memorial for freedom.  It documents a time of change and expresses the euphoria and great hopes for a better, more unified future for all people of the world.

There are huge contrasts between old and new, modern and classic, all over the city.  There are old ornate street lamps outside derelict buildings and amazingly decorative street signs next to crisp, clean, modern architecture.  In what would have been East Berlin I noticed that large areas containing derelict buildings were largely being ignored save for the graffiti.  Buildings which no doubt have served some sinister purpose are now providing artists from all over the world with the canvasses they crave.

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Holocaust Memorial – own image

Coming back from Berlin there were several ideas I wanted to pursue, particularly after doing some very in-depth research.  Something I was keen to look at was street art and graffiti artists and the statements they make.  Not the SHAUN WOZ ERE 2k4 emblazoned on a bus stop, but the stuff with more meaning, something with a sentiment, a statement.  I found several artists to research: Shepard Fairey, Banksy, JR, De Le Vega, Richard Hambleton, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Thierry Noir, Above, Knitta, Please, Seen, Inkie.

Something else I might look at is the power of symbols?  It’s hard to be in Berlin and not think about symbols – the swastika being the obvious one.  Something else to look at would be the power of the people themselves.  The people of any city are its strongest and most powerful resource – they eventually tore down the wall that had governed them for so long.  During the 1960s in the United States, young people began speaking out and writing “POWER TO THE PEOPLE” as a form of rebellion against what they perceived as the oppression by the older generation.  The Black Panthers used the slogan “All Power to the People” to protest the rich/ruling class’ domination of society.

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Section of dismantled Berlin Wall – own image

Power within a city?  With the people?  Those who speak out using art, graffiti and murals as a way of communicating a powerful and poignant message.  If the current upheavals in the world tell us anything, it is that the individual, whether acting alone or as a collective, can be a force for change.  In fact nearly all change that has benefitted ordinary people has resulted from the actions of ordinary people themselves.  Possibly look at the power of images, specifically those in public places in any given city, particularly those linked to social change/political change, or the power of images to represent a social/political agenda.  I’d like to explore further the influence that political power has on changing a society, the people within it, and changing the ideas that circulate.  Context/Effect/Affect.

Political Power → Changing Ideas → Social Change → Real Change

POLITICAL POWER

  • Nazi regime – Anti-Semitic propaganda, Anti-Jewish laws, pogroms (Kristallnacht etc.)
  • Political influence on society of Nazi regime and your position within that society
  • ‘Superiority’ of German/Aryan race, intensifying hatred for Jewish persons
  • Influence on society at large
  • Changes in social/political structure
  • Cultural change
  • Mass killings, indiscriminate
  • Boycotts, abandonment of Jewish areas
  • Political messages/agendas
  • The power of politicised street art and its influences
  • The most powerful thing in any city is its people and their ability to effect change – look at Kiev, Venezuela, ‘Occupy’ protests, Pussy Riot.  Use of protest?
  • The power in any city lies with the people of that city
  • Power of ordinary citizens in a city on affecting/effecting social/political change, and their power to protest, to question, to challenge authority
  • Power of politically motivated street art?  Far reaching?
  • Power of propaganda – particularly pre-War Nazi Germany
  • Individuals acting alone or as one of many
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The Topography of Terror Museum – own image

There is a strong current of activism and subversion in urban art.  Street art can be a powerful platform for reaching the public and a potent form of political expression for the oppressed, or people with little resources to create change.  Some street artists use “Smart Vandalism” as a way to raise awareness of a social or political issue.  It allows artists who may feel otherwise disenfranchised to reach a much broader audience than traditional art galleries may allow.

I am particularly interested in street art that expresses political/anti-political agendas, or art which seeks to raise awareness.  I’d also like to look at how technology has helped to promote awareness – as a new platform for people to be expressive.  Something to do with the power of people in a city?  How social media can help a cause?

One person now has the power to reach millions, instantly – What would YOU say?

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Checkpoint Charlie – own image

During protest, street art becomes a barometer of social consciousness.  Scrawled words and images on city walls reflect changing attitudes and a sidain for the ruling authority.  In Kiev, the stencils of president Yanokovych’s body punctured with bullet holes are a more extreme example.  What impact is technology having on politics and regime change?  The likes of Twitter, Facebook and Reddit are offering a more collective view of World news, with artists’ efforts escaping the borders of the walls upon which they live, communicating their messages to a global community.  They are achieving impact through imagery and reaching a far more diverse audience than more traditional news outlets.  On Reddit there has been a photo doing the rounds of a police barricade in Kiev.  It was painted with a cartoon depicting a Ukrainian flag holding hands with an EU flag as Russia looks on scowling.  The message is simple but memorable.

Impact of social networking alongside street art, working together to effect political change?

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East Side Gallery – own image

We are programmed to link iconic moments with art.  As creativity litters any given area, demonstrators are spurred on.  Artists use symbolism to monumentalise protesters’ efforts.  Protest posters also play an important role in boosting morale.  Pairing graphic design with emotionally engaging statements.  In Ukraine recently, the art has highlighted the government’s inconsistencies and the power of the Ukrainian people.  The country’s flag of blue and yellow is the overriding colour theme.  Although they have since been annulled, anti-protest laws and restrictions on social media revealed the extent of how close they came to losing the right to express themselves.  On the streets however, ideas would have continued to appear on walls and barricades.  Street artists cannot be stopped by algorithms.  During times of crisis, they will always be on hand to support the people and spread their message.

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Obligatory tourist snapshot with Berlin Wall – own image