The days of the “informed citizen,” says Michael Schudson, are over. The world is so complex and changing so fast, no single one of us can ever hope to be "fully informed." We can no longer justify our political choices by claiming that we "fully understand" a situation or proposed solution. How, then, can we act, if we can’t base our actions on informed choice or decision?
We can become “monitorial citizens.”
According to Schudson, each of us can hope to 'monitor' our own neighborhoods and areas of deep interest. We can then use media to network our own highly particular experiences of wide-reaching events. Together, we can "know" more and we can know "more differently" than we ever can separately.
This of course raises all sorts of new issues and challenges for democracy's future: Whose accounts "count" as trustworthy or valuable? What about those who have no access to media production? But the hope is that these new challenges will give us powerful new things to do as citizens and will bring renewed life to democratic processes.
For founder/director Matt Coolidge, CLUI's land use databases are media we can use to change how we see and relate to the land, and therefore to each other as a "nation."
CLUI contributes to democratic, monitorial citizenship by inviting citizens to sense the forces that directly shape their lives, and then to network their responses in ways that do not channel them into narrow partisan habits or "superhighways of convention."
Coolidge puts it this way: CLUI's Database is a
"tool that enables its users to explore remotely, to search obliquely, and to make creative collisions and juxtapositions that render new meanings and explanations of America—and of the many ways of looking at it.
Repeated travel over the same road increases our familiarity with it, and we think we come to know it better and better. But . . . experiential habits become common corridors of perception that merge into the superhighways of convention. To avert whatever crisis might be forming in the present and awaiting us in the future, the world needs to maintain its interpretive diversity, along with its biological and cultural diversity. The tool kit needs to be fully stocked.
To a certain extent, I think of the Center as a type of informational test site or lab where different models of presenting data are tried out and developed. . . once exposed to this information, our everyday picture of the world around us—and our sense of our role in it—can never be the same again. Yet the specifics of how our perspective may change is something that each visitor works out on his or her own."
Matthew Coolidge, “Introduction,” from Overlook: Exploring the internal fringes of America with The Center for Land Use Interpretation, Metropolis Books: New York, 2006.
CLUI offers citizens tools to monitor and network information about how issues of land use are intertwined with issues of citizenship.
Experience how media create opportunities for monitorial citizens to act as voters, consumers, artists, activists, and media designers.
The Canary Project takes emerging media practices and technologies to the shifting, maybe even shrinking, limits of life on planet Earth. It uses media as feelers with a global reach. Here, media become early warning devices—signals of urgent and pressing change that requires individual and collective response.
In Spring, 2007, smudge (a media-based art collaboration between Liz Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse) experienced first-hand CLUI's experiment in monitorial citizenship. We took up residency, as media artists, in a transformed quonset hut at an abandoned airforce base whose history includes preparation for dropping the atomic bombs in WWII. The hut, now known as "Clean Livin'” is part of what Coolidge calls CLUI's "a big social experiment."
We see it as an experiment of media artists becoming monitorial citizens. Link To Capsule >>
Project Peace Video Workshop at the critical edge of monitorial citizenship:
"Each one teach one devotes time and effort to teach youth important things that they won't be taught in school." --Keon
Students of the Brooklyn Community College Partnership Project Peace Video Club met the future youth organizers of the Juvenile Justice project to film a PSA about the Each One Teach One curriculum which trains youth to advocate for other young people in the juvenile detention system.
DIRECTOR/FOUNDER, CENTER FOR LAND USE INTERPRETATION (CLUI)