Fewer pixels, more cardboard

“These boxes are important. They slice neatly through the myth that data telling must be bound to programming. Do you have some boxes? Some paint? You can visualize data.”

While my Twitter feed has spent the last week arguing about whether “defund the police” is a good slogan, I’ve been thinking about these boxes:

They were set up and stacked in Chicago up by a group of young Black activists including asha rosa, a founding member of BYP100. The tallest stack of boxes represents the $1.8 billion the city spends each year on police; the others represent other chunks of the city’s budget. At the right edge are housing and public health, one single box each. It’s a clear and persuasive message, told in cardboard.

These boxes are important. They slice neatly through the myth that data telling must be bound to programming. Do you have some boxes? Some paint? You can visualize data. These boxes also bring data into the real sun-through-the fence-acacia-tree public, a place that isn’t siloed into news networks or blocked by a paywall. Finally and crucially, these boxes bind data to a history of Black activism and activists, a reminder (for those of us who still need it) that we have a lot to learn.

In The Next American Revolution, her last book, Detroit activist and labor organizer Grace Lee Boggs spoke of her hope for “more socially-minded human beings and new, more participatory and place-based concepts of citizenship and democracy.” Some of that hope, I think, is stacked up with these boxes.

While my Twitter feed has spent the last week arguing about whether “defund the police” is a good slogan, I’ve been thinking about these boxes:

They were set up and stacked in Chicago up by a group of young Black activists including asha rosa, a founding member of BYP100. The tallest stack of boxes represents the $1.8 billion the city spends each year on police; the others represent other chunks of the city’s budget. At the right edge are housing and public health, one single box each. It’s a clear and persuasive message, told in cardboard.

These boxes are important. They slice neatly through the myth that data telling must be bound to programming. Do you have some boxes? Some paint? You can visualize data. These boxes also bring data into the real sun-through-the fence-acacia-tree public, a place that isn’t siloed into news networks or blocked by a paywall. Finally and crucially, these boxes bind data to a history of Black activism and activists, a reminder (for those of us who still need it) that we have a lot to learn.

In The Next American Revolution, her last book, Detroit activist and labor organizer Grace Lee Boggs spoke of her hope for “more socially-minded human beings and new, more participatory and place-based concepts of citizenship and democracy.” Some of that hope, I think, is stacked up with these boxes.

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