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Urban protest 2.0

2/14/2009

Today at Medialab-Prado Madrid, on the occasion of seminar, I want to talk about a period of time in South Korea between two great fires within roughly in a year. In January 2008, Namdaemun, the southern gate to the old city and the landmark of Seoul for more than 600 years, was destroyed by a malicious fire by an unhappy man. In January 2009, five protesters and one riot policeman died in a fire caused from a violent evacuation at a squatted commercial building in Yongsan. Between two tragic events, the ‘Candlelight protest (also known as the candlelight rally)’ continued for more than 100 days, and brought more than 20 million citizens to the public spaces in Seoul at the peak moment, while the police estimates about 5 million. My interest in the protest began from personal anger about state terror and police brutality. I began to research on the topic, and found a broader interest on the cultural phenomenon of the protest, and creative use of technology, eventually examining the potential of new public spaces.

The core of my argument, reflecting the theme of ‘Garage Science’ symposium, is the potential of grassroots activism using D.I.Y new media technologies and open source art-culture practice, to create alternative space between existing public spaces. In Urban Protest 2.0, the boundary between physical and cyberspace is blurred, by citizens creatively appropriating mobile technologies. Low cost new media, specifically WIFI network and mobile device, can be used to protect citizen’s rights, against the violence and fear imposed upon them from the state. The first part of the talk is background information on the political situation and culture of protest in South Korea. This chapter illustrates new kind of activism happening in the Internet and the physical space at the same time with comparable cultural phenomenon. The second chapter is documentations from a workshop on Urban Protest 2.0, which I conducted December of 2008 in Seoul.

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