An Awesome Work of Art -- and Mayor -- Serve the Public Good in Seoul
Teodora Zareva is an entrepreneur, writer, board games geek and a curious person at large. Her professional path has taken her from filmmaking and photography to writing, TEDx organizing, teaching, and social entrepreneurship. She has lived and worked in the U.S. and Bulgaria and is currently doing her MBA at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. Her biggest passion lies at the intersection of media and youth development. She is the co-founder of WishBOX Foundation, a Bulgarian NGO that helps high school students with their professional orientation by organizing events, courses, summer camps and developing digital media resources.
The Seoul capital area in South Korea is the third largest metropolitan area in the world and the second most dense after Paris. With a population of nearly 26 million people (10 million in the city), the voice of the public is important, yet hard to hear. Fortunately, Seoul Metropolitan Government (that has a really cool website too), led by mayor Park Won-soon, truly cares about what its citizens have to say.
To celebrate the opening of the new City Hall in 2012, the government commissioned artist Soo-in Yang to create a public work that would send a clear message: We listen. Yang, who believes that, nowadays, "public art cannot afford to be just an aesthetic object to look at but must have a strong social message and direct participatory engagement with the public", delivered.
The work, called Yobosayo (which is a Korean word used to start a conversation, similar to “Hello” or “Hey”), looks like a cross between a giant ear and a horn. It invites passersby to lean in and share their ideas about the city, as well as criticism or praise of the government. The recorded messages are then played in the City Hall building to other passing residents and officials. There is also a mechanism for "voting" messages up and down – the more people listen to a certain message, the more important it is labeled. Conversely, if no one wants to listen to a message, it is sent into a virtual recycle bin (a computer algorithm) where, together with other such messages, it's turned into a unique musical piece played inside a Sound Gallery.
You’re probably thinking that this all sounds pretty well-intentioned, but are also wondering whether it's making any difference. In a recent talk, mayor Park, who has had a thirty-year history as a social justice and human rights activist, said that he wants “to be the first mayor to truly change the lives of citizens”:
Hearing [out the people] is my everyday business. My ear is becoming bigger and bigger. I'm communicating with the citizens, [and] there are so many demands. On the spot, I'm asking my staff to resolve the complaint. Within one week their complaint has been resolved. Now, the people can easily communicate with me.
Public suggestions collected by Yobosayo and other government initiatives have resulted in several projects, including late-night buses that serve 2,000 passengers per day, safe zones for children, and parking spaces near small eateries to increase their sales. Park also noted that in the first six months since the project launched, the city was able to resolve 98 percent of the complaints reported to them.
As Dr. Eddie Dorotan, executive director of Galing Pook Foundation, said, the hope is that other cities and the national government will also take notice: "Our only hope is the national government would listen because there are a lot of small initiatives in the local level that we can replicate."
New research links urban planning and political polarization.
- Canadian researchers find that excessive reliance on cars changes political views.
- Decades of car-centric urban planning normalized unsustainable lifestyles.
- People who prefer personal comfort elect politicians who represent such views.
Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.
- America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
- Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
- Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.
- Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
- What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
- Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.