Seoul's City Hall Offers Citizens A Big Ear To Complain To

Literally: An eight-foot sculpture outside the building records complaints, which are then played over speakers installed in the offices of the citizens' affairs bureau. Useful suggestions are stored, while the rest become mood music.

What's the Latest Development?

This past spring, Seoul mayor Park Won-soon had a sculpture installed outside of the city hall resembling a stylized ear trumpet that invites residents to walk up to the open end and air short grievances. However, the complaints don't just stay there: The sculpture records and then plays the messages over speakers installed in the citizens' affairs bureau, which is located in the city hall basement. If that's not enough, motion sensors track how long office workers stand and listen to the messages. Those messages that are useful and receive sustained attention get saved; the others are transformed into mood music.

What's the Big Idea?

The sculpture is the brainchild of a public art organization called Lifethings, which says it works as a "digital ecosystem in which these messages are passed on to future generations or compost." It also represents the fulfillment of Mayor Park's pledge to listen to Seoul's citizens. At least one other city is getting a similar interactive exhibit: The group is currently working on an "idea tree" that will record messages spoken by visitors to San Jose's new convention center.

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