For my senior thesis I collaborated with Karl Sluis to create a project centered around the American Dream and the way it influences and penetrates our culture. The project took the form of a gallery exhibit and was shown in summer 2011. Blending data visualizations with sculpture, we created 13 pieces that examine the nature of equality, politics, history and culture in our society. It was of chief concern to remain non-objective and present information that was otherwise politicized or mundane in an engaging, creative manner. In tackling this project we learned an incredible amount, I can only hope that the exhibit facilitates some excitement and discourse around the subject.
Common Sense Poject Reel:
styrofoam cups, champagne glasses
The ratio between the average salary and the average CEO salary in America has changed dramatically in the past 50 years, from 1:25 to 1:275. Is this a sign of the strength of American companies, or is it a sign of megalomaniacal greed?
american tv timeline
Our tastes have changed over the past few decades. As television has grown and matured, so to have the quality and content of the series it delivers. When juxtaposed against a timeline of American Presidents, shifts in American culture reveal themselves.
Our budget for the project was almost non-existent. Much of the exhibit was composed of OSB and Craigslist-sourced objects, which actually turned out to be a lot of fun. Box of somebody's old dance trophies? Check.
this or that
In the face of limited resources, society needs to take a hard, honest look at what we work together to create now, and what we might create in the future. What should Americans value – a strong military? Education? Relief for Third World countries? What decisions make the most sense in the short term, and which make more sense in the long run?
investing in the children
Public education falls under the control of state governments. Unsurprisingly, each state decides to fund its public schools differently. Rather than look at absolute levels of average funding, we think it’s more revealing to examine the relative sacrifice taxpayers in each state are willing to make for the future. What percent of each state’s median income goes toward funding public education? Which states pay it forward?
the founding fathers
It’s tempting to imagine the Founding Fathers as a group of like-minded individuals who, in a moment of opportunity and clarity, easily built a unified nation from common ideals. Reality, of course, did not follow such a direct narrative. The men – and women – that came together to craft a new nation argued and compromised just as much as we do today. America’s nature and values are not written in stone, nor have they ever been.
Rather than a monolithic entity, we re-imagine the Founding Fathers as different critters, each with their own special traits and abilities.
dow jones industrial infantry
The Dow Jones Industrial Infantry visualizes the size of the thirty companies on the DJI through little green army men. It then compares the human scale of these companies to the market capitalization, or total value, of their stock. Wal-Mart emerges as the biggest player – in fact, larger in sheer numbers than even the entire U.S. Military. ExxonMobil, meanwhile, makes the most of its control of the energy market. What other insights can you see?
champions of ingenuity
Good old-fashioned American ingenuity is a key component of the American Dream – the promise of the freedom to experiment, innovate, and make something better, unfettered by tradition or convention. This shared ideal has served our country well – from Benjamin Franklin’s lightning rod to the internet, America has often been at the forefront of innovation. Let’s take a moment to celebrate some of our achievements.