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Transform the Conversation About Identity on This Interactive Online Platform Transform the Conversation About Identity on This Interactive Online Platform

Transform the Conversation About Identity on This Interactive Online Platform

by Hank Thomas
June 17, 2013

“Many of the transformative moments in history have been generated by things that could formally be described as art,” Chris Johnson, Question Bridge founder.

As an artist, my work seen in the commercial fine art market frequently deals with issues of popular culture and race, topics I've explored through photography, mixed media, video, and painting. I'm committed to balancing my practice with collaborative social and often public art projects. For several years, I've collaborated with a talented team, including actor/producer Jesse Williams, and artists Bayeté Ross Smith, Kamal Sinclair, and Chris Johnson. Our transmedia project, Question Bridge, seeks to create a dialogue about identity and shatter stereotypes in the process.

We started by creating a five-channel video art installation and were transformed by hearing the authentic, vulnerable, and powerful conversations that emerged from the project. The themes touched us on a intrinsically human level. The shift in understanding of the participants and witnesses blew us away, and people who saw it kept mentioning "implicit bias." We saw that the content could impact others, and their relationship to implicit bias. We believed, as social scientists argue, that exposure to diverse and full narratives of the other can help Americans begin to unlearn their implicit bias, and we were deeply motivated by that.

We wanted know what would happen when a single demographic group is empowered to define themselves—identity making from the inside-out. The process is deceptively simple: on video, a black man poses a question to another man he feels estranged from. A man representing that difference records his answer. These exchanges create a Question Bridge, a media-based forum for necessary, honest expression and healing dialogue on themes that divide, unite, and puzzle black males in the United States.

In 2012, our video installation premiered at Sundance Film Festival, the Brooklyn Museum, Oakland Museum of California, and has traveled to more than 10 institutions nationwide. Our high-school curriculum is available online and has been implemented in classrooms as far as London, England. And communities across the nation have participated in our signature event, The Blueprint Roundtable, an intergenerational conversation inspired by one question posed in the installation.

We're really proud of these accomplishments, but wanted to make an even broader impact. We wondered, How could we ensure that people all across America both participate and witness this process? How could we attract enough people to the project to make the data that we’ve collected measurable and relevant? How could others, especially those who aren't black or male, recognize the inherent benefit an power behind the process, or even adapt it to groups that they feel aligned with?

We've built a curriculum, live community engagement programming, and now, our plan is to create a responsive, interactive website. Question Bridge Interactive is our biggest endeavor yet, merging art, technology and the internet to create a better future for all.

We're already well underway with development and design. If we reach our Kickstarter goal, well launch questionbridge.com nationally in January 2014. Users will be able to listen to questions, record and upload a response and pose new questions from a computer, smart phone, or tablet device. Users will be able to cross-reference data in real-time, pulling from the wealth of archived content as well as on-the-fly uploads from other site visitors.

The more uploads to the interactive experience, the richer the search results become. The site is built to expand with the content, including features such as Statistics View, Map View, Time Cloud View, Predictive Search, Question and Profile View. Through the power of questions and answers, myriads of stories and characters will be set free to break the stereotypes of black-maleness and explore remedies for long ingrained issues caused by this estrangement. And, in the future, we can expand the focus to other identity groups. Become a part of the conversation here.

This project is part of our Saturday series, Push for Good—our guide to crowdfunding creative progress.

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