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Brief Overview

What: A physical installation in Union Square, New York City on Tuesday April 22, as well as an accompanying website.

The Website collects posted audio from members of the public. This audio takes the form of questions that visitors to the website want to ask members of the public in Union Square during the Augmented Speakers’ Corner, and are posted to the category “Audio Questions for Union Square“, here on the website. These questions can vary in subject matter, but are meant as conversation starters for speakers who are on the mic. For more on what makes for good questions, please visit the How to Play page.

The physical installation consists of an electronic display, a microphone & speakers, and a laptop running a special software application. There are a total of five different methods of interaction available to members of the public in Union Square, accessible via physical presence, phone calls, or visiting the website:

1) A Speaker on the Mic: Speakers get three minutes to talk. They will also have a portion of the display showing their name, their chosen topic/subject/question, and their time remaining. They can either speak about any topic they want, or they can pick from one of the three channels available to members of the public to talkback.

2) Audience Recorded Comments: At any time, any member of the public can call the 212# and record a response to the speaker. This recorded audio file will be available to the speaker within one minute of being recorded. It is up to the speaker whether or not to playback any audio comments received while he or she is speaking.

3) Audience Live Talk: If anyone wants to respond live to the speaker, they can call the 212# and choose the “LiveTalk” option which will connect callers directly to the speaker system in Union Square. Again, it will be up to the speaker when and if to take live calls.

4) Questions for Union Square: This is the standing option for receiving audio questions and comments from members of the public, both in Union Square and online. These questions are meant to be conversation starters for the ASC in Union Square, as well as seeds for ongoing dialog on this website as well as other channels until the next ASC event.

5) Audience Voting: Every three minutes, the audience in Union Square is prompted to vote (via cellphone) on whether the speaker should have more time, or if it is time for a new speaker. As long as a speaker receives a majority of the votes, he gets to stay on the mic. If a speaker is doing a good job of listening to questions as well as speaking his mind, it’s possible he could be on the mic for several minutes. Any speaker that manages to stay on the mic for 3 rounds of voting or more gets a free AskUnionSquare t-shirt.

This event is open to any member of the public who wishes to speak, online or off.

When: Tuesday, April 22nd 2008 from 5-8pm.

Where: Union Square (map), New York City. Online at www.AskUnionSquare.com

How: An ongoing conversation, better suited for the Implementation Wiki.

Why: The most interesting questions to me relate to the boundary between public and private space. Where is the public sphere? How has it been affected by the rise of the web, as well as the pervasive growth of advertising? Where does substantive public discussion take place? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but I think it would be great to asc them. ;-)

For more on this, please read the first post I wrote on this site. I welcome any questions or feedback you may have.