"In close collaboration with the flagship public radio station WNYC, SHoP developed, designed, and fabricated a prototype for a nontraditional community outreach platform. The goal, supported by a grant from the Knight Foundation, was to create an easily reproducible system that could become a model for other news organizations nationwide as a means to involve underrepresented audiences in their programming.
Housed within a standard aluminum payphone enclosure, TalkBox can be installed directly on city streets. WNYC and SHoP worked to give TalkBox a form that would be visually striking, perform robustly on city streets, and invite users to tell their most intimate stories. Then SHoP turned to our Fabrication Lab to create and assemble components for the prototype. The design is meant to evoke recording studio sound-proofing, a detail intended to suggest the importance of each individual's voice. By lifting the handset, non-listeners are drawn into and empowered to participate in important civic conversations that otherwise take place only on-air.
TalkBox was deployed for the first time in July, 2015 at the St. George terminal of the Staten Island Ferry, where it was used to solicit community reactions on the first anniversary of Eric Garner's death. The device solicited powerful commentary. Several children shared very personal thoughts on race and tolerance in the neighborhood in the year since the incident. Eric Garner's stepfather encountered TalkBox at a second location, closer to the site of the killing, and recorded his own testimonial.
TalkBox's second deployment was in Newark, where the topic was the state of local schools. In 2016, TalkBox will be used to engage people on the issue of gentrification in Brooklyn, with a particular focus on how demographic changes in the city are affecting the availability of housing across lines of race and class."