Yellow Arrow

01/01/2009 § Leave a comment


Since reading A History of the People of the United States 1492-Present, I have  been interested in historiography and likely any process that allows the marginalized to reclaim credibility and thus their ability to defend themselves against dominating parties, A.K.A., the man. Yellow Arrow was this and probably much much more. The following is an excerpt from a book I am reviewing, Expanding Architecture: Design As Activism, which is ridiculously cool. Read:

The Space of Engagement: Dialogical Participation

   People are most effective in their role as citizens when they act as members of communitities. A communitiy may be best understood as a socially and politically specific group identity that is constituted by individuals who have a common set of values, concerns, or visions. The value of the community is twofold: it constructs a shared vision of the common good, and it creates new, alternative centers of power [^5]. Communities also function as multiple and simultaneous centers to build associations and networks oriented to larger common goals.   

   Some argue that the mobile, networked nature of our society has led to isolation and placelessness, but we can turn this scenario to our advantage through the innovative use of network technologies to facilitate participatory democratic practices. Affordable Web-based tools have the potential to become a form of empowerment, particularly for the most disadvantaged populations[^6]. For example, Yellow Arrow, a global public art project, takes advantage of ubiquitous communications technology to enable people to “point out what counts.” Coded yellow arrow stickers placed in public spaces allow participants to view site-specific text messages on their mobile phones[^7]. At the leading edge of what the geospatial web can do, Yellow Arrow initiatives have created psycogeographic maps, recounted public histories, and engaged community members in discussions of issues of common concern.

5 This conception differs from antagonistic and insurgent models of citizenship. For the latter, see James Holston, “Spaces of Insurgent Citizenship,” Planning Theory 13 (1995), 35-52

6 Donald A. Schon, Sanyal Bish, and WIlliam J. Mitchell, eds., High Technology and Low-Income Communities’ Prospects fro the Positive Use of Advanced Information Technology (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press)

7 Counts Media, Inc., “Yellow Arrow,”

An example of a recounted public history that Yellow Arrow coalesced is of the Punk music scene in Washington D.C.. Reading through the different projects that Yellow Arrow inspired is, in itself, inspiring. With this information network, the number of possibilities for profoundly moving projects increases with the number of determined and creative minds. A long time resident of Stockholm might be excited, even moved after finding this Yellow Arrow tour:

Sense Stockholm leads you through Stockholm with your four senses, letting you experience Stockholm in an innovative way. The project features often-overlooked sensual attractions, lead by the voices of the blind and the deaf. 

The activity in the process of getting out and learning about a place’s public history (or mapping it yourself) can make local history relevant to our lives and allow people to contribute to an information community without needing a fancy advanced degree. Metro Denver has over 20 yellow arrows. I plan to make some rounds. Read through some of the other awesome projects here.

I was upset to read that this past October, the Yellow Arrow art project was “wrapped-up.”  I would have loved to participate, but I’m sure the whole thing took a good deal of time and energy. There is potential for another Yellow Arrow and I’ll be a supporter when the day comes, or a leader if need be. Hopefully, by that time I’ll be a talented grant-writer. I’m not the only one who would do it:

Not exactly the same as Yellow Arrow but still worthwhile…

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