This Fresh From the Field by Clemenger BBDO (in collaboration with the NZ Human Rights Commission and Assembly), features Voice of Racism an interactive website revealing the damaging effects of ceaseless micro-aggressions. This critical and confronting project challenges the notion that racism does not exist in New Zealand.
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Most people agree racism is bad, but don’t necessarily recognize the consistent presence of it in daily life.
Recipients of racism have long been describing the paper cuts of micro-aggressions, and for just as long, those in the majority have been denying the severity of these small moments. The brief was to create something that gives weight to those everyday experiences, making this hurt finally tangible to those who have the power to dismantle it.
The Voice of Racism is about the relentlessness of these small blows, and how these add up to something harmful.
The hundreds of micro-aggressions in Voice of Racism are the true personal experiences of real people from around New Zealand. The aim was to collect this raw, ugly truth, and present that in a way that lets you sit with that burden as intimately as possible.
VoiceOfRacism.co.nz allows anyone to put themselves in the shoes of someone on the receiving end of racism, and to feel the cumulative burden of consistent micro-aggressions through an audio visual data-driven experience.
The Digital Design Response:
Racism is a confronting and challenging topic, so the experience has specifically been designed as something you have to choose to come to.
Once there, the experience is designed to be endless, with micro-aggressions coming at you from all directions. We’ve seen people rip their headphones off after a few seconds, and others sitting with it for a while and choosing to come back to it after mini epiphanies and choose to keep going. This has been designed to give users a sense of how it feels to be a recipient of racism in New Zealand – you can’t simply ‘turn off’ racism if you are the one receiving it. It also offers users a chance to feel the cumulative burden and to learn, in context, how seemingly small things are in fact harmful.
Listeners can unpack their personal journey through the website experience, by exploring more about what they’ve heard, why each micro-aggression is racist and harmful and ultimately earning how to recognise and challenge racism in their own lives, and in the lives of others.
The micro-aggressions in the experience happened here in New Zealand, and were gathered by interviewing recipients of racism on their ‘everyday’ experiences. Each moment they described in the interviews was captured and articulated into phrases, true to the tone and context in which they originally happened.
These phrases were coded by tone, frequency and severity to ensure each user has a true-to-life experience, while allowing it to be randomised and unpredictable.
There are hundreds of phrases and the randomisation means the experience is never-ending – it will never ‘loop’.
The experience was built in WebGL and Three.js with an array of custom techniques, and the face geometry created in 3D. Each micro-aggression was performed and motion captured, allowing the performance to be lip-synched to the treated binaural audio.
The result is a face that responds in real time to the voice. The micro-aggressions are coded based on how long you’ve been in the experience, and all glitches and SFX are procedurally generated so that everyone’s experience is completely unique.
The site is ultimately educational, but is designed so users navigate through the Voice experience before landing on the resources. It’s too easy to explain away low-level racism or argue that it doesn’t really matter. The navigation ensures people can ‘feel’ the burden of incessant racism before they are shown specific ways to address it.
The Visual Design Response:
Depicting racism visually was a challenge. Racism is a bit of a shape-shifter – it can come out of the mouths of strangers, friends, and even your own inner voice. To depict these voices in their more literal human form would complicate the message that racism can be voiced by anyone, intentionally or not. It’s the racism that is evil, not necessarily the person.
Recipients of racism each described racism differently – sometimes an evil monster, sometimes a friend. We settled on the concept of a ‘face’ emerging from soundwaves, born out of the desire to create an engaging visual that effortlessly complimented what people were hearing. Although each of the micro-aggressions you hear in the experience have come from different people, we portrayed the Voice of Racism as a ‘character’, and this non-descript, disturbing face represents this evil entity that has the potential to reside inside all of us.