Westside Soul

Interactive exhibit that collects and organizes the rich social history of the Westside Atlanta communities.

Contributions
Skills
Tools

Vine City and the Georgia Dome. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Background

The Atlanta neighborhoods of English Avenue and Vine City have faced a multitude of social, political, and economic issues in the last 50+ years. Cut off from Downtown when the interstate was constructed, these neighborhoods have fallen into disarray and the community now faces the impact of the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

In neighborhoods with such rich and complex histories, the residents have unique and fascinating stories and opinions to share about their community. The WestsideSoul project aimed to capture this community's voices and increase awareness of their situation. In collaboration with the Westside Community Alliance, our project studio class developed a system to capture the social history of this community as told in their own words. 

Our team developed an app for recording video, photos, and text and a web database for exploration of submissions. We installed an interactive display at a popular annual gathering within the neighborhoods to gather as many stories as possible. The collected data created a varied and deep historical and social representation of the residents of English Avenue and Vine City, which can be explored here

Many beautiful and historic buildings in the area have great potential for revival, such as the Historic English Avenue Elementary School, which will become a community center. Source: englishavenuecampus.net

Research

Our team met with a beloved community leader who has lived in the area for many decades. She educated us about life in the neighborhoods, the struggles the community faces, the most important topics of discussion amongst its members, and the ongoing community projects and events. From there, we conducted further independent research about the history of the area, checking in periodically to ensure we were staying on the right track.

Categories and prompts with related items linked.

AnaLysis

As we learned about the Westside communities, we created lists of categories and questions that we felt would make good prompts for stories and discussion. We organized the prompts and created connections between them so that upon completion of one response, we could lead into other recommended and related questions.

Design elements: Branding, the iPad interface, the installation kiosk and setup, and the venue floorplan.

Design

While our development expert built the back end of the system, I designed branding elements and physical displays. In preparation for installing our project at an upcoming community gathering and celebration, we put together an inexpensive yet effective way of providing isolated sound: Parabolic speakers mounted between the existing volleyball net poles found at the event venue. Taking into account the flow of the event, we created a floorplan that would allow the installation to be featured without obstructing operations. Finally, we borrowed a few dozen iPhones from Georgia Tech so that we could put one on each table, allowing people to contribute from their seats, if desired or needed.

The WestsideSoul kiosk live at the event.

Evaluation

The installation was a success, gathering hundreds of responses via text, video, and audio recording. We received positive feedback from the contributors and our community leader contact, and ran with little to no technical difficulties. The site remains live today, continuing to showcase the stories and voices of the community members.