Passersby were invited to sit at the You Are A Genius Bar and explore online resources for social services, civic engagement, health and well-being, and creative production. The space was also converted into a real world photobooth where visitors had the opportunity to pose for future covers of the magazine against the #selfiewalls, contribute to the next issue, and print out photos to take home. We wanted to know: what does it mean to be strong and genius in your identity?
1 Provide a familiar space where participants feel comfortable exploring and engaging useful tools in a creative environment.
2 Create a positive association, and showcase the ease, of advocating for yourself and improving your quality of life with new applications and tools.
There are a great number of innovative online tools being developed by local government, schools, healthcare providers, and creative organizations. Many of these tools are even free. People are not aware of this access due to their own limited resources, and the limited resources of the providing agencies. The opportunities that do exist to learn about resources like these, held in community centers and libraries, are not events that excite people to show up, so they are vastly under visited.
We wanted to design an environment that attracted people to come out, and then spend a lot of time. A fantastic opportunity came along to inhabit a pop-up art gallery space for 6 days because of a cancelled show, so we jumped at the opportunity to take it. The gallery was located off of Bowery Street in SoHo, on a side street that enjoys a bit of foot traffic. If you visit any major mall in America, it is clear that the Apple Store is a space where people of all backgrounds enjoy spending time and interacting with each other. What if every time someone entered this space they did something to better their lives?
We decided to derive our inspiration for a new model towards civic engagement from this well-known tech store - allowing visitors to raise their own social capital, instead of spending personal dollars. Modern furniture and long tables anchored the space, and new technology including iMacs, Macbook Airs, and photo printers could be freely accessed. We even approximated the real-life equivalent of Photo Booth with our interactive “Selfie” walls, large scale paintings created by artists in our network that visitors were invited to stand in front of and snap photos of themselves.
When visitors sat at the You Are a Genius Bar, they were greeted with 24 colorful, custom icons, mimicking an iOS layout so that navigating the rows of social, civic, health, career, creative, educational and financial service resources and clicking into one of these websites felt like opening an app.