After a heady bout of research at the British Library, a spare half an hour found me at the Taking Liberties exhibition. If documents outlining the intricacies of curtailments of feudal nobility give you a hard-on (on whatever happens to you if you happen to be female), this is for you. It was at times a little difficult for me to invest the old parchments with the sense of awe they deserved, but the copy of Magna Carta and the materials on female suffrage were quite arresting, as they obviously were to everyone else.
Moreover, kudos to whoever curated this and wrote the accompanying copy for making all the exhibits relentlessly relevant to today. It worked - I saw a couple studying the Laws of The Forest as they pertained to 42-day detention (or something), with the following exchange:
-Terrible, isn't it. So unconstitutional.
-...actually... I don't agree with you.
-...I just don't. I'm...sorry!
They rounded the corner at that point, but I like to think that the debate didn't end there, as it so often does in the real world.
Like the best adverts, the entire setup was designed to seize you and force you take a stance on what you saw. Everyone gets a wristband which they scan at various terminals, at which point they have the opportunity to 'vote' on various issues. This had the beautiful Huxleyan side-effect of reducing the individual to a number:
Best of all, these responses were aggregated in real-time, and available to view at a final, big-screen terminal at the end of the exhibition. The results were presented in a visually pleasing, almost artistic way, and almost made me go back in to vote for what I missed, which has to be a first for an exhibition. And, apparently you can continue your barcoded interaction online afterwards. The voting system was elegant in its simplicity, and makes me wonder why this hasn't been fully realised in the experiential world yet. Not the the seeds aren't there: voting at the co-op tills always makes me smile, and mine was one of the families that went mad for supermarket self-scan then promptly ditched it once the novelty wore off. When the synthesis is realised in the marketing sphere (and make no mistake, all the technology is there and affordable), we could see some really exciting developments. I can't wait to shout "I am not a number!" and mean it for a change.
A couple of final observations before I go enjoy the sun:
-In almost all cases, I voted for the wet-blanket wishy-washy middle option on the terminals. Is this a product of middle-class handwringing? Because it kinda pissed me off. Or is it a result of the proliferation of media meaning that we overdebate the issues, and can't take a side? Tough to say. Aww, I just did it again, huh.
-This child (?) has it right:
-Apt, Neil :)
Happy weekend, everyone! Go picket something...