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Reading the Streets at Once is a project that intends to comprehend the social uprising in Chile through archiving and analyzing protest signs and street art posted online. It is composed by a ~6000 image archive that was scraped from Instagram on February 2020 and later processed by the Google Cloud Vision API to detect text, objects, labels and image properties.
In October 2019, Chile saw one of the biggest social uprisings that continues till the day I submitted this (May 2020). What started as a strike for a rise of the metro fare escalated to nationwide protests that demand social justice across health, education and pensions. The government’s response has only aggravated the movement by empowering the riot police causing multiple violations of human rights.
Although I was not able to physically participate in the strikes that involved relevant claims for me, the people were actively documenting and sharing the events online. In an effort to keep track of this historic moment in Chile I decided to archive the things that caught my attention as I was watching. After a short visit to the capital city and the declared ‘zone cero’ of the movement, I was impressed by the amount of writings on the walls and streets. The city was covered in various graphic expressions and I wondered if I could somehow gather all of that and read it all at once.
To partly accomplish this, I searched and scraped social media and collected over 6000 images that fell into the category of street art and protest signs. By using computer vision methods to extract text and object labels I was able to read and analyze this collection as a whole. Reading the Streets at Once intends to tell the story of this movement as it develops while reflecting on how and why to archive and its output on memory. The result of this collection is an effective way to understand the diverse sociocultural groups that participate in the movement. By making available the texts and symbols that the people leave behind, combined with filtering and sorting tools, the viewers can gather their own conclusions and therefore, understand, acknowledge and memorialize one of the biggest social uprising Chile’s territory has seen.