I don’t know what you’re thinking but I can take a good guess: this is it?
Yea. This is it. And this took a hell of a long time to get to, too.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Obviously the country is steeped in turmoil right now, especially regarding immigration. To me, immigrants are a vital part of this nation; they’re the fabric that keeps it together. I wanted to show this by reifying the silhouette of the United States of America. I went into the CSV and took out information that I didn’t think was going to benefit my piece: all of the generalized immigrant data that didn’t pertain to a certain country. I removed Northern Europe, Western Europe, Southern Europe and any other dataset that generalized a grouping of countries because I only wanted information from specific nations. With my CSV set, I began to bring in the data to the processing sketch. As I was looking at our class example, I realized that I wanted to see not just the immigrant numbers but how they relate to the population of the US in general. 386,529 is a big number (that’s the amount of Russian immigrants) but when you contextualize it with America’s population of over 324 million, it’s quite literally infinitesimal. .0012% to be exact. So what about the largest percentage of immigrants, Mexicans? The country seems to be enamored with the logic that they’re “taking our jobs”, so how much of the population do they actually represent? 20%? 30? Try 3%. What about Syrians? .00025%. Less than 1 in every 2,500 Americans is an immigrant. All this excitement in the nation about a sect of people that American citizens may actually never meet?
So how do I visualize that sentiment? It’s like asking the question how do you visualize the fact that a gay couple getting married in San Francisco will have literally no affect on a heterosexual marriage in Arkansas.
I tried placing the data on a silhouette of the US in a few different ways: as lines coming down the screen, as rectangles placed in the center, as ellipses bubbling up from beneath. The lines looked like blood which seemed to perpetuate a narrative that these peoples were somehow violent, the rectangles weren’t aiding to a narrative and the ellipses just didn’t seem appealing.
Then I had an idea. If it is in fact the case that there are far fewer immigrants in this nation than people think (immigrants being defined as someone whose place of birth was not the United States) why try to “show” it when I could just …show it. Truthfully. Proportionally.
So I had the idea to show two American flags. At a distance, they appear exactly the same, like an infuriating piece of modern art that leaves a viewer to think “why is this piece in a museum?” As you get closer you begin to see minute specs embedded in the flag. And as you get even closer, you start to realize that there is something that isn’t quite right, there are white squares that cover the flag. A closer look reveals there are more. If you pair that with the knowledge that there are 47,258,315 immigrants in the United States from 133 different countries you really that there are even more squares here that are probably far too tiny to be visualized.
The reaction to this is where I am most interested because I think it should reveal partisanship. There are almost two lines of thought: “So if there are so few, why does it matter if we prevent them from coming in” and “How silly is it that we are keeping these people out of our nation.”
Either way, hopefully you see that this isn’t just two flags on a screen placed there without thought. Excited to see the discussion that happens in class tomorrow around it.