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A Giant Ear for Politicians

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“Yeoboseyo” is a participatory public artwork for Seoul citizens (all images, unless otherwise noted, © kyungsub shin and used with permission)

Step into a restaurant in Korea, and sometimes in Koreatowns, and you’ll find a simple button next to your table. Press the button, and the waiter or waitress shows up. It’s an elegant solution to a perennial problem: getting the attention of extremely busy people.

The ear of seoul (image via TK)
Seoul Mayor Park Won Soon posing with citizens at the unveiling ceremony of the Yeoboseyo sculpture (image via seoul.go.kr)

But how do you know they’re listening? Well, with a big red ear, of course. I just learned about a giant ear sculpture installed outside City Hall in Seoul, where anyone can stop by and share their thoughts. A recording actually calls for passers-by to step up and make a recording. Developed by artist Yang Soo-in, it’s a reference to how Koreans answer the phone (“Hello?” in English). And as you speak into the ear, your message is broadcast inside city hall, and Springwise suggests that it will take note of how many stop to listen.

There are flaws to this approach, to be sure. Will only the loudest and most obnoxious get the attention? How much does timing matter?  What if you have a great idea and start speaking while people in City Hall are out to lunch?  But the idea itself is provocative for its promise. The quirky ear resonates with ideas like the Speakers Corner, where British citizens can speak their minds about different political issues, and even We the People, the White House-run web site that allows anyone to post a petition.

Unfortunately, if you click on the latter link, you’ll be greeted with a note: “Due to Congress’s failure to pass legislation to fund the government, We the People has been temporarily disabled.” We can speak, we can even shout into the ear, but there’s no guarantee that anyone will listen.

A diagram of how Yobosayo works. Image via designboom.
Concept diagram of how Yeoboseyo works. (image via designboom)

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