In relation to my previous comment on An Architektur and the ‘blocking’ of urban policy by capitalist supply and demand, CUP provides a very interesting alternative. Instead of claiming ‘spatial agency’ as such, they are very up front about education people on the streets – in a sense, reclaiming the urban policy that is supposed to be for all, and equipping people with knowledge of just what their rights are to the city.
I am wondering about your interpretation of their work as antagonistic – where does this come from? It looks like your last slide got cut off, so maybe you were about to give an example. It seems to me that their work in schools, especially in low-income neighborhoods, is an appropriate place to present issues and policies that they know are extremely complex and lack clear explanations as much policy and law they are dealing with only exists in jargon formats. I am afraid you are taking the ‘how can we negatively critique everything this organization does’ as a proper critique yet I argue this is a very wrong turn to take (and am guilty myself of this…)
Instead of ending with antagonism, I might posit a different critique that questions what the policies they are dealing with (predatory equity for example) as well as how they are educating about these issues. The organization is explicitly not activist, yet it enables people to potentially become activists through knowledge of existing forms of structural oppression.
The definition of “empowerment” was a great way to start this study. While I appreciate that you underscore “knowledge = power” and point to an understanding that also includes the promise of economic power, I wonder if going forward our definition of “empowerment” might also consider the source/agency of empowerment. Basically, WHO empowers? Do we see CUP as empowering people, or as offering the means for self-empowerment? (is there a difference?/does it matter?)
I’m also really intrigued by CUP’s focus on making information accessible through visual representation – particularly their interest in “humor,” “play,” and “fun.” This isn’t something that we saw too much of in Detroit and I think offers an interesting case study of how both visual and playful media can be employed in reaction to serious issues. I think looking more into the ways in which CUP employs this style in their projects of “creating a common language” and “acting as interpreter” would be an valuable means of more deeply understanding (and perhaps critiquing) their work. As a self-appointed “interpreter” of issues of critical importance, what it CUP’s responsibility to the communities among which their information is distributed? Can we identify their position in the products that emerge from this process of “creating a common language?” How does fun/humor/play function in this creation of materials?
I didn’t realize when we discussed this project in class that CUP was involved in more than just communication graphics. I think it is interesting to compare CUP to Architecture for Humanity (the project I worked on). If I understand correctly, the members of CUP are not paid for their work and their projects take place relatively close to where they live. In comparison Architecture for Humanity architects are paid and almost all projects take place where there are little to no local chapters of AFH (local volunteers through AFH). This makes me think of the Ivan Illich reading “To Hell with Good Intentions.” Do you think CUP deals with the same problems of value or “what is good” as an international NGO? Do you agree with Illich that international or local they both are bad but, the local is bad to a lesser degree because then the NGO could understand the clients better? Also from the blog discussion about project 3, I wonder about the money flow? I think I remember from the class discussion, Peter saying that CUP is transparent about that. It is hard for me to tell from what I can see from the website because unlike their ability to bridge the gap between the government and the clients, CUP doesn’t seem to be working as hard (or just not showing it) to communicate the feelings of the clients back to CUP about how satisfied they are with their “help.”
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