How might we engage the public in a dialogue about what it means to be American?
A public DIY kaleidoscope station that visualizes participants’ cultural identities
What It Is
Hyphen America was a pop-up event that I hosted in Union Square in March 2018, where more than 60 participants created personalized “Hyphen Viewers,” i.e. kaleidoscopes that visualized and celebrated users’ rich and diverse cultural backgrounds. It was intended to encourage people of color to proudly claim their unique heritage.
How It Works
The participants were asked to follow three steps in creating their Hyphen Viewers:
1. Name cultures associated with their identity
2. Pick a card with a word that best describes them
3. Place the word inside the kaleidoscope and add colors
The cards contained quotes from other immigrants of color about their experience in the country.
Name cultures that you associate with your identity
Pick a card with a word that best describes you
Place the word inside the kaleidoscope and add colors
In just two hours, we ran out of the 60 kaleidoscope kits I had prepared. User interviews revealed that many participants felt pressure to obscure their multicultural roots and identify with one culture. They had few opportunities to express as both their cultural heritage and their American identity, even when combinations of both, (i.e. ‘Hyphens’) were the most authentic.