Posted January 4th 2012 at 11:20 pm by
in Featured Contributor

A Conversation with Sewon Chung

Sewon2_photo_small

Why do you blog?

I’ve always approached blogging from a personal perspective, and I’m drawn to people and their stories about everyday life. I started blogging seriously after I graduated college and moved far away from home—first to Mexico City, Shanghai, Beijing, and then Kunming. I was brimming with stories and photos of my new life, but it wasn’t easy to write individual e-mails as often as I wanted. Blogging was a way for me to keep in touch with loved ones and share my work with a broader audience. Blogging has been an incredible outlet for me to meet and connect with people anywhere from Massachusetts to Reykjavik. I hope that my journey, in some small way, can inspire others to discover the adventures in everyday life—whether it is baking bread from scratch or exploring a new neighborhood.

You’ve taken on the task of documenting bike lanes from the perspective of the bike lanes themselves.  What motivated you to seek this perspective?

I chose the bike lanes because I had always ignored them before. I grew up in the Washington D.C. suburbs, where driving is unavoidable. Mexico City, Shanghai, and Beijing were so huge that I usually took the subway or taxis. Kunming is just the right size for cyclists, and the bike lanes extend throughout the city’s major roads. I fell in love with my trusty bicycle, and got to know my new city from the bike lanes. On my daily rides, I noticed frequent roadblocks and constructions that made the commute difficult at times. I started reading more about the city’s changes, and talked to my friends and neighbors about it. It was really an organic journey that led me to document Kunming’s bike lanes. In a more historic context, bicycles are a significant part of Chinese culture and Kunming’s urban history. As China focuses on rapidly modernizing its cities, I wonder what will happen to this tradition.

What do you think the media world has to offer to the future of cities?

New media enables city planners, architects, sound artists, academics, activists, and members of the community to work together collaboratively, often in a virtual environment, to improve their cities. I am especially interested in ways new media could be used to tell stories in powerful ways. And I think it’s important that media artists are reaching out to communities left behind in the digital divide, and actively exploring both traditional and new methods to bridge the gap. For example, Candy Chang is an urban planner who creates accessible public installations that are carefully documented online. One of her projects, “I Wish This Was,” provided a simple outlet for the New Orleans residents to share their hopes for vacant storefronts on stickers. I have also been reading about Kara Oehler’s work and Zeega, an open-source platform for creating interactive documentaries. There’s just so much out there! What’s even more exciting is that this is only the beginning.

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