Paragini Amin

Useless Targets

A sonic experience of the magnitude and complexity of the NYPD stop-and-frisk policy. Police are expected to perform at a certain rate of activity measured in numbers (illegal quotas). As such, the NYPD stopped (and frisked a large portion of) 600,601 people in 2010, but only arrested 7% and yielded close to zero weapons. How can we be more responsible with our need for data?

Data Representation,Principled Design: Dealing with Wicked Problems & Social Change

The Center for Constitutional Rights has been awarded a database of NYPD stop and frisk data through an ongoing lawsuit over the constitutionality of the policy in action. The Village Voice has tape recordings of police meetings where line officers are asked to raise their activity to fulfill illegal quotas. All of this information is used in a sound installation to experience the magnitude of the issue and highlight the systemic obstacles we face regarding our law enforcement system.<br /> Audio attributes of the tapes are mapped to aggregate numbers. With the flood of data around this issue in the news, it is important to represent the information in an accessible way for people who are not exposed to the stops-and-frisks on a daily basis. Moreover, it's no secret that our criminal justice system is rife with biases. While 90% of all stops are of Black and Latino people, arrest rates for firearm and contraband possession from stops are the same across race. This project attempts to tackle a chunk of the larger issues.<br /> Finally, this is an exploration of our relationship to data. We use it to measure success, but our reliance on numbers may corrode trust in our ability to make good judgements. Also, we're flooded with data these days, and while the 600,601 number is striking, it's still difficult to feel that number represents people and lives. A sonic display may help us better connect.

User Scenario
The audience approaches a doorway with projected text explaining some of the details of the issue. At two or three at a time, they enter a dark room. Sound snippets from the NYPD tapes are playing. Upon exiting, I will ask them what they think their probability is of being stopped by the NYPD. I'll then give them the probability I've calculated based on race, age, and gender.