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Visualizing Street Harassment

Rebecca Hayes (PhD Student, Reading, Writing, and American Culture)

Visualizing Street Harassment is an online map-based visualization of a born-digital cultural event, the “10 Hours of Walking…” video meme.

On October 28, 2014, Hollaback, an anti-street harassment organization released “10 Hours of Walking as a Woman in NYC,” a video produced by Rob Bliss Creative Inc. The video is a two-minute edited clip of a “conventionally beautiful” woman filmed walking through certain areas of New York City for ten hours, during which time she experienced over 100 incidents of street harassment.  In its first day online, the video had over 10 million view, and there are hundreds of videos and other born-digital media articles responding to the video. In one type of popular video response, people across the globe use the original video’s format of filming someone of a particular identity walking in public spaces for an extended amount of time and concluding with a call to action, in effect creating a “10 Hours of Walking…” meme. In 2014, the “10 Hours of Walking…” video as a meme was one born-digital cultural event that briefly launched discussions of street harassment the public spotlight.

The study of born-digital cultural events and the study of social media materials as cultural documents present challenges for scholars. Like the archival materials of other cultural events, the traces of a born-digital event are scattered across the web, unlikely to ever make it into an institutional or any other archive as a cohesive set of historical artifacts. Further, unfolding cultural digital events blur the lines of what can be considered the past and what is worthy of cultural heritage and historical study. When an event occurs simultaneously in many locations across the world, extra care must be taken to account for the differing cultural frameworks, practices, and knowledges surrounding each localized version of the event.

Created by Becca Hayes, Visualizing Street Harassment is a digital humanities project that extends her scholarship on the rhetorical and spatial aspects of anti-street harassment activism. When “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” was released, Hayes became interested in how people adapted the “10 Hours of Walking…” meme to draw attention to the complexity of interactions between movement in public spaces and seemingly visible identity markers such as race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, and ability. Because of the contextual importance of place and location in the videos, Hayes began curating and digitally mapping a small sample of the “10 Hours of Walking…” videos.

The project is called Visualizing Street Harassment, an online geospatial visualization of “10 Hours of Walking…” videos. Visualizing Street Harassment has a map-based interface that displays a selection of the most publicized videos that use the  “10 Hours of Walking…” meme format. Videos for the site were collected by searching mainstream media articles that compiled the most popular “10 Hours of Walking…” videos and by searching YouTube for the most viewed “10 Hours of Walking…” videos.

Visualizing Street Harassment has three major components. First, the front-end framework includes contextual details about street harassment activism and the immediate context and exigency of the original “10 Hours of Walking Video” as well as the original video itself. That framework is created in Bootstrap using the Amoeba template by BootstrapTaste created by Heru. Second, the map-based interface, created with Mapbox, includes color-coded pins in the respective cities where a selection of “10 Hours of Walking…” videos were filmed. Finally, each pin includes the video produced in that city, as well as descriptive details such as the video’s producer, publication date, and a short description of the video. The site will eventually include more pins and individual pages with more context and analysis of each video.