Protest Topology

by Ingrid Burrington

When protests shut down major thoroughfares in cities, what does that actually look like and how do those protests move through space?

One thing that I kept thinking after the first few nights of protests in NYC following the non-indictments of Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo was how sprawling the marches were. Reports from the West Side Highway, from the FDR, Grand Central, the Brooklyn Bridge--it seemed like the entire city was alive with protest. How did the marches move through the city? How far did they reach? I looked at GPS data from my own phone to see what my routes looked like, wishing I could see the paths taken by my friends on the other marches.

I thought it would be interesting to ask people to share their location data when they go to protests as a way to get a better sense of how many places the protests reached--and a more precise understanding of their physical impact. I keep seeing maps of nationwide protest that don't really convey the energy or physical impact of bodies on the ground.

Basically, I'm asking people who go to protests to use the app while on marches and share that data with this project.

I really, really don't want to be responsible for any activists' personally identifiable information and I really only want data from marches. This is the rough protocol for people who want to contribute to this project:

1. Make a burner OpenPaths account (temporary username, something random, something that wouldn't necessarily link back to you.)

2. Send that username to me (twitter DM works @lifewinning, or email with public key here: and give the project permission to access your OpenPaths data. (If you have a group of friends who want to participate, sending multiple usernames in a single encrypted block works too.)

3.In the app, clear any locally stored data before the march (so I don't end up collecting data of, say, you leaving work to go to a protest or something)

4. either set data to sync during the march or upload data to OpenPaths after the march, then deactivate sync and/or log out of the app when leaving the march (so I don't collect data from you coming home)

5. after 24 hours, delete the account. By then I'll have downloaded the data.

Rinse and repeat for future actions. If you aren't worried about being linked back to the data, you can keep using the same account, just only log in on your phone when going to actions and keep doing steps 3 and 4. For what it's worth, I'm putting my own data into this project.

Ultimately this will probably resemble an art project but could also be used for reporting to convey the scale of protests.