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Gun empathy

In a studio of 12, together we explored different approaches to addressing guns locally in Pittsburgh. We focused on the connections between safety, children, families and guns and with the partnership of the Citizens for a Safer Pennsylvania organization of Pittsburgh and part of the DESIS Network lab.

I sent 1000 postcards to people in Pittsburgh asking them to share a story about guns. The goal was to create an open environment for people to share stories about guns to build empathy into the gun discussion.

THE GOAL:

To understand people’s relationships with guns, if they're friends, foes, or enemies. Do they scare or protect? Do they share the blame? How do people talk about their gun experiences good and bad? And then with these answers I want to see if other people can relate to these answers, so that hopefully they can build a more full perspective for themselves.

To create an open space that promotes sharing without aggressive debate or bashing.

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The project was posted on reddit and more people shared their stories through this channel. It became quickly apparent that the projects survival was completely dependent on traction. I slowly received less and less responses.

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Out of the postcards I sent, I only received 25 back. Some stories were of heartbreak, others of pride and each were truly unique. I posted these stories to a blog and called on others to share their story even if they didn't receive a postcard.

Despite the lack of responses -- the stories received gained popularity online -- but not enough to illicit more responses. This method is purely data-collection and is limited to people constantly sharing and the ability of the content to go viral.

After four months of research we produced a book to display our observations, research and explorations.