The Neighborhood’s Going Downhill


Apparently grungy is in. You have your reclaimed wood tables, exposed brick walls, and raw metal beams, all of which add to a certain aesthetic and serve to add a certain hip-ness to the area. Now, according to sociologist Gordon Douglas, a certain amount of graffiti can contribute to the gentrification of a neighborhood.

Long the symptom or result of economic malaise or poverty, graffiti has a predominately negative connotation. According to Douglas “A huge amount of social science throws [graffiti] into a camp of being a sign of crime and disorder.” Baruch College sociologist Gregory Snyder compared rates of violent crime versus graffiti and found that places with more tagging had lower rates of crime. In his book Graffiti Lives, he writes that in SoHo, “residents, tourists, and high-end boutiques, co-exist with graffiti vandalism in a relatively symbiotic fashion.” He claims graffiti-ed neighborhoods “[attract] the type of urban ‘cool’ consumer marketers call ‘taste makers’ and advertisers and retailers so desperately want to reach.”

So that’s probably not an excuse to tag any old wall, but in a world where the works of artists like Banksy can command prices of $100,000, this kind of organic street art may just attract the kind of people that gradually gentrify neighborhoods.

What Sparks Our Fire: The shifting perceptions of what is art vs. vandalism and how the public as a whole reacts to it.

Do you feel graffiti adds to the je ne sais quoi of a neighborhood?

Sing, O Muse!


“Tell me a story.”

“There’s an app for that.”

It’s been said that storytelling is a lost art. The oral tradition of telling a story vocally, injecting the emotion and creativity of the teller, has not been the preeminent form of information transfer since the invention of the Gutenberg Printing Press and the literacy that came along with it. However, the oldest form of information transfer has been integrated with the newest, enter an app that brings the stories of thousands to your fingertips.

The Moth is an organization that collects and collates recordings of real people telling their own stories in their own words. The organization has been doing this since 1997, when it was founded by poet and novelist George Dawes Green, who wanted to recreate in New York the feeling of sultry summer evenings on his native St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, where he and a small circle of friends would gather to spin spellbinding tales on his friend Wanda’s porch. The movement grew, and has brought more than 3,000 live stories to over 100,000 audience members.

This October, The Moth has launched its own app, effectively bringing the common threads of thousands of stories to your iOS or Android device.  Previously only available by podcast, The Moth app focuses on the listening experience, allowing you to save your favorite stories, share them, or download them.

What Sparks our Fire: We are inspired by the unique stories that people are willing to share with others.

Will you download this app and share your personal narratives?

Food Imitates Life

Usually when your meal is moving, it’s not cooked all the way. However, in designer Minsu Kim’s new project, Living Food, the movement is the meal. She uses a method of synthetic biology to create edible dishes that have the qualities of living things: expanding and contracting as if breathing, wriggling on the plate, or gently waving tentacles.

Since this is artificial life, it’s not a breathing animal you’re eating, but you can eat it, and it’s quite fascinating to watch your meal move.

What sparked our fire: Visualizing food in unique ways, both as edible and as art.

Will this revolutionize the way we see food? Or change the way chefs plate their dishes?

Computers That Paint

It’s easy to tell the difference between art created by humans and art generated by computers. No one could fail to distinguish the small nuances and imperfections of a human-created painting against a technically perfect, but somehow stilted and cold, computer piece of art. However, a new algorithm developed by Kenichi Yoneda, better known as Kynd, creates curiously human-looking paintings with an automated painter.

Using the program, called openFrameworks, the artist is able to simulate realistic painting methods, using a brush or a palate knife, blending pigments drying at different rates. It’s a intriguing process to watch digital paint drying, much more so than watching actual paint dry.

The objective, rather than making a beautiful work of art, is to explore how closely computers can come to re-creating the way humans paint, and perhaps investigate the gray area between man-made and computer-generated.

What sparked our fire: The precision in which a computer can mimic the human act of painting.

Will this new algorithm make art enthusiasts skeptical about authenticity?


Absolut Brooklyn

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Absolut recently sponsored Open Canvas, an outdoor art festival, where over 20 artists converged on Brooklyn’s 6th Street in Williamsburg. All types of surfaces were painted white, forming a blank canvas for artists to create whatever they pleased. This stunt was in conjunction with “the future is yours to create” campaign, where the goal was to inspire people to envision and achieve their dreams.

What sparked our fire: DIY future.

How are you writing your future?


-Canopy Team