South Korea Installs Giant Ear To Collect Citizen Complaints

South Korea Installs Giant Ear To Collect Citizen Complaints

There’s something unsatisfying about making a traditional complaint. As you’re filling out the form, you can almost see the government bureaucrat crumpling it up and throwing it away a few days later. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just yell at the pencil pushers directly? In Seoul, you can.

Outside Seoul’s City Hall sits a giant red ear sculpture that’s always listening. Designed by artist Yang Soo-in with the support of Lifethings, the “Big Ear” serves dual roles as public art project and public relations initiative. The city’s mayor commissioned its construction this spring as a way for the government to stay in better touch with the citizens, while sparking some discussion about what that even means. Participatory art is always good for that.

The process is pretty simple. Just walk up to the “Big Ear” and speak your mind inside. The sound is recorded and then transmitted inside of City Hall, where it’s broadcast through citizens’ affairs bureau over loudspeakers. Special sensors attached to the speakers register how many people hang out around the speakers when a specific comment is played. They preserve those that attract the largest audience and recycle the rest into ambient music played throughout City Hall.

The whole set up is clearly ingenious, especially as far as public art goes. (Lifethings is working on a similar set up for the San Jose convention centre that they’re calling the “Idea Tree”, so that the West can try this speaking-to-art approach.) What’s less clear is whether or not the government actually acts on any of the complaints filed through the “Big Ear”. As heart-warming as the whole process of broadcasting public opinion across City Hall is, it’s pretty useless if the mayor and his minions aren’t actually listening. [Lifethings via Atlantic Cities via PSFK]

Pictures: Lifethings / Kyungsub Shin