Hybrid Letterbox – Connecting digital strangers

We are currently experiencing a rapidly expanding popular interest in various forms of direct democracy and DIY citizenship. The rise of the internet enables novel forms of expression and distributes agency to a much bigger range of individuals and groups.

Platforms for political participation like neighborland.org, changify.org or adhocracy.org, but also channels like facebook or twitter are examples for this. While bringing countless possibilities, they all share the problem of exclusion, by offering mainly digital ways for participation: Therefor, we argue, the aforementioned “opening” of societal and political processes targets mainly a digital elite and leaves out those without access to or literacy in digital media.

The societal and political inclusion of digital strangers through hybrid technologies is the main goal of our project, in contribution towards a more inclusive, innovative and just society. We aim at enableing and encouraging anyybody (instead of a digital elite) to act or react in situ and to either initiate or contribute to a discourse

Main deliverables will be the participatory and iterative development of
a) the Prototype and b) the digital platform, which automatically digitizes analog contributions and thus makes them conversable on- and offline.
Beyond the primary challenge, the Hybrid Letterbox provides an example for novel ways of expression in public space. Sociopolitical engagement in the social network era takes on many forms that go well beyond the involvement in political parties or formal interest groups. On a local level, for example, it is important to help citizens engage spontaneously and project-based within their neighborhoods, to voice and collect ideas, to share opinions and to take on social responsibility. The Hybrid Letterbox can be one step towards a more active civil society.

CHEST (Collective enHanced Environment for Social Tasks) is a 33-month Research and Development
project supported under the Seventh Framework Programme to promote the development of digital
based innovations that have the potential to address key societal challenges. In addition to the development of an online community platform that will facilitate the sharing and exchanging of ideas, the CHEST project has invested up to €2.5 million in seed finance for highly innovative digital based technologies, concepts and systems that address a specific societal challenge. The Berlin University of the Arts has been successful in receiving support through the scheme for the Hybrid Letterbox project.

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