KIE debuts interactive ethics/art installation

Climate change. Apathy. Entitlement spending. These are just a few of the issues highlighted by Georgetown students in an interactive “street art” installation by the Kennedy Institute of Ethics (KIE) on the first floor of Healy Hall.

On an oversized glass whiteboard opposite the Bioethics Research Library, an inaugural installation prompted: The most important issue facing my generation is… Within 24 hours, the board filled with responses, reactions to responses, and responses to those responses, ethical dialogue materializing in written form in real time.

The idea for the project, informally dubbed “Street Ethics,” arose from a conversation between Institute director Maggie Little, and longtime Georgetown supporter Chan Tagliabue.

The goal of the project is “to tap into, and foster, ongoing conversation in the Georgetown community on contemporary, real-life moral issues,” explains Institute Director of Communications Kelly Heuer. “Our goal is to provoke thought, to provoke dialogue, to cause people to pause and dedicate a moment or two of their busy day to reflect on the bigger picture.”

The project is already having that effect on passers-by, many of whom linger to take in the thoughts of peers before before and after leaving their own, creating miniature traffic jams in the hallway by the board when classes let out.

A second prompt, Millenials should be more… has already generated another full board of reflections on desirable character traits (humble, gracious, ambitious, empathetic) and ethical stances (pro-life, pro-choice, vegetarian, one with nature).

“Our hope is for students not just to engage in conversation, but to feel ownership over it as well,” Heuer explains. That sense of ownership was on display just a few days after project launch, as one enterprising student posted a self-authored prompt on the recently-cleared board, and others began almost immediately to answer.

Both student responses and suggestions for new prompts are being recorded and fed back into the growth and evolution of this organic installation. “Ultimately, we see this as a way to tap into the issues students care about,” says KIE Communications Assistant Drew Knapp. “That can also inform our planning about events and other opportunities the KIE provides for students and the community down the line.”

“Do you have a question you want to put out there? Pitch us a prompt,” says a small placard beside the board. “What should we be talking more about?” If the first few weeks are any indication, Georgetown students are eager to help set the agenda for this new stream of ethical conversation.