Keeping a journal written in performative writing, and archiving is the Counter Narrative Society’s (CNS) methodology for examining the effects of what they call the "invisible punishing machine." Their term for what they describe as the subtle, but harmful procession of mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex that they see gripping society today; they qualify this as being "science fictional," implying a sense improbability in the face of a certain reality.
CNS is an artistic-research-activist unit that has traveled from San Francisco, CA, to Boston, MA, and finally to Philadelphia, PA. In this project they are focusing in North Philadelphia's Latino community.
Mass incarceration refers to the high rate of imprisonment that is primarily affecting young people in society, especially poor blacks and Latinos living in marginalized communities. The rate of incarceration it is found as being so high that it is not only affecting the individuals but entire segments of society. And the prison industrial complex is the private businesses that have been built to meet these demands. Their motivation, since it is purely a commercial interest, is perceived as coming at the expense of the inmates in their care, and their needs to satisfy their shareholders interests. CNS, in their whimsical way, collects data to measure the impact of the affected communities of these two forces in North Philadelphia. They have mapped areas, and connected with individuals through social media and activist organizations such as the Human Right Coalition, Decarcerate PA, Historic Fairhill Burial Grounds and Taller Puertorriqueño, (in the entrance of Taller they have set up a desk where they work from on occasion and map out their progress on the wall in chalk). The collection is a difficult task but one that is personal. In the bright orange bundle that they use to carry their research in, made from a California inmate's uniform, it is the metaphysical “weight.”
People are encouraged to contact them through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are even asked to follow them on Facebook or by signing up to their newsletter. On Facebook, they keep an informal journal. As they see it, we are all affected by a system that in its efforts to punish only achieves to dehumanize and further marginalize large swaths of society. Affected by this, they are trying to come to terms with it, and make a change as they journey to find a home. It is one step they say, in a two state process of becoming.
CNS's first draft report for the first part with their video presentation is here.