Help to Build La Burbuja! Sonic Trace Launches Kickstarter Campaign for First-of-its-kind Storytelling Bubble

Intimacy, reflection and “border-less-ness”—those were the aspirations for the sound booth design competition that Localore’s Sonic Trace team conducted with KCRW design show DnA last month. The winning entry—La Burbuja (the bubble)—delivered with its mix of gorgeous simplicity and cutting-edge fabrication. Now, the Sonic Trace team has launched a Kickstarter campaign to support designers Hugo Martinez and Christin To in bringing the booth to life—and they need your help.

Watch the video above to learn more, and then:

  • Kick in: The project will only be funded if the $5000 goal is met by Thursday August 23 at 9:00 EDT. So please give today!
  • Get the word out: Kickstarter campaigns thrive on word of mouth, so tell your fellow makers, your family, your funders and anyone you know in LA—or around the world—who cares about radio, design, or inventive reporting strategies.
  • Join the party: Live in LA? Be among the first to record your story in the booth at the August 9 Sonic Trace launch event.

Support Innovative Cross-Border Storytelling

Once it’s built, La Burbuja will travel with the Sonic Trace team all over the city—to churches, food fairs and schools, rock, jazz and cumbia concerts, the park, the coffee shop, tamale hot spots, food trucks and beyond.

Inside the cozy soundproof bubble, Sonic Trace producers Anayansi Diaz-Cortes and Eric Pearse Chavez will ask LA residents three incisive questions about their immigrant experience:

  • ¿Por qué te vas? Why do you go?
  • ¿Por qué te quedas? Why do you stay?
  • ¿Por qué regresas? And, what makes you return?

These interviews will mirror the team’s crossover reporting in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatamala and Honduras—tracing the stories of people and communities who travel back and forth ever more fluidly across the border, redefining their notions of home. Sonic Trace explores how the ease of communication afforded by always-on digital and mobile networks can strengthen ties to tradition, build bonds across generations, and soften pressures to assimilate.

LuisSonic Trace’s coverage of the contested Mexican election reveals the team’s inventive storygathering approach. In the US, the producers led youth reporter Luis—an undocumented junior at Animo South LA High School—in an investigation of how the election might affect him.

On the blog for KCRW’s Which Way, LA? Diaz-Cortes explains:

We worked with Luis for three weeks interviewing political scientists, lawyers, campaign organizers and academics—people who know policy, but rarely talk policy to people like Luis. In a sense, we felt that we needed to break down the Mexican election for an American audience. But we also knew that if experts, political scientists and policy makers didn’t  start to redefine their audience, teens like Luis would continue to fall through the cracks on both sides of the border.

Risky and surprising, the piece offered the chance to launch a conversation on To The Point, KCRW’s national show hosted by Warren Olney. Listeners responded enthusiastically to the station’s experiment of inserting a documentary segment into the show’s usual roundtable format, which fed a lively discussion about the election.  

Luis’ story also caught the attention of producers of PRI’s The World, which ran a standalone version in late June that Diaz-Cortes recommends for listeners coming fresh to the story. A follow-up piece for Which Way, LA? recaps the lessons that Luis learned while reporting.

Meanwhile, in Oaxaca, Diaz-Cortes reported live from tiny Santa Maria Tavehua on election day. Sonic Trace has been documenting this indigenous Zapotec community from both sides of the border—roughly half of the town’s residents have moved to LA, and deep cultural traditions bind members of that South Central community back to their hometown.

The team is now working on a series of stories about these shared roots, culminating in coverage of a town festival that both communities celebrate in August. The series will also feed into an interactive map that Sonic Trace is building with Zeega and Columbia University’s Spatial Information Design Lab to illustrate the links between stories of there and here. At right is an early mock-up of how the map might work.

Early mockup of Sonic Trace siteOne challenge of pursuing cutting-edge mapping projects, however, is that detailed digital maps don’t yet exist for some regions. So, along with her recorder and camera, Diaz-Cortes brought an iPhone app, MotionX-GPS, that allowed her to trace and transmit her path through the town. The geospatial data that she collected will allow developers to pinpoint exactly where Sonic Trace stories originate.

A Project that Sparks Passion

Sonic Trace producers have run with AIR’s Localore challenge to “go outside”—to multiply public stations’ capacity to invent both digital and face-to-face strategies for engaging fresh audiences. This combination of high-tech and high-touch storytelling is also proving compelling to collaborators.

Take La Burbuja’s designer, Martinez, who was captivated when he heard of the sound booth design challenge. Here’s what he wrote to the team:

Hugo building La BurbujaYo soy Hugo Martinez, y soy un inmigrante.I immigrated to this country illegally at the age of twelve from Michoacan, Mexico. Now I am 33 years old and when presented with these questions ¿Por qué te fuiste? ¿Por qué te quedaste? ¿Por qué regresaste?  I reflect on them at a very personal level and ask myself how I got to the present stage of my life. I think of my trajectory from the point of view of an immigrant. All the life experiences that have shaped me to who I am now, as well as how I evolved in this country. I think of all that was gained and what was lost along the way while trying to make a dream a reality.

...I am a builder. I am an Architect. Along with my design partner Christin To, also an architect, a designer and an immigrant from a Chinese and German background I am ecstatic to become intimately involved in this project that has fused into our future. Contributing to the diversity of whom we are as immigrants striving to succeed in what has become our new home.

Because of his passion for the project, Martinez has already begun working night and day to construct the storytelling bubble so it will be ready in time for the Sonic Trace launch party. The Kickstarter campaign will help pay him back, and if it takes off, help make the booth even better. Kick in today!

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