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Tiananmen SquARed: Memorializing History with AR

Chris Cameron March 9, 2011

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the protests and uprisings that are sweeping through North Africa like wildfire. Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have all seen massive movements of civilians protesting their government, thanks in no small part to the presence and organizational power of social media.



When a dictator’s first strike against protestors is to shut off the Internet, you know that the age of the digital revolution has arrived. The social web is not just helping to fight these battles, but also to remember them.



John Craig Freeman, a digital artist and new media professor at Emerson College, has created several layers promoting social awareness and memorializing pivotal moments in history, including the 1989 Tiananmen Square “Tank Man” incident.



The morning after the Chinese government forcibly removed protestors from Tiananmen Square in Beijing, an unknown man blocked a column of Chinese tanks simply by standing in front of them. Images of the tank vs. man standoff became a well-known symbol of the struggle between the Chinese people and their government at that time.



Freeman has allowed this moment in history to live on through augmented reality. With his Tiananmen SquARed layer, visitors to Beijing can see a 3D representation of the incident appear right before their eyes.



“Although it has been more than twenty years since Tiananman Protest took place in 1989, the authority persistently uses all means erasing the facts that Chinese people pursued democracy in this democratic and anti-corruption movement,” says Freeman in the layer’s description. “History should not be forgotten.”



Freeman’s other layers include “Décharge De Rebut Toxique,” a toxic waste art installation; and “Azadi SquARed,” a digital memorial to Neda Agha-Soltan, an Iranian citizen gunned down during the 2009 Tehran protests.

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