Current events are packaged, distributed, and consumed so fast that there's little space to think about what's happening, and less still to act. But 2011 saw people take what was on the front page of The New York Times and trending on Twitter, and launch it on Kickstarter.
Some projects documented events as they happened. When NASA announced the end of its shuttle program a team of photographers, cinematographers, and artists recorded it all while others turned it into video art. The Occupy Wall Street Journal, Occupy Boston Globe, and Occupy! chronicled Occupy Wall Street. Citizen journalism launched from Libya and Tunisia.
Alison Klayman’s documentary about the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei mirrored headlines. When Weiwei was imprisoned by Chinese police in April, Klayman broke the news to backers with word from his camp. In May, she discussed him on the Colbert Report.
Others creatively addressed crises head-on. In the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake, scientists and technologists created a Radiation Detection Hardware Network to publicly measure and report data in real-time. In the wake of the BP oil spill, a group of naval architects developed plans for wind-powered, sailing robot drones called Protei to skim oil from open water.
Not all hashtags were highbrow. When a new version of Huckleberry Finn was announced that would edit the "n-word" to "slave," two comedians published a book to replace it with “robot.” When a random tweet to Detroit’s mayor asking for a RoboCop statue went viral, backers kicked in $70,000 to actually do it.
The backers and creators of these projects didn’t just respond to the news of the day. They helped create it.