About this project
We made it! Thanks to all the support from you fine folks out there putting so much faith in us this early in the project. This has truly been a community effort. We're set to hit the road with our mobile production studio as soon as we finish producing our two initial stories in Asheville. Of course, we still have time to raise more to take this project to the next level. So keep spreading the word.
We are two journalists spending the next year crossing America on bicycles, seeking out creative and inspiring means of reclaiming local culture and rebuilding local economy. Among communities we are documenting are an off-the-grid eco-village in Tennessee, squats in the rubble of New Orleans, a ghost town reclaimed by artists in New Mexico, and a retrofit co-housing project in the bicycle friendly city of Davis, California. We are presently in Asheville, North Carolina, volunteering time and sweat at a bicycle cooperative, building our rides from recycled parts. Using a rack-mounted solar panel, we will be able to work in even the most remote locations.
This is an independently funded project and we are working with communities we document to secure housing and food. We are now seeking support from the Internet community to bring the journey to the world. We will make live updates on an interactive website that lets people feel they are with us, discovering this side of America through video, audio, music, photography, and writing. We want to move past the paradigm of endless backlog that confines most blogs and create a stimulating visual environment where the journey is represented on-screen and related content is intuitively connected. In short, we want to bring you along for the ride.
Here is a short proposal laying out our motivations:
The Second World War left the majority of the industrialized world in rubble, opening an economic vacuum that the United States quickly filled. Working with a vast canvas and seemingly limitless resources, much of the country's post-war wealth was spent giving birth to new interpretation of The American Dream, romanticized through the sterile yet secure cliché of the white picket fence. The suburbs offered space and safety to a country exhausted after the Great Depression and devastating war, but the long-term financial, cultural, and environmental costs were not yet widely understood.
As The United States began to suburbanize on a large scale, it saw reactionary movements by Americans who had no taste for new kitchen appliances, hour-long commutes, and never-ending strip malls. The culture first felt this on a large scale in the late '60s and early '70s, when droves of middle-class Americans made efforts to reconnect to the earth and to each other. This profound unease with the modern cultural and geographic landscape of the country culminated in radical attempts to live locally and autonomously, often in remote communities where food was grown, resources and space were shared, and reliance on modern technology was minimized. Since this cultural break, attempts to reclaim community and autonomy have taken on many diverse and innovative forms.
Over sixty years after the war, more than half of Americans live in suburban developments, relying on an increasingly fragile infrastructure for even the most basic necessities of life. With an increasing awareness of the problems such lifestyles present, 'green' living is gaining considerable traction. What began as disparate fringe movements has moved into the spotlight of American culture, with much of the country searching for less destructive ways of relating to the Earth.
Traveling by bicycle from east to west coast, we are documenting innovative approaches to rethinking economy and community that resonate with this burgeoning shift in the country's cultural landscape. We will make multimedia updates on our interactive website from the road.
The logistics of developing infrastructure is of great importance to those searching for solutions to the problems of modern development, but journalists and filmmakers alike have widely explored these top-down angles. We will focus on the more intimate side of the issues, highlighting the social, spiritual, and psychological effects people experience from scaling down, re-localizing, and reconnecting to the Earth and to their communities. The loss of the independence and do-it-yourself attitude that came to define the American identity has left many yearning for a more austere, authentic, and self-directed life. The backbone of the project will be people's personal transformation as they rediscover local culture and rebuild local economy.
We are taking several measures to keep our methodology in line with the project's mission. We built our bikes from recycled parts at a volunteer-run bicycle cooperative in Asheville and documented the process and the people involved. Our video, audio, and editing equipment will be powered on the road by a mounted solar panel, so we can work and update in real-time from even the most remote locations without relying on coal or fossil fuels. We are securing much of our food and lodging by working with the communities we document, ensuring greater trust and a more intimate dialogue. The journey itself will thus be emblematic of the stories we will be telling, demonstrating that quality journalism can be done with a community-driven, environmentally conscious approach.
Our website, currently under development, will illustrate the path we've taken through a visually stimulating interface. As the user mouses over points on the map, they will expand to thumbnails linking to video, audio, photography, and writing. The interface will also facilitate an intuitive feedback system so viewers can communicate directly with us and with each other. The audience response will thus shape the narrative of the story and transform the website appropriately. We will also feature links to relevant resources for those looking to implement ideas explored by the project in their own communities.
The first two stories are currently in post-production, and will go online with a beta version of the website by the end of August. After the trip is complete, we will use the content to produce a book, a photo exhibition, and a full-length documentary. Each medium will approach the project from different angles, portraying a side of the country that remains invisible to most of the world but is still uniquely American.
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