Image, Code, Context: The AjA Project and Countersurveillance Activism in City Heights, San Diego


Mellon/ACLS Scholars and Society Fellowships




The AjA Project


“Smart streetlights” in San Diego were billed as a way to save energy, but they doubled as 24-hour video feeds for the police. The cameras watched over immigrant and refugee neighborhoods, like City Heights, where the AjA Project—a media arts non-profit—teaches youth to narrate their lives through participatory photography. This project researches and supports AjA’s countersurveillance initiative, which entails teaching local youth coding skills to design their own image recognition algorithms and also oral history methods to conduct community-based research. The project will not only empower the youth but also render AjA’s archive more digitally agile and contextually rich. The archive will be the basis for large public art exhibits, creative backdrops for counter-surveillance and anti-racist programming. Working with the Democracy Lab in the Communication Department at UC San Diego, the project will foster collaboration between the AjA Project and graduate students at UCSD, offering training for graduate students who are honing their creative advocacy skills.