Broadcast Generation 6 is the latest student-generated exhibit presented through a collaboration between the Program for Writing & Rhetoric and the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries. The Broadcast Generation series began in 2014 as an exercise in 21st-century literacy. Students author text and create graphic content, which are combined to make compelling statements related to the exhibit themes.
Students have curated the exhibit since the third iteration of the series (2016). Each successive class of students has offered new parameters for the questions which concern their generation and new approaches to their expression of these questions. The result is an ever-evolving kind of generational sounding that speaks to, and through, the intersection of media, sociality and existential identity. This year’s Broadcast Generation 6 exhibit originally paired the themes of anxiety and intimacy. These reflect opposing and complimentary poles in the context of social media and self-identity, especially as anxiety and intimacy relate to post-millennial generations.
For the current exhibit, students used Bitmojis. These are a brand-specific form of emoji that are personalized to the user. Emoji is Japanese for “picture-character”. The most ubiquitous emoji is the smiley face. Bitmojis allow individuals to create and deploy individualized emoji, with the individual as the central avatar. Messages may be sent with accompanying text to emotionally nuance the message, or used independently of any text all. Bitmoji embodied a further challenge from the instructor to students for this iteration of Broadcast Generation: How would Writing and Rhetoric students express the themes of intimacy and anxiety in the contemporary medium of Bitmoji?
The global pandemic of 2020 has recast and intensified the themes of this exhibit. Contrary to the human need to draw close to one another in times of crisis, concern for the other is now expressed by, and across, self-imposed distance. At eight p.m. sharp each night, Coloradans howl for five minutes across neighborhoods as a form of contact, anguish and even defiance. This exhibit invites the viewer to contemplate its themes of intimacy and anxiety within and beyond the current historical situation and to find, even within the apparent contradictions, a life-affirming solidarity.