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What the 2016 Election Merch Looks Like Powered By Twitter Trolls

A data analyst/artist uses social media feedback to produce slighted campaign merchandise for presidential candidates.

A box filled with buttons from the campaigns of current and former presidential candidates is not entirely what it seems. Each button that supports a candidate, is in fact, a remixed version of the original message.The Brooklyn-based programmer, Roopa Vasudevan, has spent the current election cycle culling massages from the Twittersphere to off-color Facebook comments. Described as a “data collection project designed to dig deeper into the true political desires of the voting population,” Vasudevan's #bellwether focuses in on the publicy-shared opinions of the politically contentious swing state, Ohio.

Campaign merchandise is often a canned presentation, easily replicated based on boilerplate templates and iterations of the patriotic reds, whites, and blues. Now, social media has a platform to sound off in a slew of physically-produced merchandise. Bold-faced, sans serif fonts scream blunt catchphrases like “Trump is Horrible,” “Jeb! Is Low Energy,” or Hillary Clinton’s arrow logo contains the words “Marginally Better.” Slogans are sprawled across a variety of swag—bumper stickers, lawn signs, and t-shirts.

Vasudevan shares with The Creators Project the technical side of mining troves of data to form her subversive art. Sh says, “I wrote a computer program that attempted to collect every tweet [...] mentioning one of the candidates by name, and then used the tweets coming from or referencing Ohio as a corpus to examine with a variety of algorithmic language analyses. The timeline exhibited in the gallery contains doctored campaign merchandise, designed to reflect Ohio voter opinion instead of the heavily curated messages presented by the campaigns themselves."

See some of the recalibrated merchandise below:

#bellwether is a commissioned series from SPACES, a resource and public forum catering to artists located in Cleveland, Ohio. The series runs until July 29, based on the artist's residency. Find more about exhibit and the venue, here.

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