How Do You See The Disappeared? A Warm Database was launched in December 2004 as the second stage of an ongoing, open-ended, collaborative project on disappearance, initiated in response to the drastic increase in detentions and deportations of immigrants after 9/11. For the web-based stage of the project, we identified a new strategy: to create alternative systems for collecting stories from the immigrants whose lives as individuals are lost in the abstractions of legalities and headlines, and to develop from those stories new terms and languages through which the issues of the immigration debate can be framed. The Warm Database designed for Turbulence serves three purposes: as an annotated guide for the uninitiated to and through the mountains of documents that surround detention, deportation and immigrants' rights; as a resource for and call to action; and as the starting point of a data collection project intended to span multiple communities and languages. In this web-based phase of the project, the collection process takes the form of a warm data questionnaire that anyone who has been affected by detention and deportation is invited to fill out (a solidarity version is also provided). This warm data questionnaire is designed to be voluntary, anonymous, and public: diametrically opposed to the questions asked during government processes like special registration, and to elicit data that will be the opposite of the cold, hard facts held in classified files. Some of the questions we asked ourselves while designing the database: What describes you but could never be held against you in a court of law? What would be the right questions to ask to know you without knowing your name? The questionnaire responses collected over the past few years now form part of a physical archive of disappearance, which travels from site to site under the name Index of the Disappeared.
How Do You See the Disappeared? A Warm Database was conceived and designed by Mariam Ghani, and produced in consultation with immigrant activists and advocates as well as in collaboration with Rob Durbin, Ed Potter and Chitra Ganesh. The website was a 2004 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc., (aka Ether-Ore) for its Turbulence web site. It was made possible with funding from the Jerome Foundation and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Work on the project was also supported by residencies at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Eyebeam Atelier, and the MFA Computer Arts Department of the School of Visual Arts.