Cherry Bomb

Alyssa Wright's Cherry Blossoms project is a sobering piece of mobile protest art.

Most Americans have a keen sense of how many American soldiers have died in Iraq. Far fewer know the war's toll on Iraqi civilians. As one poll recently found, Americans believe Iraqi deaths number 10,000, while estimates put the real figure at least 10 times higher. This disconnection inspired Alyssa Wright, a graduate student at MIT's Media Lab, to envision Cherry Blossoms, a sobering piece of mobile protest art.Its two basic components are a backpack-fitted with two confetti cannons-and a GPS unit linked to a map of Boston, which has been overlaid with casualty data from Baghdad. When Wright, wearing the backpack, steps into a Boston location that corresponds to a Baghdad fatality, the confetti cannons fire, scattering thousands of paper scraps inscribed with the names of slain Iraqis. Reactions have varied: baffled onlookers have groused that she's a litterbug, while others have challenged her to on-the-spot debates. As Wright explains it, "Technology often upgrades us physically. This is about upgrading our empathy."LEARN of Alyssa Wright