No Evil Project: A Fresh Look at Identity and Labels
Although Troy Thompson ’95 took a distinctly circuitous route from his biomedical engineering studies to founding the No
Evil Project and running his own design and photography company, it’s a journey he values dearly.
A self-proclaimed introvert, Thompson credits the university with inspiring him to make a positive impact on the world. “There are many aspects of WPI that shaped my life, from meeting extroverts my first year that clawed me out of my shell, to gaining the valuable life-skill of learning how to learn in an ever-changing world.” says Thompson.
One of the most impactful experiences, however, was doing my Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) in France and learning how to live while conducting inter-disciplinary research in a foreign country with a foreign language.” Reflecting on his IQP experience, Thompson offers that being uncomfortable in your surroundings encourages you to build skills and character. He explains how his IQP gave him important perspective; showing him people, processes, and philosophies are not universal and in fact are quite different around the world. Thompson’s IQP left him inspired to help bridge gaps between and among people.
Throughout Thompson’s career he has used this important part of his WPI education to design web interfaces that are easy to use by different types of people. “WPI’s emphasis on being a technological humanist was always very important to me. And today most of my clients are nonprofit organizations. I enjoy using my technological skills to help them in their missions to improve the world.”
Explaining the impetus for creating the No Evil Project, Thompson shares, “Being white in an interracial marriage and raising a multiracial child, I wanted to help create a better world for my daughter to grow up in. So I used my technical skills along with art, humor, and sociology to encourage conversation rather than confrontation to challenge stereotypes and to gain understanding despite differences. My goal is to help people with diverse ideas and experiences learn about their differences, find their commonality, and build community.”
“The No Evil Project engages participants who are as diverse as possible in cultural, socio-economic, religious, racial, gender, physical and mental health, occupational, political, and ethnic differences. We hold photo shoots at various community events like cultural festivals, pride festivals, and tattoo festivals, and we have worked with organizations ranging from schools to senior centers. At the events we photograph people as See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil, and provide a list of self-identifying labels participants can choose from to attach to their photographs. We encourage participants to disclose information at a level they’re comfortable with, and we also encourage them to add new labels if needed to more accurately self-identify. Lastly, we ask participants to share a personal good deed so project visitors can see the good in everyone.” says Thompson.
“Participating in the project encourages people to explore their own labels, biases, and stereotypes without the defensiveness those topics traditionally cause. I believe viewing the photos and good deeds of others humanizes those labels we may not relate to, helps us find similarities with others that seem so different, challenges our assumptions, and starts constructive conversations.” says Thompson.
To learn more about the No Evil Project please visit: www.noevilproject.org