Last night thanks to the ASU Desert Initiative, Greg Esser, and Kim Stringfellow we held a launch party at the CB1 Gallery in downtown Los Angeles for the new Arid Journal hosted on our SMW server in partnership with our Art & Ecology program. Kim’s fantastic photography and design in conjunction with Greg and the rest of the editorial board’s great ideas attracted a pretty decent crowd to venture out to the funky side of downtown LA from the futuristic convention center area where everyone was attending the College Art Association Conference. Since it was the last day of the conference (I presented on a sustainability panel that afternoon), we were all eager to unwind a bit and brainstorm future projects. Submissions for the first issue of this online multimedia journal will begin April 1st with a deadline of June 1st, and proposals related to desert environments are welcome from anywhere around the world.
Tanzanian farmer Mama Rehema Maganga using a smartphone to interview Mr. Hamisi Rajabu. Photo: Sauti ya wakulima
A current researcher in my doctoral program, Z-node, is Mexican artist and mobile phone developer Eugenio Tisselli. Eugenio’s latest project is Sauti ya wakulima (The voice of the farmers in Swahili), a smartphone communication system for farmers in Tanzania. Eugenio has written a ‘mobile message’ about this project for National Geographic where he says:
On January 2011, my colleagues and I traveled to Tanzania to conduct a series of interviews with farmers living near Bagamoyo, with the purpose of engaging them in the creation of a collaborative knowledge base about the effects of climate change, using smartphones as tools for observation and a web page to gather the recorded images and sounds. My mind was full of questions at that time. Was it technically possible? Did the farmers know about smartphones and the Internet? And, most importantly, would they be willing to get involved?
Although most if not all of the farmers Eugenio was working with had never even opened a browser because Internet connections are so rare in these remote areas of Tanzania, they were enthusiastic about using smartphones to upload images and texts. Eugenio continues:
The farmers at Chambezi not only struggle because of insufficient infrastructure and unreliable markets for their products, but also face challenges such as changing rain patterns, drought, scarcity of underground water and new pests and plant diseases. However, they know that by sharing their knowledge on how to cope with these problems they can find ways to overcome them. They also hope that, by communicating their observations to extension officers and researchers, they can participate in the design of new strategies for adaptation.
Eugenio from http://www.libroflotante.net/autores.htm
Sauti ya wakulima logo
Follow the twitter feed here:
Watch video and support the project on Goteo.org
I spent the weekend with Simon Whetham, a UK-based sound recordist, performer and model-maker who is spending the year of 2012 traveling the world listening for interesting sounds. You can hear some of his work here http://simonwhetham.co.uk/ and follow his travels here http://simonwhethamtravels2012.blogspot.com/. We visited Chaco Canyon and Navajo country, and Simon used his hydrophones to record beneath the surface of the San Juan River and Jackson Lake. He’s performing tonight in Austin where the audience may (or may not!) hear some of these sounds.
I’ve been traveling through Navajo Nation with my collaborators Esther Belin and Venaya Yazzie to find two locations for our public art and media project: Yádíłhił ‘béé’as’łló (Bound Sky). This artwork will take audiences on an audio journey through the area to two lookout points along the roadside. These points, in addition to serving as resting places for people experiencing the work, will also provide comfort to the many hitchhikers and independent merchants who use these spaces.
I’ve been traveling through the Navajo Nation for the past two days doing research for a public art project, and during this time connected with my friend and fellow artist Teri Rueb and she introduced me to her collaborator, Navajo archaeologist and artist Carmelita Topaha. Yesterday Carmeilita generously took the time to show us some sacred places here including Fort Defiance, Window Rock and an incredible drive over the mountains through Crystal.
Carmelita and Teri at Fort Defiance, the place from which over 9000 Navajos were forced to leave on a long journey to Fort Sumner and permanently relocated. At Defiance, Carmelita shared some of the stories of her ancestors on the long walk that she was told as a child.
Carmelita is the granddaughter of Hosteen Klah, a famous Navajo medicine man. Frances Newcomb worked extensively with Klah in the 60′s and 70′s and published some of his stories in many books including Hosteen Klah: Navaho Medicine Man and Sand Painter. Because of Newcomb’s relationship with Klah, there is a place in Navajo Nation called Newcomb, and this is where Carmelita is from originally, although she spent many years in California and across the Southwest.
Carmelita and others told me about the political and bureaucratic difficulties and complexities of the reservation structure from a Navajo perspective. For example, she said that the Tribal Councils that were put in place by the US government to allow more effective communication between the two sovereign nations creates conflicts because the council forces a Western linear thinking, while the Navajo way of thinking is non-linear. Some also say the councils were put in place to make it easier for the US government to exploit native mineral and other resources.
While we were headed back to Farmington from Window Rock, we noticed the glowing lights of the APS and 4 Corners power plants in the distance and observed the ever-present plumes from the smoke stacks as they drifted to the South. So, we decided to try to get close and found ourselves almost inside the APS power plant. The plant seemed deserted yet was alive with churning and pumping sound and smoke. These plants will become a subject of the public work I will create in collaboration with Navajo artists Venaya Yazzie and Esther Belin.
I’ve been taking the opportunity over the break to look through the over-1500 proposals for ISEA2012 online. Although it is exciting to see all the great ideas, I’ve been feeling that perhaps I’ve been spending a dangerous amount of time on the Internet. You say: ‘Internet dangerous? Nah!’, but actually there have been several reports of death from the Internet.
Most reports are coming from China and other places in Asia and involve men in their 20′s and 30′s playing MMO games continuously to exhaustion. Most recent is this BBC report from February, but also this one of two reports from 2007 and this from 2004. Since many of these games can provide financial payoffs, murder and kidnapping in relation to Internet gaming has also been reported, see this article for stories from China and Brazil.
Gamasutra has a great article from 2006 about the science behind Internet addiction including a link to this quiz to determine your level of addiction (but what if you are addicted to online quizzes…?)
In all seriousness, how have governments responded to this scourge of Internet-caused deaths? Not well, unfortunately. In China in 2007 troubled teens whose “souls are gone to the online world” were apparently being given shock treatment and a variety of actions to limit Internet use and rid the Internet of “unhealthy” content has been a platform for Communist Party doctrine in China for several years. A somewhat interesting technological approach has been designing games so that after a certain number of time points simply decrease, see this article for more information.
On a healthier note, some more recent initiatives have involved camps and retreats to treat Internet addiction like this one in South Korea that gets kids out into the world hiking and biking. Sounds like a good idea, I think I’m going to head out for a bike ride right now!
My artist friend Tim Dye just sent me information about his latest project ChaserTracer. Tim is the Senior Vice President/Division Manager of Meteorological Programs and Public Outreach for Sonoma Technology and provided lots of support for Particle Falls and other projects.
Like me, Tim is a fan of storm chasing (but unlike me, I think he has actually done it himself…I’d love to hear a tornado at close range or hurricane from a plane but haven’t had the opportunity yet). Tim gives some detailed technical information on his webpage about the project, he says:
I created ChaserTracer to show a different side of storm chasing. Not the over-hyped chaser TV show version with the heavily edited micro-view of storm chasing; instead, I wanted to create an eye-in-the-sky view of how chasers chase. You can see some interesting behavior as chasers swarm, disperse, and migrate.
British artist, activist, founder of irational.org and urban climber Heath Bunting is presenting his project ‘Woman’ as part of the Tracing Mobility exhibition in Berlin this season. I had the pleasure of exploring the outskirts of Brussels with Heath a few years ago and learning about his work examining the edges of contemporary identity and urban mobility.
Image by Heath Bunting
‘Woman’ constructs an ‘identifiable being’ out of bits and pieces of data (like an identifiable mailing address, credit cards, etc.) as a way of creating virtual mobility through a new legal identity. One of his workshop descriptions explains:
Financial and environmental chaos will require flexibility and mobility to survive. Don’t die for the luxury and comfort of the socia-pathic rich! Acquire some solid assets, a weapon and an exit strategy. Disappearance requires good negotiating skills, strong social network and multiple identities. To help with your escape we can provide you with some useful maps and a new off-the-shelf identity with British nationality. Our workshop provided a building ground to create or obtain a new legal persona and plan an escape route. Don’t be content with rioting and looting, its time to really get even!
Creating these identities also allows him to create maps like this one showing a web of this ‘Woman’ in society:
His own data self-portrait can be seen here: http://status.irational.org/visualisation/portraits/self_portrait_of_heath_bunting.pdf
Students of Szu Han Ho’s Intro to Art and Ecology class visited the Sevilleta LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) site with LTER director and UNM Biology faculty member Scott Collins. I tagged along to see what kind of data monitoring is happening in this over 200,000 acre rift valley.
A robotically-controlled plot that is part of a major experiment on changing climate conditions in the valley. This project collects millions of data points to try to determine the impacts of expected warming on biodiversity.
Students of the Open Source/Open Culture class hosted Open Source Day at the Student Union Building at UNM with a series of presentations, workshops and demonstrations highlighting the impacts of open source and open access on disciplines across campus. See http://opencommon.wordpress.com/ for video of presentations.