Archive for the ‘ICTtools’ Category

Conservation drones

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Repurposing the tools of the hobbyist and, later, the war machine for conservation: the conservation drone.

Note: flying drones is no trivial matter. Often you need professional pilots to obtain good images.

Galaxy Beam

Friday, March 2nd, 2012


What’s next… phasers?

blame it on the internets

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

CITES argues the the Internet has led to huge destruction in habitat and loss of rare species. Namely, the Internet has allowed for a revolution in the way that wildlife is (illegally) traded, to the detriment of species.

Trade on the Web poses “one of the biggest challenges facing CITES,” said Paul Todd, a campaign manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

“The Internet is becoming the dominant factor overall in the global trade in protected species,” he said. “There will come a time when country to country trade of large shipments between big buyers and big sellers in different countries is a thing of the past.”

Of course, this ignores the huge benefits that a global medium has in communicating environmental problems and allowing for social mobilization. We might not even know about the problems facing the Kaiser’s spotted newt were it not for the Internet. A small community in the developing may not be able to work together with other impacted communities or gain support from international non-governmental organizations were it not for the Internet. Still it points to the two-edged sword of the new media and the fact that media are not simply transparent communication tools.

Performance Art: Subversion, Activism and GPS

Friday, November 14th, 2008

From a student in our Intro to GIS course:

In 2007 three artists living in the country of Slovenia officially changed their name to Janez Janša. Janez Janša is the name of the country’s Prime Minister, a right wing politician who is hostile towards any opposition. On January 28th 2008, the group performed Signature Event Context’s as part of transmediale 08, a Berlin festival that focuses on the digital arts. The performance took place at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. During the event, each of the artists was equipped with a GPS device, and walked through the memorial while repeating the mantra “Jaz sem Janez Janša, Jaz sem Janez Janša, Jaz sem Janez Janša…” (My name is Janez Janša”).

The performance is available online. Since it would be hard to decipher the movements live, video on the webpage offers a planimetric view of the event. First, it locates the site with a “polygon of action” that is supplemented with longitude and latitude locations. With the aid of video cameras, GPS receivers, and Google Earth we can trace the artists’ paths through the memorial. Each artists’ path is highlighted in green. The final result is a signature, the trace of the creators, the name “Janez Janša”.

The title of the event comes from Jacques Derrida’s essay “Signature Event Context.” The group posts this quote on their website to explain their performance:

By definition, a written signature implies the actual or empirical nonpresence of the signer. But, it will be said, it also marks and retains his having-been present in a past now, which will remain a future now, and therefore in a now, in general, in the transcendental form of nowness (maintenance). This general maintenance is somehow inscribed, stapled to the present punctuality, always evident and always singular, in the form of the signature. This is the enigmatic originality of every paraph. For the attachment to the source to occur, the absolute singularity of an event of the signature and of a form of the signature must be retained: the pure reproducibility of a pure event.(Jacques Derrida, “Signature Event Context” in Margins of Philosophy, tr. Alan Bass, pp. 307-330)

The group claims that the memorial event puts together three concepts (signature, event and context), which “re-contextualizes the site of signature.”

In relation to their name change and the site of the performance, the meaning of the event is complex. Memorials are supposed to engage each individual in the act of remembering. What happens when three artists collectively sign their name at such a significant place? How and where is the original Janez Janša implied? What meaning are Internet viewers supposed to draw? Our own interpretation of the work is mediated by technology. Antonio Caronia notes that in this case, technology has the semiotic function, because the realization of the concept of identity (the signature) is closely related to the virtual world. In effect, the performance of the three Janez Janšas “places in doubt the basis of everyone’s social and individual identity and wants to deeply investigate on the social conventions that constitute and decode it, aiming at unearthing those processes which lie on the border between mind and society.”

Notes from the Where 2.0 conference

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

I’m currently at Where 2.0 2008, where neogeographer entrepreneurs meet We 2.0 and I’ll post interesting talks, links as they come up.

Jack Dangermond of ESRI mentioned a cool application, which is a joint venture between The Nature Conservancy and U Washington that shows impacts on habitats and species over time as temperature increases and precipitation patterns change.

While I look for the site, take a look at Big Ideas in Conservation: Harnessing IT.

bike couriers as sensors

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Bike couriers as human sensors to track air pollution:

Cellphones used by bicycle couriers are monitoring air pollution in Cambridge, UK, and beaming the data back to a research lab.

The technique is made possible by small wireless pollution sensors and custom software that allows the phones to report levels of air pollutants wherever they happen to be around town.

The information can be mapped so that it can be viewed by the general public (and other bike messengers, who are on the front line of this exposure).

What is interesting is the multiplicity of possible applications for these mobile sensors (e.g., the use for noise sensing). I look forward to their discussion of interpolation techniques to maximizes this non-randomized data input.

fascinating phones, the real diversity

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Fritjof Capra, author of “The Web of Life” and, more famously, “The Tao of Physics”, gave a course Feb. 22-24 in Dehradun, Uttranchal State, India. It explored the dimensions of a new, emerging sustainability science based on ecological design… but I won’t go too deep into that here.

The site chosen was Navdanya, and organic ‘conservation’ farm that functions as a living seed bank – that is, the crops are not locked away, but actively cultivated. Vandana Shiva named the many pure varieties we ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (incidentally, Carlo Petrini was among the 30-odd participants as well).

So, if you ever get your hands on amaranth, I recommend you sauté it and fold it with honey.

But I digress. The sweetest part of the course was the bike ride through the neighboring villages I took during our afternoon siesta. I could not sleep or chat or read, and there was a clunker of a bike with my name on it. I made friends with Babalu, the go-to-guy on the farm with all the keys, and I rolled down to the ‘main road’ for a long ride.

Let me tell you what I saw:

  • A 600 litre water tank on wheels (portable but not potable) with a tropical sunset scene done in acrylics that graced the front. A cellphone icon and not 1 but 2 cellular numbers were painted on as well.
  • One boy biking on the other side of the street whistled, “Hallo,” which is not uncommon, except he was talking into an microphone wire on his red-dirt shirt.
  • The rental wedding band taking a break by the side of the road. Their marching band attire includes large red ankle bands and vests, on which the cellular number for the dispatcher was embroidered in gold thread.
  • 3-wheeled scooter taxis, AKA autorickshaws, seldom have mobile phones. However, the passenger in one was handing his phone to the driver-wallah so the person on the other end could discuss with him appropriate directions.*
  • Mechanics using mobile phones with white LED lights embedded in the front to see into a motorcycle engine. The Nokia 1100 and 1200 models, which have these mini-flashlights built in, are among the most popular model of phone sold in India and Africa, I’ve been told. My friend uses one to manuever his keys in his front door at night.
  • Many people sitting around, drinking tea, walking, biking, etc. while holding their mobile phone as it plays loud Hindustani music from a non-toll-free number.
  • It goes without saying that the course was excellent, enjoyable, enriching, etc., but it was all very abstract – Dr. Capra is a systems theorist and physicist by training. What was much more apparent was how low-cost mobile phones are facilitating a different, digital web of life. The implications for ‘sustainability’ are large though hard to define from a cursory village cruise on a bike, but are certainly food for thought.

    * This deserves an elaboration: the strategy of calling someone fluent in Hindi at or near your destination has been the salvation of many an expatriate, myself included. Often, the driver or you will have to figure out the route by landmarks. If you are lucky, a shopkeeper or passerby in the neighborhood can direct you once you get close. But – if you and the driver are lost, or you can’t remember the name of this or that street, temple, etc., or your rudimentary Hindi is inadequate for describing the particular location, a mobile phone can leapfrog these problems, saving time, money, and frustration.