evolving ecological media culture(s)

From radical gardening to locative media


What do the two have in common?

Our class project, Seedbomb Burlington, will involve organizing and carrying out a series of events/actions taking place in the landscape of Burlington, Vermont. It will also be a media event.

The initial actions will be two workshops that will take place on and around Earth Day 2013. But these should be considered as part of a much longer process: a process of remapping, re-seeding, re-wilding, reclaiming. A reoccupation of the city by the earth.

I’ve assembled an archive of readings on various topics related to the project including radical gardening (a.k.a. guerrilla gardening), locative media and place-based ubiquitous computing (including various forms of “monitorial citizenship,” location-based media arts, et al.), and a series of case studies of projects, groups, and organizations involved at the interface of art, ecology, media/technology, and land use. Some of the latter are involved in “re-naturalization” and other forms of radical, guerrilla, or just ecologically sane forms of organic intervention into urban landscapes. Others are developing software and apps for learning, activism, or entertainment, with a locative and/or place-based focus. Still others have a more clearly politically, economically, or ecologically critical/radical agenda.

Some of these articles are shared here; others have been made available directly to students in the class (they aren’t open-access).

Links to related resources can be added in the comments below.



I. Radical Gardening

1. George McKay, Radical Gardening: Politics, Idealism, and Rebellion in the Garden (Frances Lincoln, 2011). Read the Introduction, “The ‘Plot’ of Radical Gardening,” and see more parts of the book here.

2. “Cultivating Hope: The Community Gardens of New York City,” from Notes from Nowhere, We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anticapitalism (London: Verso, 2003), pp. 134-139. (PDF available on book’s web site.)

3. “Guerrilla Gardening,” from Notes From Nowhere, We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anticapitalism (London: Verso, 2003), pp. 150-1.  (See above.)

4. Peter Lamborn Wilson, “Avant Gardening,” from P. L. Wilson and Bill Weinberg, ed., Avant Gardening: Ecological Struggle in the City and the World (NYC: Autonomedia, 1999).

II. Locative media and ubiquitous computing

1. M. Crang and S. Graham, “Sentient Cities: Ambient Intelligence and the Politics of Urban Space,” Information, Communication & Society 10. 6 (2007): 789-817.

2. Drew Hemment, “Locative Arts,” Leonardo 39.4 (2006), 348-355.

3. Sha Xin Wei and Maja Kuzmanovic, “Sustainable Arenas for Weedy Sociality: Distributed Wilderness,” DIAC 2002 paper, available at www. sponge.org.

4. Michael Salmond, “The Power of Momentary Communities: Locative Media and (In)formal Protest,” Aether: Journal of Media Geography (2010) 90-100. Available here.

3c. Jillian Hamilton, “Ourplace: The Convergence of Locative Media and Online Participatory Culture,” OZCHI 2009 Proceedings.

Note: The Crang and Graham piece can be considered the key reading here. The others are among many you can find on the topic online. See also the Center for Locative Media.

III. Case studies

Center for Land Use Interpretation

1. Ralph Rugoff, “Circling the Center,” Overlook: Exploring the internal fringes of America with The Center for Land Use Interpretation (NYC: Metropolis Books, New York, 2006).

2. Ellsworth and Kruse, “Touring the Nevada Test Site: Sensational Public Pedagogy,” from Sandlin, Schultz, and Burdick, eds. Handbook of Public Pedagogy: Education and Learning Beyond Schooling (Routledge, 2010)

Web sites:

Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI)
CLUI Land Use Database
Extreme Media Studies’ issue on monitorial citizenship


Polar Inertia

See also Karen Rapp, “The Center for Land Use Interpretation’s ‘Theory of the Present'”


Lampert, “Permission to Disrupt: REPOhistory and the Tactics of Visualizing Radical Social Movements in Public Space,” from Sandlin, Schultz, and Burdick, eds., Handbook of Public Pedagogy: Education and Learning Beyond Schooling (Routledge, 2010).

And see CT4CT’s REPOhistory page and Gregory Sholette’s page.

World of Matter

1. Biemann et al., “Biemann, et al, “From supply lines to resource ecologies: World of matter” Third Text 120 (v. 27, no. 1), special issue on Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology, pp. 76-94.

And see the World of Matter web site (in progress).

Joseph Beuys, Futurefarmers, Free Soil

1. In ANTENNA Issue 17, read the articles on “Beuys’ Acorns” (starting p. 63) and “Futurefarmers (pp. 72-76).

2. Futurefarmers and Free Soil interviews, “Two Interviews,” in Max Andrews, ed., Land, Art: A Cultural Ecology Handbook (London: RSA/Arts Council, 2006).

Other projects

1. “This is the public domain” (See Amy Balkin’s article in BlackBoard for background.)

2. Furtherfield’s Media Art Ecologies program.

3. Society for a Re-Natural Environment (described in a previous post).


  1. Helge Mooshammer’s “Co-operative of Things” article in the World of Matter reading describes the social/ecological constellations that exist in various formats between anything that can be considered a “thing”: people, places, resources, ideas, etc. He questions if this new “aestheticization of objects and their material qualities”, whether in art, economics, politics, or popular dialogue, is secretly providing rhetorical support for the commoditization of “things” by “fetishizing” their material qualities. As a counterargument, he points to David Harvey’s position that “the commons” aka our perception of the available worldly stock of unowned resources, is exactly that: a perception, a product of human existence.

    One line of this short work in particular piqued my interest, regarding the “capacity of co-operaives to stake out a middle ground between the extremes of over-regulations through centralized authorities and total liberalization of a privatized market.” I was immediately reminded of a recent reading from Rob Hopkins on the “transition concept”, which suggests that in the face of inevitable declines in the fossil fuel economy, we are faced with the choice between stubbornly holding on to our old ways or embracing the physical reality of fossil fuel scarcity and plan our descent to coincide with an increase in renewable technologies and permaculture-based approaches; obviously, he favors the latter option. The reason I was reminded of this reading was the shared value of Mooshammer and Hopkins regarding the value of community as a middle ground. Mooshammer’s middle ground is defined above; Hopkins’ idea comes less from a political/economic center and more from a psychological/pragmatic perspective. In short, he argues that many people feel powerless to make changes at socio-systemic levels, yet cannot commit to individual changes because their contributions could not possibly equate to meaningful change. The community allows individuals to pool their individual commitments toward this transition, using their medium-scale success to encourage other communities to join the movement. To apply this back to Mooshammer’s framework, we see that the community and the supporting cooperative create an agile and flexible arena for holistic change that simultaneously include socioeconomic and political transitions out of the fossil fuel consumption paradigm.

    • I chose to look at the website in depth as Zach has already done the corresponding reading.
      One of the largest and most informative sections of the site is the biograpgy section about Ursula Biemann, who is an artist, writer and video assayist that is tightly related to the larger World of Matter. She investigates global relations under the impact of the accelerated mobility of people, resources and information, and works these materials into multi-layered videos by connecting a theoretical macro level with the micro perspective on political and cultural practices on the ground. By using such a wide variety of media as well as presentation styles she has made herself diversified and ever changing in a way.
      Some of her videos can be seen here:
      By using presentation techniques and styles such as festival screenings, art exhibitions, activist conferences and educational settings she makes sure that her media reaches a wide and diverse audience. She really does do a great job of making her projects interesting and thought provoking.
      Through out her career she has discussed and been involved in a tremendously wide range of topics including both theoretical and “real” (implementable) topics.
      Biemann has not limited herself in any ways, presenting for more than ten years around the world – primarily in Europe but also in the Americas, Australia, Africa, etc.
      World of Matter is spearheaded by a core group of nine individuals, who come together for a week at a time to create a common ground for the project. The group is adminant that we need not view the world from an anthropocentric and must develop a more critical thinking planetary perspective on a world that matters. The entire project seeks to advance a deeper understanding of resources as intricately entangled ecologies of things, places, and species interactions.

  2. REPOhistory was an art collective active from the late 1980s till 2000, especially active in New York City. They questioned who determined the content of public spaces, especially on the signs and historical markers that shape our views and understanding of those public spaces. It seemed to REPOhistory it was mostly the (NYC) government providing this content, and as a result the content provided was watered-down and ignored or down-played events which made the government look bad. So REPOhistory set out to put up their own historical signs, with their version of history, often highlighting events tangent to “sanitized” official histories.
    Like digging for M&Ms in boring old trail mix, the collective sought out the meaty bits of history. They sought to bring to attention the forgotten and scandalous, the power struggles between city and minority groups, class struggles, and the things the city officials would rather forget. For example, one sign portrays a freezing night in the lives of three homeless men making a shelter nearby, or another which asked “who’s watching the police?,” and listed families who had lost lives to the NYPD and who had tried to take legal action against the department.

    What is important though, is not what the signs said, but how they said it. One member of the collective, Tom Klem, had previous experience dealing with the bureaucracy involved in getting large art projects approved and sanctioned by the city and out into the public. Instead of putting the signs up illegally, a sure way to have them removed or censored, REPOhistory, led by Klem, followed the long and often arduous steps, rules, and regulations required to get the proper permits and approvals. They even went so far as to have the Mayor Dinkins’ office declare the start of their project. All of the signs went without censure and remained for their allotted time (one year.) It seemed that the NYC government didn’t care what was said on the signs as long as all the proper procedures were followed and the proper forms filled out properly.
    But, when Rudy Giuliani came into office, the collective encountered resistance continuing with their projects. Their permits were denied, and they were generally hassled, until they threatened legal action or press conferences which would shed an unfavorable light on the works.

    • “Sentient Cities” aims to demonstrate how the formerly passive environments around us are being transformed by ubiquitous computing. The article explains that computers are being embedded into the objects around us, from sensors in traffic signals to our cell phones, allowing the us to interact more closely with those objects. No longer are we tied to a desktop to access the internet and real-time data, we are able to carry our computers around with us. And as a result, the major application of these ubiquitous computers is to keep track of our behavior and try to predict how we well act in the future.
      This technology is great for merchants, who can now suggest items to customers which are more in line with their needs and preferences, but also for the military. The military aims to use this technology to keep better track of terrorists, as well as glean real-time information about battle zones and hostile territories.
      As computers become more and more a part of our surrounding environment the world over, it is hard to think we can escape their information feeds. But, as the authors of the article point out, these technologies are here to help us, and “enhance our capabilities.”

  3. Beuys’ Acorns was about an artist, Joseph Beuys, who began a very ambitious art project entitled 7000 Oak Trees in 1982. Over the course of many years 7000 trees were planted to complete the project, the last of which was planted by Beuys’ son a year after his death in 1987. The point of the project was very similar to that of our seedbombing project here in Burlington. The added interesting effect of using oak trees instead of flowers or other quick growing plant species is that these Oak trees are growing up with generations of people. The trees are now only about 40 years old and won’t reach maturity until about 60 to 80 years. Beuys’ project has been used a centerpiece for discussions surrounding biodiversity loss and massive deforestation. Every Friday at the Royal Academy there is a portion of a series of discussions that address the importance of green space. One notable speaker, Dr. Roland Ennos, spoke to the benefits of green space within urban areas, and how if even as little as 10% of a city is green it can decrease the temperature by 4 degrees Celsius.
    Other speakers spoke to the significance of protecting the environment and plant life and how it deserves rights as well. I found this section to be interesting because although I do believe that trees and other non-human beings deserve rights I am just not sure how it would function in the system that we currently support. The new constitution in Ecuador is mentioned as kind of a guiding light and something that is praise-worthy. While I agree it is impressive and inspiring that such a large number of people would support a constitution that gave nature rights I am also very skeptical of its application. I was in Ecuador in December and almost everyone I met supported nature’s rights, but not a single person believe that their corrupt government and enforcement systems would even consider the clause in coming years. While nature in Ecuador has rights on paper it is still far from safe.
    Futurefarmers and Jonathon Meuser have a similar perspective on the matter of art and science. Meuser comments that knowledge is almost worthless if it remains largely unknown. Meuser’s research was specifically focused on hydrogen productive from green algae, which was a growing field that he was willing to share with the world. Other older scientists that were studying the same topic were unable to work with Futurefarmers on creating a DIY backyard version of their studies because they were so tied up in the politics of funding for their studies. Meuser, being an undergraduate, had not yet been attacked by that political web and was very interested in the idea. Meuser loved the concept of using art as a form of education, because of its accessibility and possible simplicity. He recalled learning about the significance of worm farms in farming from a DIY magazine rather than any of his undergraduate course work.
    Meuser speaks to the major impact individual energy production could have on our world, but acknowledges the challenges. Since most people believe that paying for energy is the only way we are stuck in a devastating cycle because individuals have a minimal say about energy production. Social movements and rallies could overthrow this cycle, and judging by Meuser’s early comments on the impacts of art, I think it would be fair to say that he believes art could be the catalyst to the social change.

  4. The Beuys’ Acorn article describes the legacy and art-driven advocacy of Joseph Beuys and in particular his work of 7000 Oaks. Joseph Beuys was a German artist, teacher, and social philosopher among many other things including for a period of time practicing shamanism and a brief stint in forming the German Green political party in the 1970s. Deeply rooting his work in creativity as a medium for resonating social change, Beuys’ ambitious work of 7000 Oaks embodies this ideal perfectly. This ongoing work consists of the planting of 7000 trees overtime each with a slab of basalt placed in front of them in Kassel, Germany. Met with much controversy and hesitation initially, being viewed as ugly, expensive “parking lot destroyers” by some and was heavily opposed by the conservative Christian state government. However, backed by the Mayor of Kassel, a social democrat, as more and more trees were planted the art was more widely accepted and appreciated. Beuys planted the first acorn in 1982 and the final tree was planted by his son in 1987 one year after his father’s death. This work is an example of Beuys’ social sculptures and was tackled in hopes to spur environmental and social change by representing the environment with a distinct human influence on it. Being slow growing trees Beuys chose Oaks in hopes they would reach maturity and ideally last hundreds of years continually putting forth his message of a transformation of consciousness, “where the biosphere, as a healthy biological and essential atmosphere would be consistent with human, species, and plant needs”. The group formed out of the Center for Art Design and Visual Culture of the University of Maryland appropriately named the Joseph Beuys Tree Partnership as well as others continue to plant trees in his vision many times with young children and in urban areas.

    “The planting of seven thousand oak trees is only a symbolic beginning. Contrary to its initiative, progressive features such a symbolic beginning requires a marker, in this instance a basalt column. Future goals for the project included: a) an ongoing scheme of tree planting to be extended throughout the world as part of a global mission to effect environmental & social change “the purpose of educational activities”; b) a growth of awareness within the urban environment of the human dependence on the larger ecosystem educational outreach; and c) an ongoing process whereby the society would be activated by means of human creative will social sculpture.” – Beuys, 1982

    The Futurefarmers are a group of activist artists and eventually grew to include scientists and specialists who portray utopian food system ideals through art while simultaneously initiating urban and personal gardens. With their name reflecting the idea that everyone at some point will become a “farmer” themselves, this group of artists have put on multiple art shows and projects based around the old World War II era Victory gardens campaign among others. This campaign encouraged families in America during the war to grow their own food in order to reduce the impact of food and resource shortages and support the war effort. Calling their initiative Victory Gardens 2007+, Futurefarmers took this idea and implemented it in modern times. Only instead of victory meaning winning a war it mean victory in becoming self-reliant and breaking free from industrialized food production. In hopes to create a new food economy based in local and home grown goods this group has helped plant and sow the seeds of hundreds of individual urban based agriculture projects. In the Free Soil interviews one Futurefarmer member discusses his pursues in creating a DIY algae/hydrogen bioreactor and how he sees art as a way to spread knowledge to a wider audience. Another interview deals with the book The Silicon Valley of Dreams, which is about Silicon Valley superfund sites. The interview also describes some of the history of a few other members that include environmental justice advocacy and spreading the issues of electronic wastes in modern society among others. Clearly all of the goals and projects put forth by Futurefarmers as well as the art-based social change lever are highly relatable to our project and should be used as a tool and guide in conducting our workshops.

  5. The article “Guerilla Gardening” talks about how we should all learn to garden our own food and that will help to dismantle capitalism. This is very true because then we will be free to break the cycle of capitalism and be able to provide for ourselves. Many people will think that this is impossible because we need oil, fertilizers, and to buy products from the global market to grow anything. This however is not true. In a movie we watched last semester in my Natural Resources class, we saw that this could, and has been done. After the Cold War, Russia basically shut out Cuba and no longer supplied them with oil, products, and basic needs. The Cubans were completely shut off from oil and because “democracy” triumphed over socialism and Cuba remained socialist, they received very little aid from the outside world. However, instead of dying off they returned to the old way of gardening without fertilizers, oil and the things that make the American agricultural system tick. People grew self-supporting gardens, rode bikes instead of driving cars and were able to thrive in a sustainable, eco-friendly way. They planted gardens in the old lots that had been abandoned. These are like the lots in New York Peter Wilson talks about, before private companies and corporations come in and destroy them to build parking lots or private homes. I think that people should grow gardens like those in Cuba that will produce food for people even more than the gardens that just look pretty. Both gardens are a great thing, especially when they could be used for much less environmental practices, but I feel that if a garden can be a green space, as well as help feed people, it’s like taking out two birds with one stone.

  6. Peter Lamborn Wilson’s “Avant Gardening” is a mostly theoretical but nonetheless powerful treaty on the relationship between modernity, ecological and spiritual decline, and agriculture versus horticulture and gardening. He refers to gardening and horticulture with words such as ‘orgiastic’ and ‘erotic’, highlighting raw connection to the earth, the tactile sensations of digging and planting, and the obvious connection to fertility and sexuality. Meanwhile, modern agriculture and bioengineering, it’s capital-driven offshoot, seek to cut out sexuality in favor of cloning, the “taming of wild fertility”. Wilson’s ideas are nicely summed up in one paragraph:

    “The grid of agriculture conceptually excludes the “chaos” of wild nature, the world of the hunter/shaman. It makes a boundary that defines order first as a marking-out of the land in economic units. Whatever escapes this symbolic economy is seen as uncanny and negative. On one hand, the wild hunter, the shaman, the shapelessness of the forest – on the other, the tame farmer, the priest, the architecture of cultivated space. Within that the architecture of the pyramids will rise – while outside it lurks and threatens the image of abandonment and license, of a world without separation – infinitely seductive, infinitely forbidden.”

    I enjoyed his piece immensely as it reflected much of my own vision of a greener world and a world aware of its own rootedness in wild nature. As a society, we are obsessed with separation, delineation of private and public, and the utility of economic language. What this language and way of life excludes is ecological reality, which is interconnected.

    Wilson also applauds permaculture as a brilliant synthesis of agricultural, aesthetic, sustainable, and pleasurable practices, but says it “fails to compete” (like all other utopian visions) with global system based on “pillage, monopoly, immiseration, and the crushing power of pure Capital.” While he goes on more to discuss the merits of permaculture, I found this quote as a weak critique, dismissive of any market solutions, which will be absolutely necessary in any TRANSITION from a capitalistic system to one that is less dominating and destructive. Wilson also seems to lack real vision or knowledge of permaculture here.

    The chapter “Guerrilla Gardening” in Notes From Nowhere described how growing your own food can begin to liberate you from the capitalist system, from the chain of supply and demand, and from the ignorance (of ecology, where your food comes from, etc.) and dependence (on commercial food from far away) that this breeds. A good point they made in support of gardening societies was that Havana Cuba has 2.2 million people, 1,000 public gardens, and employs 30,000 people in these gardens producing 70% of the city’s fresh produce. I wonder how applicable this model would be to a city in the United States? Again, it comes back to transitions: major ones would have to happen if our economy and livelihoods were to be based on horticulture in the way that Havana seems to be. At the moment, most of our food comes from commercial monoculture, and we have little relationship to its production, the earth it comes from, and the people who facilitate its production.

    In “The ‘Plot’ of Radical Gardening”, McKay emphasizes the connection of a garden with ideological struggle, saying that gardens have “horticountercultural” political power. While gardens throughout history have been symbolic and useful for many things (sacred, spiritual or meditative, space for picnicking, feasts, and pleasure, place for music and relaxation, functional to keep out animals or people, status symbols of elites), McKay tries to wipe out the idea of the garden as a place of escapism and laziness, instead calling them radical in the truest sense of the word: as coming from and returning to the literal roots of the problem.

    Soil improvement for food/useful plant production is one of the highest leverage points we have in changing any system, since it is absolutely crucial for the health of any group of people. Re-imagining, restoring, or just putting to use neglected public space for green growth has a profound impact on communities and individuals, because it ties them directly to what they put in their bodies. Much of what goes into the body of an urban city dweller is not by choice or of unknown origin: air pollution, the constant sounds of horns honking and busy city life, food from far outside the city, even other countries, and water pumped from thousands of miles away. No wonder urban city dwellers, especially impoverished minorities, have little reason to feel they should care about any environmental movement or ethic. They have no apparent connection to it. This is the promise of gardening, guerrilla or legally valid: re-vegetating, re-beautifying, productive and feeding people, and reconnecting people with their place.

  7. Guerrilla Gardening is a concept that I have heard of but never fully understood. Through this weeks readings, I was surprised that I haven’t seen this concept more widely publicized. Encouraging people to take up gardening wherever they can in order to provide for themselves seems like such a simple, yet effective idea. I think what struck me most about these articles was this basic fact: to grow food we need land, yet most of us have none or not enough to grow our own food. “Capitalism’s first act is often the privatization of common, or public, land…” I had never thought of our system as specifically limiting our access to land, but now it seems so obvious. I had always assumed that most people who wanted to grow their own food had the land to do so, which is not true.
    I love the idea of guerrilla gardening because it is activism, in that it makes a case for a cause and does something about it, yet it only requires a simple, productive, and seemingly harmless action. I really like that the concept is so logical and that it seeks to meet a basic human need, hunger, while also protesting a system that makes it impossible for those without access to satisfy this need. Clever, victimless crime, is it even a crime?

    In addition to the Guerrilla gardening readings, I also choose to look at one of the pieces under the Radical Gardening section, specifically from the “We Are Everywhere” campaign. Upon exploring their website, I found this quote in the middle of their page that sums up their ideals, “the world is made of stories, not atoms.” This quote really resonates with me, at this moment in time, because in another class I have been extensively exploring the idea of story and how powerful stories are in conveying ones’ message.
    The project is an initiative to shed light on activists across the world and share their stories. As I was scrolling through the available short stories, I found one that shared an experience from the George W. Bush inauguration. The story came from one of 20,000 protestors that came to showcase the corruption within America’s political system and George W. Bush. This storyteller self labeled her group as the “bad” demonstrators that shattered windows, burned flags and wore masks. As this woman shared her story, she recalls the chants, cops, rain, tear gas, and restless feelings she had on that day. Anarchists climbed flag poles of the Navy memorial and switched the American flag with the black and red anarchist flag, letting the American flag fall to the ground as a sign of disrespect. One participant was becoming cornered by encroaching police and instead of climbing down the poll, he stage dove off the flagpole landing “in the arms of his comrades” below. In that moment the author said “Everything felt different…Something had just happened.”
    In the introduction to this story, the author describes the “moment” when a light switches and there becomes a before and after point in one’s life. This story of activism changed the author’s life and realized that she could never be the same after bearing witness and participating in that action. I know the quote below is long, but I feel as a concerned citizen, environmentalist, and human rights supporter, this quote encompasses my feelings towards standing up for what is right:

    “I understood that to turn my back on the world’s problems would be to become an accomplice in their perpetuation, and that changing the way things are now is critical to the survival of the world. I understood my right to say “NO,” and not consent to living under these rules, and the need to say “YES” to creating something different. My mind had understood human suffering, injustice, destruction and pain; suddenly, my heart did too, and change be came vital, a part of my soul.”
    – Sophia Emergency

    The above mentioned story can be found below:


  8. The Center for Land Use Interpretation provides research and education on varied land sites throughout the US. This grassroots group aims to explore the connections between the man made landscape and the natural landscape and the ways in which humans and non-human life interact. This group poses the question: Who owns land? Who can decide what we do with land? How do we use land and access land for the public? The land use database provides a google map of various sites throughout the US that have been identified as interesting examples of land use. I found it interesting that many of their interpretations were very open. The Center for Land Use Interpretation have open centers in LA, Utah, California, and Kansas. Some of the Vermont centers can be found here http://clui.org/ludb/state/VT. One of the examples in Burlington is the Ethan Allen Firing Range, part of the 14,000 acres owned by the military in Vermont. Many of the other examples are industrial projects such as the quarries and mining areas in Vermont as well as Vermont Yankee.

  9. I picked Michael Salmond’s article “The Power of Momentary Communities” at random, but I was immediately drawn to its subject matter. The early days of rave culture hardly seem revolutionary, given the current state of it–but Salmond concisely explains why it was subversive at the time, even if it was just a bunch of people trying to take ecstasy and party. The fact that the parties often took place in large, vacant developments is a reclamation of urban space, and a denouncement of the continuing encroachment of industry and property laws. Ravers were taking back unused private space and using it for mostly illegal activities. While, at least in New York, I see similar parties promoted on social media pretty frequently now–and though they often take place in old warehouses, they seem to operate within a legal framework. The people at these parties are obviously going to be using substances that are totally illegal, the space in which they do so is likely rented or otherwise procured through legal means (if the location is advertised openly on the internet, I’m assuming they aren’t trying to hide anything). Obviously though, this is just anecdotal and only applies to “legal” raves. Cops shut down DIY shows and parties in cities all the time (mostly at private residences), usually on the basis that the space itself does not have the proper permitting. There was a recent article about Boston cops going undercover on the internet to get locations for house shows in the city if anyone’s interested. It’s both funny and sad : http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2013/03/boston_police_catfishing_indie_rockers_cops_pose_as_punks_on_the_internet.html
    The short-lived UK rave scene soon gave way to government crackdowns; an “anti-party” bill was passed. And, as Adrian mentioned in class, it did indeed contain specific language defining rave music as “wholly or predominantly characterized by a succession of repetitive beats.” If raves were a form of protest or subversion, they represented an entirely new kind of it. They created an instant, transient community that only existed for a night. The author goes on to compare this early scene with the rise of FlashMobs, which are usually organized through social media. Even though he admits that the actual activity performed by a FlashMob is “fun or even pointless,” it’s still an illegal act because it represents large public assembly in a public space, which is largely restricted across the globe. New technology is defining new forms of resistance as new communities develop through them, some as short-lived as the UK rave communities of the 90’s. He ends the article saying “Further, one can argue that every action you take as an aware individual is a political act, be it online, at a rave, or answering the phone.” This I’m not fully convinced of, but I like the idea of using often oppressive technologies in subversive ways.

  10. As Karen Rapp points out in her article on the Theory Behind Center for Land Use, despite the consistent statements claiming an apolitical stance, Rapp claims that this project is deeply political in nature. These tours are mainly through military, state or corporate lands in places that are considered “unvisitable” and sometimes these tours are in opposition to the state tours at various sites. These places ask us to ground ourselves in the present land rather than the virtual world in which so many of us are entangled. These places can help us to identify the intersections of globalization and deregulation through landscape and physical connection rather than solely through political theory. These places were chosen for the multiple interpretation of any given landscape and alternative histories are demonstrated on these spaces suggesting that there are many histories of globalization based on various classes, genders, races etc. Finally, many of these spaces challenge the dominant narrative in a given place. In Vermont, the quarries and mines remind us that Vermont was once an industrial center despite the common interpretation of Vermont as a tourist state. As someone who grew up in Vermont, the interpretation of Vermont as a tourist fairy tale is incredibly problematic. Many of the people who live in Vermont seriously dislike tourism and the gentrification of Vermont. This project asks us to reinterpret land use from a multiplicity of perspective and despite its claim to apolitical nature problematizes the common narrative of the American dream and Main Street America.

  11. The abandoned houses of Detroit, Michigan seem to be an interesting microcosm of the greater fears and realities of the economic, social, political, and environmental issues of modern day America. In the Polar Inertia ( http://www.polarinertia.com/apr13/detroit07.htm ) portion of this week’s reading, one photographer captures a few images of the state Detroit is in. Most articles and discussions focus on the economic status of Detroit’s situation. This particular artist states it as “the greening” of Detroit. Putting it in this positive light not only holds room for perceptions toward re-thinking space, but motivation for ideas that combine “polar” opinions regarding how to use such space. In these photos we see abandoned land. What is truly being abandoned, however, is a socio-political paradigm that is no longer serving the people or the earth we live on. The beauty of the growing earth is being captured by photograph in ‘Polar Inertia.’ Mainstream medias capture fear and confusion. When different thought-processes begin to hold more, regular, dialogue it would seem that the transition into new paradigms would not seem so scary. Change is inevitable – might as well see and show the beauty of it to ease people’s fears.

    • I am from Ann Arbor Michigan originally and throughout my childhood, I went into Detroit quite frequently because that is where my father worked. Being so familiar with the city, I got used to the rundown and abandoned buildings, the yards covered in weeds. In the more desperate portions of the city, entire houses would be caved in and small trees and shrubs would grow through the rubble. There was simply not enough will to maintain these areas, so they were left to let the plants take them over.

      Only after visiting other cities did I realize that this was not normal and that nature does not usually take back cities so easily and with such force.

      Now, after studying urban agriculture movements and reading the articles about Guerrilla Gardening and I have new hope for the city. Although we may be a long way off from revitalizing the Motor City, bringing back and fostering the “Detroit Prairie”, along with other permiculture and urban ag. ideas could be a way to re-capture the innovative beginnings of this once busting city. With so much open and unused space, it only makes sense that people would want to use it to grow food and flowers.

      Guerrilla Gardening is vital to this movement not as a direct or organized form of planting and using land, but as a way to spread the idea and create a paradigm shift in society. By actively showing others that gardening is not only easy, but rewarding and that it can be done just about anywhere, the movement helps spread the good word.

  12. I chose to read the REPOhistory articles. I thought a study on how to best utilize public spaces would be interesting, especially in regards to our current Seedbombing event. It also plays very strongly into the private vs. public themes discussed in our Culture Jamming presentation.

    To summarize the reading: REPOhistory is a collective of artists that was officially formed in New york in the late 80s/early 90s. Their initial project was focused on uing public space to present alternate versions of history. Not just the text book history that authorities approve and is taught in school, but other sides of the stories. This group was to represent the forgotten perspectives, people, and lessons. REPOhistory had to decide how to best execute their first project (the Lower Manhattan Sign project). Should they seek permission from governing officials for a more permanent use of public space, even though the may face rejection? Or do they pursue guerilla tactics and illegally present their work? Due to the more progressive government in New York at the time, and connections with REPOhistory members and the boards who were to approve the project, the project went through a year or two of stages for approval, and was then legally executed for a full tear. Some pieces were controversial and had been demanded to be removed by different parties- luckily, with certification, the art remained in its designated location.

    The article goes on to discuss future projects that were unable to easily obtain approval, and the circumstances that created that resistance. It is an interesting array of factors that went into determining the projects success: government views, community interests, relationships with authority, art content, art placement, sense of time and place, etc.

    As we had discussed in class, the act of social commentary in the public sector is very interesting in the way audiences respond. It is something that catches their attention, almost confuses them as it is not common (and illegal) and really forces the viewer to contemplate the message. It is indeed a powerful display. But now think of similar public displays, but they aren’t criminal. They are legally approved, supported, and still a “more radical” social commentary. The content is often (but not always) less radical and outspoken, but still says something important.

    So to take this one step further, we turn to Seedbombing. Do we “legally” seedbomb, obeying the law and seeking permission? or do we rebel? I do not believe it is necessary for our initiative to take an increasingly radical approach. This activity is meant more as inspiring and fun, rather than aggressive and demanding of some immediate realization and change. At the same time, I do not believe we need to be asking city officials for permission. Unfortunately, this is not a permanent change to the landscape. If need be someone can “undo” all the seeding we have done. Something that could be cool would be getting permission to utilize a wall or somethig for our art or moss graffiti. This would give more permanence to that aspect of the project. Our art or display could remain longer and grow into something bigger. it would be a subtle reminder to the community to what we have done and can continue to do.

  13. Crang’s “Sentient Cities: Ambient Intelligence and the Politics of Urban Space” is a fascinating analysis of the deployment of ubiquitous computing from three different likely domains. What is meant by this term is something of a not-so-distant future omnipresent transparency of information. Achieved through global internet connectivity and digital media as well as physical urban environments Crang argues that De Certeau’s vision of a no longer opaque public vision where all knowledge is available to everyone is perhaps becoming true.

    The author explains in the reading the different dimensions that ubiquitous computing is beginning to and could offer us. First explained is its ability to augment space for the receiver of information. Beyond the natural physical constraints to perceiving reality and data through senses and basic communication, electronic media overlays a virtual reality on a screen which allows the user to witness the real world in places normally impossible. This effectively creates an augmented reality and connects the user around the globe. The second dimension explained is the enacted environment. This refers to the integration of computing ability and digital media into everything in our environment. This includes computing ability into our cars, phones, and city streets as well as into our own flesh through biotechnology. This dimension empowers and informs everyone and everything constantly through the network of computing ability. While this dimension is not a complete reality presently, it could be argued that we are moving towards it with smartphones and other common computing technologies we hold so dear. The third and final dimension explained that is offered by ubiquitous computing is transducting space. What is meant by this are the abilities and capacities of ubiquitous computing such as technicity, or “the productive power of technology to make things happen”, and transduction, or the “constant making anew of a domain in reiterative and transformative practices”. This refers to the actual functions capable of the technologies such as the instrumental benefits to humans besides cognitive connection and things like the possibility of identifying objects or people through coding. It also could be thought of as the “technological unconscious” where action is enabled through the integration of code and space in which they are so fused that space cannot function without the information provided by code.

    In the reading the three domains are analyzed as well as their attempts to manipulate or disrupt ubiquitous computing. First discussed are the commercial fantasies of markets and “friction-free” consumption, in which modern actions of websites such as Amazon remembering what you were shopping for or made a wish list for are expanded into businesses of the future knowing exactly what you want before you know you want it along with where and when you will buy it. The second domain analyzed is the authoritative control through military and security to conduct “the war on terror”, where modern government technologies and tactics are expanded to these powers effectively creating the panopticon and exercising asymmetrical warfare and surveillance on whomever they deem an enemy threat or terrorist. Lastly, Crang discusses a third domain of artists and activists seeking to return opacity and to interrupt perfect urban control and influence similar to modern day hacktivists as well as elaborating on concepts of future artists seeking to uncover hidden or forgotten truths and myths lost once all were connected through ubiquitous computing through means of locative media and animating spaces, among others.

    While much of the concepts included in this article may be science fiction or nowhere near reality, I believe that this reading could also be taken more so as an allegory for modern technology blown out of proportion. Many of the similarities discussed are striking especially regarding the military and security section. While technology certainly is useful to us it is also good to be reminded the more sinister possibilities and implications it could be used for such as the ones described by Crang.

  14. Just a note to follow up on Andrew’s comment:

    Yes, let’s keep using this post for comments on this week’s readings (“Sentient cities,” et al.; see BlackBoard for details).

  15. Another follow-up revising the last one: Andrew, would you be willing to re-post your “Sentient Cities” post (#13) on the new blog page called “Seedbombs & Sentient Cities”? (Then we could take this one off.)

    Let’s continue the discussion on that page instead of this one.

  16. The interview of Jonathan Meuser on Future Farmers has some very interesting points. His DIY backyard model could do some serious good for the environments if the movement gets off the ground. The science part of how to actually do it and how it works is over my head but an idea of having everyone producing their own energy that is environmentally friendly is awesome. That could be the downfall of the big energy companies that are far too powerful. Having everyone produce their own energy could be very healthy for the planet and everyone living on it. The interview on the Silicon Valley Superfund sites is also very interesting. The high tech gadget industry portrays itself as clean but in reality it is not. There needs to be some more articles like this so people understand how harmful the industry currently is and get them to change.
    I have never heard of Joseph Beuy but he sounds like he was a very creative and interesting person. I can’t believe that people actually think that trees don’t look good as artwork and want them to be taken down. I personally believe trees look awesome in cities and make them look much better and more natural. There should be projects like this in every city because it looks great and is a good way to help reduce the rising temperatures of the Earth which humans are causing.

  17. I read packet B. I can’t force myself to pretend to care about these new technological advancements or the fears and excitements regarding such. There are vast jargons being thrown around, esoterizing this middle man of technology so it is unrelatable to the majority. The articles in this packet, however, render the idea of the majority invalid through their excited perspectives regarding the idea of technology expanding local knowledge. Ancient wisdoms and modern environmental movements, of course, support this idea. Though, I see that these technological experiments’ play on omniscience merely perpetuates the middle man [computer: pod, pad, phone, drone, etc]. And since it is the majority using the very same gadgets and surroundings to navigate and be navigated through life, the majority should be able to understand these abundance of t h i n g s. “Sentient cities” holds similar sentiments, giving warning to the uncontrolled substance of the controls of technology – but I keep seeing a an overarching concern greater than this. There is no longer a need to realize one’s own full potential or vision, just the potential of an external source [also known as commodity]. This middle man of technology, whether it can aid new ways to read the earth, can only compute what we have already established computable with a very small percentage of minds and fields integrating themselves within its system. Bountiful logarithms and generous amounts of noteable facts of the past 10,000 years of our “taker culture” (Ishmael, Daniel Quinn) exist there. Alas, that’s not all that exists. There are other means of intelligence and, most definitely, forgotten wisdom, that should be and must be remembered and integrated in this omnipotent computer kingdom of the modern age. In regards to things like seed-bombing, guerilla gardening, or any notion of creating life and nourishing energy, they seem to be a great way to give media a more vital energy pattern – providing motivation rather than means of control, which seems to be a fearful divide many conservation, technological, and other movements have lost sight of.

  18. In Sentient Cities, I find his idea of embedded technology within augmented spaces especially prescient. In my research on Occupy and social media, I found that social media had not replaced peer to peer organizing but was augmenting conversations. In other words, technology was deeply embedded in organizing and protest, but did not diminish the physical dimension of resistance. Technology augmented dissent by allowing organizers who had met in a city to communicate over vast differences when they went home to their respective cities. I think his concept of augmented reality is a more nuanced understanding of technology than most previous research where people assumed that technology would replace the physical aspect of our lives. He points out that the vast majority of shopping still does not take place online but that websites guide consumers to the nearest location. Despite our deep love of technology, I do not believe that we will ever desire to live in a purely augmented reality. We will always use our technology actively and this technology can be used for compliance to corporate desires or resistance.

  19. I found Crang’s sections about “cookies” and geolocation technologies to be the ones I could relate to most. On multiple occasions I have been searching the internet for clothing, shoes, or other miscellaneous items only to see them appear on the sidebar of my facebook moments later. These archived searches are called “cookies” and are used in order to build an individual consumer profile. Crang says, “a variety of technologies build up profiles of preferences ‘memorizing’ our actions in places. Past patterns of purchase no longer need to be manually ‘bookmarked but form self-generated ‘favorites’ lists of goods regularly purchased (for instance in online supermarkets) and from thence it is but a short step to the lists of ‘suggestions’ compiled from those preferences (as in Amazon ormany e-tailers).” This tracking technology is an aspect of our culture that is becoming more and more prevelant as we log onto the digital world, which really concerns me. I wonder if this will become the new norm and eventually we will become unfaised by this clear invasion of privacy.
    Another idea Crang shared was geolocation technologies. These technologies “build skeletal memories of our practices and lives. There are then clearly issues of who accesses and controls this assemblage of data.” Again, the lack of privacy and having “big brother” always watching you is an idea that I see is becoming all too prevalent and normalized.
    Crang goes on to say, “indeed, the issue would seem to be not one of blanket privacy but control over interchange of information where people want the benefits of tailored products but to do this by selecting which information is given to and received from whom…” Is privacy now a commodity that can be bought, sold, and traded for profit? Where do we as the consumers and citizens have a say in this?

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