Thursday also saw Proboscis participate in another key partner's open day. We have been developing a Social Tapestries collaboration with a primary school in Waltham Forest (North East London). The school is going through a re-development phase, re-designing their building and embedding creativity into every aspect of school life – an extremely inspirational and visionary approach. Once again our colleagues at Getmapping.com have provided us with a high resolution aerial photo of the school and its catchment area, which we were able to show to parents and students and to discuss the aims of integrating the public authoring approach with the school curriculum. The response both from parents and students was very favourable, with quite a few of the parents being particularly interested in how they could become involved. Getting this kind of investment from not just teachers and students but parents too is going to be critical in creating a programme that is not an extra burden on everyone, but deeply integrated into the everday life of the school.
Proboscis have been invited by the school to work with them on designing ways in which our vision of public authoring, knowledge mapping and sharing can be integrated into the everyday learning and teaching methods. This is based on the experimental programme we designed last year for Kingswood High School in Bransholme, Hull – where students would map phenomena in their everyday environment to be used as material in each of their classes. For instance, students mapping and recording different dialects spoken in their family / community for an English language class would use the same data in their History class to explore the social history of their community, and in their Geography class to investigate social movement and change. The same data might also be used in a Maths class to look at pattern and distibution theories.
Our initial collaboration with the school has been through environmental sound mapping workshops with artist Loren Chasse, a sound artist and educator from San Francisco, with whom we have been collaborating on Sound Scavenging. During the summer we ran a week-long workshop with students from Year 5 to investigate and capture sounds in their environment. A second workshop next month will focus on mapping their recordings and exploring the relationships to people, places and things which these suggest. This kind of associative learning is intended to make the process of learning and sharing itself proximate and directly relevant to student's life and the places they live, work and play in. Our vision is to investigate how we might use public authoring to increase the sense of ownership students have in the learning process – using phenomena in their own world that they have collected and generated (and 'own') instead of always having to revert to examples in text books. By siting the place of learning within their own everyday experience and enviornment we hope to make it more tangible, especially for students in areas of deprivation and lack of opportunity where school and learning might seem remote and irrelevant.
An important milestone in developing the Community Collaboration projects for Social Tapestries was passed today when we participated in an open day organised by the Havelock Independent Residents Organisation (HIRO) for the local residents of the Havelock Estate in Southall, Ealing. Earlier this summer Proboscis and Kevin Harris of Local Level were invited by HIRO to come and discuss our ideas for knowledge mapping and sharing and how this could help them in their project (funded by the ODPM) to create a tenant management organisation and take over the management of their estate from Ealing Homes (HIRO are being assisted in the process by community development worker Bev Carter at Partners in Change). Since then we have been developing tools and practices that are appropriate to the site and situation.
Over 40 local residents (including many children) turned up at the HIRO office today to find out more about what's happening to their community and to share their problems, hopes, stories and knowledge about the estate and the environment. Our partners at Getmapping.com had kindly made a very high resolution aerial photograph of the area available to us which we printed as a 5 foot square table-top map. Throughout the afternoon people annotated the map and took away special DIFFUSION eNotebooks to record their feelings about aspects of the estate and to start to collect comments and stories about specific places.
Over the next six months or so we hope to run a series of participatory events with the local residents to build a up a (publicly authored) knowledge base of evidence about everyday life in the area. We aim to learn more about their technological needs and capabilities so that we can design tools and techniques for them to capture and and re-present their knowledge and experience via platforms like Urban Tapestries. Ultimately we hope to learn from these collaborations to create platforms that truly enable and empower people to map and share their knowledge of their community and environment in ways that help them improve the opportunities open to them.
Kevin has blogged a piece about the event which captures just how much we learnt from listening to the residents and, how important and sensitive the role of the listener is.
15 people attended the workshop (mostly locals but including a few others from outside the locality with a specific interest in pollution sensing) and the event generated a broad discussion and exploration of not only the local factors affecting London Fields, but also the wider social and cultural perceptions of what it means to measure and map pollution. We'll post some documentation summarising the event's outcomes online soon.
Our next step is to build, with Birkbeck College, our own Feral Robot that can capture sensor data from several types of sensor (Gasoline and Diesel Exhaust, Alcohol, TUolene, Xylene) with location information (GPS) and upload to the Urban Tapestries system. We're hoping to test the prototypes before Xmas and document the project in a small publication (as well as online) by March 2006.
The Feral Robot in the image above is one of Natalie Jeremijenko's built (by Matt Karau) for the Save the Robots festival at The Ark in Dublin during this summer. The map used in the workshop was a high resolution aerial photo of London Fields and surrounding area, kindly provided by Getmapping.com.
DEFRA Air Quality site
Air Quality archive
UCL City Project
Equator: Urban Pollution Monitoring project
Stanza: Sensity Project
Public Air Quality Indicator
European LIFE programme
The Vienna Air Monitoring Network
I participated in the Locative Media and Emplacement panel at the May You Live in Interesting Times conference on Friday. The two halves (morning and afternoon) brought together an interesting slice of people (Martin Flintham, Jen Southern & Jen Hamilton, Dr Sarah Green, Nina Pope & Heath Bunting) and projects working at a more conceptual end of the spectrum of 'media arts' and 'locative media'.
It was refreshing for the discussions not to revolve around the merits of the technologies but issues of creative and cultural engagement with people. It seemed to me that we actually got to talk about the artistic elements of making work in this field not just the intentions that using technology often entail, but rarely achieve.