technology

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Design Science

Returning to Roots: A New Book Highlights How Indigenous Practices Can Create More Sustainable Technology

December 3, 2019

Grace Ebert

A young fisherman walks under a living root bridge at Mawlynnong village, India. In the relentless damp of Meghalaya’s jungles the Khasi people have used the trainable roots of rubber trees to grow Jingkieng Dieng Jri living root bridges over rivers for centuries. Copyright: © Amos Chapple

Self-described designer, activist, academic, and author Julia Watson is trying to quash the boundary between native practices and technology in a new book that explores the ways indigenous wisdom can combat the high-tech approach to design and fighting climate change. In Lo—TEK Design by Radical Indigenism, Watson shares knowledge that transcends generations and cultures in an attempt to debunk the myth that indigenous approaches are primitive and far removed from current conceptions of technology. Throughout its more than 400 pages, the book explores ideas from 20 countries, including Peru, the Philippines, Tanzania, Kenya, Iran, Iraq, India, and Indonesia, about how to tackle more sustainable technology and design. It also contains a forward from anthropologist Wade Davis.

Watson founded Julia Watson Studio, an urban design studio, in addition to co-founding “A Future Studio,” described as a collective of conscious designers. She also teaches urban design at Harvard and Columbia University. Lo—TEK is scheduled to be released this month by Taschen. If you liked this, check out the recently published Primitive Technology: A Survivalist’s Guide to Building Tools, Shelters, and More in the Wild.

 

A view over the sacred Mahagiri rice terraces, a small portion of the one thousand year old agrarian system known as the subak, which is unique to the island of Bali, Indonesia. Copyright: © David Lazar

 

In the Southern Wetlands of Iraq, an entire Ma’dan house known as a mudhif, which is built entirely of qasab reed without using mortar or nails, can be taken down and re-erected in a day. Copyright: © Jassim Alasadi

 

Built by the Tofinu, the city of Ganvie meaning ‘we survived’ floats on Lake Nokoué surrounded by a radiating reef system of twelve thousand acadja fish pens. Copyright: © Iwan Baan

 

 

 

 



Illustration Photography

Phone Buddies Lurk and Ooze Out of Screens in Embellished Photos by Andrew Rae and Ruskin Kyle

November 21, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Dripping blobs of oily black, cosmic haze, and octopus tentacles emerge from the screens of smartphone users on the streets of London. Illustrator Andrew Rae teamed up with street photographer Ruskin Kyle to add some visual flair to people immersed in their electronic devices. Some of the protagonists are simply standing on the street using their phones, while other have paired their device usage with competing activities like dog-walking and ramen-eating.

“I always go for a walk on Hampstead Heath in the mornings for inspiration and I found myself nearly bumping into people on their phones,” Rae tells Colossal. Because many people in the area also are out with their dogs, “it started me thinking about the phones as if they are little pets or creatures that they are carrying in their hands.”

Rae shares that the idea percolated over time, and in conversation with his photographer friend, the pair realized the potential in the concept. Initially, Rae tried to completely replace the phones with illustrations, but he then decided to incorporate the physical technology as the source, or a part of, of the imagined creatures. In developing each character, Rae worked from some tried-and-true shapes and concepts from his larger illustration practice, and let each one develop organically.

To keep up with new embellishments of tech-absorbed passersby, follow Andrew Rae on Instagram and see more of Ruskin Kyle’s street photography on the platform as well. Just don’t bump into a stranger while you scroll through! (via My Modern Met)

 

 



Photography Science

‘Sea-Thru’ Allows Scientists to Accurately Recalibrate the True Colors of Sea Life

November 21, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Two researchers at the University of Haifa have developed Sea-Thru, an algorithmic method for color-correcting underwater images. The tool allows scientists—and laypeople—to understand and contextualize the “true” colors of aquatic phenomena like fish, coral, and anemones. Sea-Thru was developed by Derya Akkaynak and Tali Treibitz and is a more accurate re-reading of colors, rather than editing tones artificially in Photoshop.

In the paper’s abstract, the duo explain that the way colors come through underwater is not uniform (which is why the aforementioned Photoshop doctoring isn’t accurate). Rather, the distance from the lens and the reflectivity of the captured object determines how its colors appear. So, the way sand appears is differently modulated by the water than, say the scales on a fish passing above the sand. Sea-Thru uses an algorithm to accurately and efficiently adjust images taken underwater.

See the algorithm in action in the video below from Scientific American, and read Akkaynak and Treibitz’s full paper here. (via PetaPixel)

 

 

 

 



Art Design

Sculptural Metal Jewelry by Ewa Nowak Helps Wearers Avoid Being Tracked by Facial Recognition Technology

August 26, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

Several methodologies have been tested to try and thwart growing facial recognition technologies, however perhaps none are as elegant as Polish designer Ewa Nowak’s metal jewelry. Her project, Incognito, was born out of her own uneasiness about the global state of privacy, and was tested using Facebook’s DeepFace algorithm to ensure its success.

The implement is worn like glasses, with arms reaching around the wearer’s ears. Two round pieces of metal cover each cheek, and an elongated piece extends upward between the eyes, creating a trifecta of polished objects that help deflect software used IRL in security systems and public cameras, and online through social media.

Incognito recently won the Mazda Design Award at the Łódź Design Festival. You can see more of her projects, including a reflective mask also used as a way to keep one’s anonymity, on her website and Instagram. (via Plain Magazine)

 

 



Art

Four Seasons of Flowers Appear to Blossom and Wither in a Responsive Installation by teamLab

August 7, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

Illuminated columns protrude from the ground of bath house ruins in a new installation by teamLab (previously). The structures, which the Japanese collective refers to as “megaliths,” feature moving images of waterfalls and flowers in a constant state of change. Over the course of an hour, visitors will experience one year of seasonal flowers bud, grow, blossom, and wither away. Incorporated into the megaliths is also imagery of flowing water that adapts to the movement of nearby viewers. Each element of the artwork is computer generated, unique, and will never appear in the same state again.

Megaliths in the Bath House Ruins was created for a new exhibition titled A Forest Where Gods Live, in Mifuneyama Rakuen Park on the Japanese island of Kyushu, which runs through November 4, 2019. The soundtrack for the piece was created by Hideaki Takahashi, and sponsored by Grand Seiko. You can view more computer-animated sculptures and installations on teamLab’s website and Vimeo. (via designboom)

 

 



Art

A Programmable 8-Bit Computer Created Using Traditional Embroidery Techniques and Materials

February 13, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

The Embroidered Computer by Irene Posch and Ebru Kurbak doesn’t look like what you might expect when you think of a computer. Instead, the work looks like an elegantly embroidered textile, complete with glass and magnetic beads and a meandering pattern of copper wire. The materials have conductive properties which are arranged in specific patterns to create electronic functions. Gold pieces on top of the magnetic beads flip depending on the program, switching sides as different signals are channeled through the embroidered work.

“Traditionally purely decorative, [the work’s patterns] defines their function,” explained Posch on her website. “They lay bare core digital routines usually hidden in black boxes. Users are invited to interact with the piece in programming the textile to compute for them.”

The piece is a reference to the historic similarity between textile creation and computing, for example the Jacquard loom being an important influence on the evolution of computing hardware. Posch is a researcher and artist with a background in media and computer science who explores the how technological seeps into the fields of art and craft, and Kurbak is an artist and designer who investigates the hidden politics of everyday spaces and routines. You can learn more about their work and partnerships here or here. (via Kottke)

 

 



Science

GPS Map Composed of 68,000 Pinpoints Tracks the Territorial Nature of Minnesota Wolves

January 31, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

The Voyageurs Wolf Project is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota and Voyageurs National Park which tracks and studies wolves throughout the warmer months. In 2018, the project studied six northern Minnesota packs, creating a map that showcases the intensely territorial way the animals behave, and how tightly they stick to their packs. The brightly colored line drawings were composed from 68,000 GPS locations of the six packs, with negligible crossover between the data-driven formations.

Not only does the information help researchers track where wolves have been, but also which prey the wolves have killed. “This detailed GPS-data is incredibly valuable for understanding pack boundaries and also for our predation research,” explains a post from the Voyageurs Wolf Project. “We visited every spot these wolves spent more than 20 minutes to determine if the wolves made a kill. This required an estimated 5,000 miles of hiking this past summer from our field crew!!”

After the original map circulated widely, the team decided to bring the information to life, which you can observe in the GIF below. The moving image includes data from April 15, 2018 to the end of October of the same year, with GPS locations taken every 20 minutes. You can follow more data collected by the Minnesota-based team on Facebook. (via Twisted Sifter)