Friday, September 11, 2009

Natalie Jeremijenko


  • Natalie Jeremijenko (born 1966, Australia) is an Associate Professor at NYU in the Visual Art Dept., and has affiliated faculty appointments in Computer Science and Environmental Studies.

  • Natalie Jeremijenko is an artist and engineer whose background includes studies in biochemistry, physics, neuroscience and precision engineering.

  • Jeremijenko is the director of the xDesign Environmental Health Clinic at NYU, assistant professor in Art, and affiliated with the Computer Science Dept

OneTrees Project

Else/Where: Mapping New Cartographies of Networks and Territories

Janet Abrams & Peter Hall

p. 254-259 “Bark to Bytes” by Alice Twemlow

  • 2003 (plants were cultivated in 1999)planted 20 pairs of Paradox clones throughout the Bay area to return data about the “social and environmental conditions to which they are exposed”

  • together with Terraswarm, she created a map of of the site locations, especially designed to be used one-handed by bicyclists (boomerang shape)

  • trees were chosen b/c they don't bear fruit or nuts (a tripping hazard) or produce allergens

  • she prioritizes layperson knowledge over “expert” knowledge, as “the questions that are of interest to the experts may not necessarily overlap with the public imagination.”

  • this map: “Twenty aerial photographs are arranged in vertical strips showing the locations where the OneTrees pairs are planted, four per panel, along the top of the map. The lower half of the sheet is divided proportionally to represent the five OneTrees planting zones. Each area is depicted as a vegetation and heat 3D contour map, using data derived from a Landsat Thematic Mapper. Instead of using what Jeremijenko refers to as the 'rainbow saturated colors' to which satellite imaging defaults, she and Terraswarm chose more realistic shades of green for the vegetation and mapped the heat isotherms using a gray scale in which cooler temperatures are represented by dark lines, hotter ones by white. As one would expect, the biggest concentrations of cool contours correspond with the most densely vegetated zones, or proximity to the Bay.”

  • map includes other knowledge, including the median income of each area and endangered birds' habitats

  • Jeremijenko's mission is to redistribute intelligence: to redirect emphasis away from 'authorized' information, towards under-utilized sources that are at once more complex and more alive, with the aim of putting the people, the poetry and the mess back into mapping.”

From the OneTrees website

  • A-life trees: self replicating growth algorithms -- to grow a tree on your computer desktop. Unlike other popularized forms of a-life the rate of growth is controlled by realtime CO2 levels. The sensor and software enable monitoring of the CO2 -- the information that measures the global concern for climate change [me: to what end? What use is this information put to?]

  • Stump

: A printer queue virus that counts the number of pages consumed by the printer. When the equivalent of a tree in pulp has been consumed the program automatically prints out a slice of tree. Accumulating these pieces of paper ‘grows’ a stump of the forest that you and your printer have consumed, and a tangible representation of tree debt

Feral Robotic Dogs (from site:

Mission one: Exploiting the markets of scale of the toy industry, specifically in the realm of entertainment robotics; the hardware distribution power of national and multinational corporations (and the cultural imperialism); to provide a readymade, inexpensive and highly distributed hardware platform. The robotic dogs currently on the international market provide the most inexpensive source of compatible motors, actuation, and sensing mechanisms available [$15-$200 for the dog adaptation].

Mission Two: To use this distributed hardware platform to build a networked (knowledge) community interested in the transformation of robotic dogs from their intended entertainment use to activists instruments for exploring (and contesting) local material conditions. The web-based community openly shares low cost adaptation strategies and techniques for updating the rationale (i.e. hacking) of these and similar toys. This is a community that is built on a particular post-purchase activity with the toy rather than the act of consumption itself in contrast to a community of SONY AIBO owners, and it is designed to exploit the popular culture references of these toys to involve youth in the interpretation of environmental conditions and a critique of the corporate imagination.

Mission Three:

To create a local mediagenic event: the feral robotic dog pack release. The feral dogs have a simple communication system added in their adaptation, that allows the coordinate behavior of a pack. The dogs will cover different portions of a terrain (maintaining a radius) for effective space filling, but will converge if one dog gets a particularly strong signal. This functionality is intended to provide information that is displayed in a form that is legible to diverse participants i.e. the movement of the dogs. The dogs paths provide immediate imagery to sustain discussion and interpretation of an otherwise imperceptible environmental condition of interest (e.g. radioactivity; air quality issues and the re-opening of English powerstation; class-based environmental discrimination). Because the dog’s space-filling logic emulates a familiar behavior, i.e. they appear to be “sniffing something out”, participants can watch and try to make sense of this data without the technical or scientific training required to be comfortable interpreting a EPA document on the same material. Furthermore, I argue that by using the movement of the dogs as the display this renders the information at an appropriate level of accuracy (the data looks fuzzy). An emblematic feature of the adapted dogs is placement of the webcams in the non-barking end of the dogs, whereas traditional robotics and AIBO place the cameras in the ‘eyes’ of the agent. The rear end placement in the Ferals collects footage of the spectators and their actual interpretation of the dog’s behavior, privileging this as information rather than just the data collected and stored onboard for later interpretation. The feral dog pack event is designed as an opportunity to enable public discourse and open-ended interpretation of the evidence at hand, and an opportunity to coordinate diverse interpretations (for instance at the English Power Station release attendees invited include activists who have opposed the reopening, residents, politicians, and power company representatives). The display of the empirical evidence on the local pollutant is intended to enable and change typical lay-expert communication patterns, by raising the standards of evidence, or at least changing who produces this evidence.


  • projects seem almost abandoned; not updated as seemingly intended

  • many links don't work on the sites

  • OneTrees Values: seems to have a long-view (not just fashionable); however the site hasn't been updated since 2004 ; more Stakeholder inclusive than client exclusive (interested in the effects on the trees & thereby the effects on the nearby people)

  • Feral Robotic Dogs Values: Subversive (not obedient) as the dogs are hacked from their original purpose of just entertainment; More long-view than fashionable, but with the same questions as the OneTrees Project...where are the updates?

  • different disciplines represented, including engineering & biology with an obvious interest in the environment and recording our impact or rediscovering a past impact with present implications

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