Statement of Research Motivations

For the last 10 years, I have been working on ways to represent and visualize physical, geographic space using portable, mobile, networked digital technologies. (Cf. an Extended Research Statement.) This work makes use of the many mechanisms available to describe geographic space — including mobile devices, wireless networks, maps, positioning equipment as well as theoretical scholarship on the topic of how humans conceptualize, imagine and occupy space.
Space and the ways it is occupied and represented is a significant pivot upon which humanity’s place in history balances. Arguably the most tenacious and intractable conflicts of any age rest upon the stakes and claims individuals and civilizations place upon space and territory. Personal and family lives are referred to through the places and locations of significant events. Quotidian experiences are often linked directly to specific locations. Capturing a mood for most any human experience requires specific consideration of space and time.
This work has taken the form of essays, commissioned and exhibited art and technology projects, public lectures, structured professional society workshops and keynote lectures, public workshops, conferences, interviews, book essays and several years of blog essays covering topics related to the social, technological and political aspects of space, place and geography.
My inspiration comes from an interest in the changing ways in which space has been imagined, written about, fought over and visualized over the course of human history. I have approached this work through commissioned art projects and exhibition in art contexts, professional consulting to the mobile technology industry, university teaching, writing, the construction of experimental devices, lectures and hands-on workshops.
The digital networked age has the chance to create a significant inflection point in the evolution of the ways space is represented. In a similar way, the history of film can be seen as an inflection point in the evolution of story telling. This continuing research vector works towards the goal of empowering the imagination to experience the spatial world differently by developing creative projects, instruments, idioms and metaphors, vocabularies and approaches to teaching — a “practical language” of space for digital interactive media.
Learning how to represent space through the lens of digital media is a crucial ingredient for understanding how to become better behaved occupants of the planet. And my research instincts say that there is something particularly important about learning how to do so with the new mechanisms for sociability made available in the digitally networked age.
The questions I address through my work are inspired by the fluidity with which space can be represented. There are well-known examples that describe the cultural and historical shifts in the way space is represented. For example, Australian aborigines use what anthropologists refer to as “Songlines”, which are cycles of songs whose rhythms and ordering represent navigable paths that can cover vast distances. Micronesian sailors have been thought to use star paths for their long, open-canoe sea journeys, sharing none of the tools of navigation and landscape representation we take for granted, such as the flat map, compass or sextant. By recognizing the multivalent ways in which cultures have shifted the ways they live within space, it becomes possible to reorient our current tenancy to encourage more habitable, less deleteriously impactful occupancy.
The goal of this continuing work is to find ways to empower the imagination to see the world differently — if only for a short time — so as to reflect upon our condition and perhaps have the courage to reshape one’s world towards a more habitable, playful, life-affirming one.
My approach to achieving this goal is to mix pedagogy, research and project execution. Through courses and public and invited workshops, I am trying to emphasize learner-centered education, with an emphasis on hands-on exploration of meaning, creativity and experimentation. Through my own research and projects, I attempt to continuously evolve my own knowledge and share that process publicly through my own very frequently published research bulletins. I use digital networks and various forms of social software to disseminate my activities, and share both high-level research insights, as well as practical aspects of projects. I do this in the spirit of open design and learner-centered education. It is my goal that sharing the details of my research — what I am doing, how it is being done — will encourage peers and students to feel comfortable exploring and experimenting themselves. These bulletins often become courseware for classroom and workshops very soon after they are published online. In such a way, the topics I cover tend to be fresh, immediate and representative of current trends and areas of interest within the relevant research arenas.
I am committed to professional service within the various disciplines wherein I feel my research has a voice. I have served as a session co-chair for a number of professional society workshops, as well as a papers reviewer for the Ubiquitous Computing society’s annual conference, amongst several other peer-reviewing assignments for various other conferences. I have juried several international art-technology festivals and competitions, and served as a peer reviewer for a special issue on Urban Computing for the IEEE’s flagship journal “Computer.” In 2007, I was elected as an international reviewer for grants for the Israel Science Foundation.
As I am multidisciplinary in my education and background, having degrees in both engineering as well as the humanities, I layer my research approach by combining physical construction with written scholarship. Because my research extends traditional engineering disciplinary boundaries, I combine engineering with creative practices and exhibit these works as art-technology projects.
All of my work has been referred to as exemplars of interdisciplinary research, and has been exhibited internationally, specifically in the United States, Western Europe (Spain, England, Scotland, Holland, Germany) and Asia (Japan, South Korea). Many of the projects were supported by competitive commissions or invited for inclusion in juried exhibitions, festivals and conferences.
Several of my art-technology projects were included in the Rhizome Art Base, an invitation-only, curated database of internationally significant and influential art-technology projects. In 2006, my project “WiFi ArtCache” won the Audience Choice Award at the International Society of Electronic Arts Symposium and Festival in San Jose, California. In 2005 I was a finalist for an international Creative Capital Grant, selected from an initial pool of more than 2,200 applicants to reach the final round of 120. In 2004, “Pussy Weevil”, a project I developed to explore physical interaction in 3D space, which anticipates the trend of physical interaction with gaming as seen by the Nintendo Wii, was selected for exhibition at the prestigious 26th Ars Electronica Festival in Linz Austria. In 2003, my collaborative project “PDPal” was competitively selected for exhibition on the Times Square (NYC) Panavision screen, where for three months a video we produced was presented at the 59th minute of every hour. Also in 2003, the University of Minnesota Design Institute commissioned myself and the two other PDPal collaborators to create a PDPal-inspired map of Minneapolis-St.Paul, which they published in their limited edition Twin Cities Knowledge Maps artists maps set. In 1994, I wrote one of the first scholarly essays on video games and culture on the topic of urbanism reflected through the popular computer game SimCity. The essay was published in the journal “Socialist Review” and then solicited for re-publication in the book “SimCity”, part of the popular “Ludologica” series of books on game scholarship. I was a member of the creative team that produced the Peabody Award-winning “Sonic Memorial” radio and web documentary on the events of September 11. An essay I wrote in 2006 on the rise of digital networked sensors and the social-political ramifications therein developed into a series of invited public lectures, conference keynotes, invitations to facilitate workshops and press interviews. The essay was designed to lay the groundwork for a series of projects on the topic, which I intend to define the work I pursue over the next 3-4 years.