It all started quite innocently. On January 2011, I traveled to Tanzania with the purpose of working with a group subsistence farmers, and engage them in the creation a collaborative, online knowledge base of their practices, needs and innovations. My intention was to propose this knowledge base as an interface for cross-sector communication between farmers and agricultural researchers. I developed an architecture which follows a functional and aesthetic program that seeks to include both forms of knowledge, wanting to interweave the audiovisual narratives of the farmers (oral tradition and observation) together with the text-based analyses of scientists.
I was motivated to create this project upon reading the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, Technology for Development (IAASTD) Report, a 600-page document published by an international team of agricultural scientists in 2009. One of the innumerable contributions of this report is the acknowledgment that scientific knowledge, by itself, is not able to provide solutions to the incredibly complex challenges that agriculture is facing around the world. As the predominant knowledge system, science has failed to stop poverty and hunger. It has failed to link these problems to other non-scientific fields, such as the global markets and political instability. It has also neglected other forms of knowledge, such as the one that farmers have passed on from generation to generation across centuries. By becoming the dominant knowledge system and by resisting to engage in true interdisciplinary, cross-sector research, most scientists have effectively become the blind leading the blinded.
Since 2003, Catalan artist Antoni Abad and I have been working on a series of projects dealing with overlooked communities around the world expressing and sharing their views and opinions the Web. So far, we have worked with taxi drivers in Mexico City, young gypsies in Lleida and León (Spain), street prostitutes in Madrid, people with reduced mobility in Barcelona and Geneva, Nicaraguan immigrants in Costa Rica, motorcycle couriers in Sao Paulo, displaced and demobilized people in Colombia and, more recently, young women living in the Sahrawi refugee camps in southern Algeria. In these projects, the participants are able to upload images and sounds directly from a mobile phone to a web page, allowing them to publish all sorts of stories on-the-fly.
The young women living in southern Algeria, who come from different camps, get together periodically and discuss the topics they would like to publish on the page. So far, their interests have concentrated on subjects such as children, women, work, health or education. They are aware of the power of sharing their views on the Internet, and see it as a way of raising awareness about their current situation: even if the pictures do not depict the conflict directly, every image refers to it implicitly. Each of the images they publish is tagged using an appropriate word, creating thus a folksonomy that reveals which are the most interesting topics for the group.
Hi all “netarterists”, this is my first post. It’s great to be part of the team!
I don’t usually write about my own work, but I figured out that it could be an interesting way to introduce myself. So I am posting here a paper I wrote earlier this year called “On fluid poetry”, in which I describe the inner workings and ideas of my piece, “Computer Aided Poetry”. Please excuse the “academic formatting” of this post, I promise it won’t happen again 😉
On fluid poetry
Condensation is the chemical process through which the atoms / molecules of an element or compound in a gaseous state change their aggregation phase into liquid droplets. During condensation, the kinetic energy of the atoms / molecules is reduced by slowing them down. They are brought together as a consequence since the attraction between them, an invisible link, prevails. They also become colder and, because of their aggregation, visible. The droplets formed by the condensation of an unseen gas seem to emerge from out of nowhere. Their sudden mass makes the huddled molecules vulnerable to forces which were latent or too weak in their previous state, such as the pull of gravity, which will make the droplets slide down a smooth surface, leaving behind a liquid trail.