Project Description:

The Trails Forever project took place within a Media Theory and Practice course offered at San Francisco Art Institute. Instructor Amy Franceschini used this project to examine the use of wireless technologies as “non-intrusive” interpretation systems. This included research into existing technologies, projects, and applications within the public park environment. Trails Forever is a perfect project to question the role of technology within a site such as the Presidio. This particular project served as a window into how art, technology and urban planning merge. Through site visits, survey's, readings and workshops the students were introduced to issues pertaining to artmaking in public space; process, policy, access, environment, public relations, history, and duration.
[link to process images]

The project developed over a period of 3 weeks (6 classes) and included:
-readings/discussions: background reading to provide a historical/conceptual framework.
-qualitative and quantitative research of site
-tools lab: hands on learning of basic electronics, wireless hardware and software and networked activity
-visit to Intel Research Lab and Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve as comparative sites
-introduction to physical computing via Sock Trot model: a pair of wired socks which change colors when you change trails.
-public presentation of work with invited critcs [artists working in the field]

Practice/Skill Set:
-Handheld devices:
cell phones, pda’s, mp3 players, pagers
Chip technology enabling seamless voice and data connections between a wide range of devices through short-range digital two-way radio. It is an open specification for short-range communications of data and voice between both mobile and stationary devices. For instance, it specifies how mobile phones, WIDs, computers and PDAs interconnect with each other, with computers, and with office or home phones.
-wi-fi :the wireless way to handle networking. It is also known as 802.11 networking and wireless networking. The big advantage of WiFi is its simplicity. You can connect computers anywhere in your home or office without the need for wires.
-basic electronics learned through prototyping of projects.
-electronic textiles: An electronic textile refers to a knit or woven substrate that incorporates capabilities for sensing, communication, and power transmission, as well as interconnection technology that allows sensors or processors to be networked together within a fabric. This usually involves the use of yarns that incorporate some amount of conductive material (such as strands of silver or stainless steel) to allow electricity to flow. Electronic textiles thereby allow little bits of computation to occur on the body.
--solar technology
-RF-id technology:
Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify people or objects. There are several methods of identification, but the most common is to store a serial number that identifies a person or object, and perhaps other information, on a microchip that is attached to an antenna (the chip and the antenna together are called an RFID transponder or an RFID tag). The antenna enables the chip to transmit the identification information to a reader. The reader converts the radio waves reflected back from the RFID tag into digital information that can then be passed on to computers that can make use of it.

Hertzian Space:
Whereas 'cyberspace' is a metaphor that spatialises what happens in computers distributed around the world, hertzian space is actual and physical even though our senses detect only a tiny part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Images of footprint's of satellite TV transmissions in relation to the surface of the earth, and computer models showing cellular phone propagation in relation to urban environments, reveal that hertzian space is not isotropic but has an 'electroclimate' defined by wavelength, frequency and field strength. Interaction with the natural and artificial landscape creates a hybrid landscape of shadows, reflections, and hot points.

5 proposals for possible “non-intrusive” interpretive systems for the network of Trails surrounding Mountain Lake.

"It must not be supposed, however, that no roads existed which directed the traveler to his place of destination. The earliest comers found paths and traces leading across the country which, in a measure, aided them in finding the shortest cuts from timber grove to timber grove, but were not of human origin. Before even the Indian came to hunt the wild animals, these animals, in search of water or pasturage, made their traces or paths, always choosing the best lines of travel and, so far as possible, the shortest lines of communication."
-J.O. Cunningham, History of Champaign County, 1905

While our sense of the natural world has always been encumbered by our sense of human culture and history, there was a time, not long ago, when you could get out of your car at a curve on a scenic road and admire the view on something resembling its own terms. There were no signs directing your gaze, no coin-operated binoculars, no brochures answering your unasked questions…
Today many people would regard such an unadorned curve in the road as a missed opportunity. Environmenal educators, government agencies, and corporate public-relations departments all make claims on our understanding of nature and its place in our everyday lives. By the mid-twentieth century, it seemed, nature had to be explained to its human inhabitants; it was not enough to just try to experience it.
excerpt from The Culture of Nature, Alexander Wilson.

Removed from the spectral realm of scholastic reifications - needs, attributes, mechanisms, and the like - sense of place can be seen as a commonplace occurrence, as an ordinary way of engaging one's surroundings and finding them significant. Albert Camus may have said it best. "Sense of place," he wrote, "is not just something that people know and feel, it is something people do". And that realization brings the whole idea rather firmly down to earth, which is plainly, I think, where a sense of place belongs.
Keith Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places

How you act should be determined, and the consequences of your acts are determined, by where you are. To know where you are (and whether or not that is where you should be) is at least as important as to know what you are doing, because in the moral (the ecological) sense you cannot know what until you have learned where. Not knowing where you are, you can lose your soul or your soil, your life or your way home.
Wendell Berry, Poetry and Place (in Standing by Words)

Walking conditioned sight, and sight conditioned walking, till it seemed only the feet could see.
-Robert Smithson

"We learn a place and how to visualize spatial relationships, as children, on foot and with imagination. Place and the scale of space must be measured against our bodies and their capabilities."

The history of walking is an unwritten, secret history whose fragments can be found in a thousand unemphatic passages in books, as well as in songs, streets, and almost everyone's adventures. The bodily history of walking is that of bipedal evolution and human anatomy. Most of the time walking is merely practical, the unconsidered locomotive means between two sites. To make walking into an investigation, a ritual, a meditation, is a special subset of walking, physiologically like and philosophically unlike the way the mail carrier brings the mail and the office worker reaches the train. Which is to say that the subject of walking is, in some sense, about how we invest universal acts with particular meanings. Like eating or breathing, it can be invested with wildly different cultural meanings, from the erotic to the spiritual, from the revolutionary to the artistic. Here this history begins to become part of the history of the imagination and the culture, of what kind of pleasure, freedom, and meaning are pursued at different times by different kinds of walks and walkers. That imagination has both shaped and been shaped by the spaces it passes through on two feet. Walking has created paths, roads, trade routes; generated local and cross-continental senses of place; shaped cities, parks; generated maps, guidebooks, gear, and, further afield, a vast library of walking stories and poems, of pilgrimages, mountaineering expeditions, meanders, and summer picnics. The landscapes, urban and rural, gestate the stories, and the stories bring us back to the sites of this history.
If there is a history of walking, then it too has come to a place where the road falls off, a place where there is no public space and the landscape is being paved over, where leisure is shrinking and being crushed under the anxiety to produce, where bodies are not in the world but only indoors in cars and buildings, and an apotheosis of speed makes those bodies seem anachronistic or feeble. In this context, walking is a subversive detour, the scenic route through a half-abandoned landscape of ideas and experiences.
Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust