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
-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]
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.
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.
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."
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
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)
conditioned sight, and sight conditioned walking, till it
seemed only the feet could see.
"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