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floating studio for dark ecologies

I’m doing a huge blog update on all my projects, so this is way, way overdue. Back in November (omg), we did a user test of Prototype #1 of the Field Guide to Whale Creek, including both the audio guide as well as the printed field guide itself. We took a generous group of testers up to Whale Creek on a Sunday morning, back when it was warm out, and learned a ton about what worked, what didn’t and what we need to change.

Some documentation below (and a preview of how the pamphlet is shaping up above!)

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The Field Guide website is making progress…thanks to lots of inspiration from hazard signage and nautical iconography. This process has also made me a complete convert to Sketch, which makes the development workflow so much easier whether I’m working with a hired developer or prototyping my own designs before I implement them.

Next step is to try using Principle or Marvel to do UI animations.

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Ingrid Burrington on mapping the invisible, from Eyeo 2015

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dataviz_sketches2

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2015-07-03 16.42.05

The Field Guide to Newtown Creek is coming along! Right now, it exists as a small designed PDF that we’ll use to apply to grants and hopefully get more funding for the project. The structure of the book has developed a lot, and Nick Hubbard has been hard at work writing much of the content, particularly for the framing chapters.

As the guide progresses, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to show some more of the thought process behind it and how we arrived at the current organization. (Admittedly, I’m very behind on documenting the process, which I had meant to do weekly but oops, summer).

Before I was working on the physical design of the book, I spent a lot of time amassing the various entries for the ID guide section. To do this, I used a variety of different sources as reference — observation (hence the multiple site visits), scouring the NCA website for different resources, reading articles on Mitch Waxman’s blog, looking at maps, and then of course using the very handy spreadsheet of wildlife on the creek that the NCA has compiled and made public. Once I had all of those down, I tried out some various methods of taxonomic organizing and grouping to see what system worked and what didn’t. To do this, I used: POST ITS!!!! They’re the perfect tool, since they’re easy to shuffle around and reorganize. Here are some snapshots from that process. 

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2015-07-04 10.00.25Over the course of my summer fellowship working on the Floating Studio for Dark Ecologies / Field Guide to Newtown Creek, I went on two ‘site visits’ to the creek. One by bike and the other by canoe (led by Willis Elkins from the NCA / North Brooklyn Boat Club), these visits gave me a much deeper — felt, embodied — sense of the landscape and enriched my understanding of the work we’re doing there. Seeing it in two different ways also showed me a lot about the notion of ‘ways of knowing’ that Marina has talked about, ie. how is it different to know a place by smelling it? By walking around it? Seeing it from the water versus the land?

By Bike

For our first visit, Marina and I scouted the area on bikes. We went early morning on July 4 weekend so the area was pretty much abandoned. We were even able to bike around part of the waste treatment facility and see some geese that live in a parking lot (#postnatural). It was my first time exploring the creek past the part near the Nature Park, so I got a much better sense of how the pollution increases as you get farther in to the different tributaries where there’s not as much water flow.

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2015-06-18 15.06.05

Mussels growing in Newtown Creek

Over the course of a month and change this summer, I’ll be doing research on the Floating Studio for Dark Ecologies project along with Nick and Eli. For two days per week, we’ll be working collectively alongside Marina and Carol Stakenas to develop a Field Guide to the Dark Ecologies of New York, “a resource guide for creative practitioners and citizen scientists working to expand the ways we participate in urban nature.” I’m really excited to be a part of the group and to explore new models for art / design / science practice. I’m also looking forward to learning more about this particular subject since it has so much overlap with the work I pursued during Temporary Expert, both in approach (citizen science, open source tools) and topically (water, pollution). In addition to the collective documentation we’ll be doing as a group, I’m hoping to document the process and my thinking here as well.

The first week of work was super packed and gave us all a great lay of the land. (I unfortunately missed week 2 because I was out of town so I’m playing catch up now). Here’s a recap of what we did on each day —

Day 1: June 18

We started with intros and a discussion to get on the same page about what we’re doing during the next month. Concretely speaking, there are two projects that we’ll be developing: 1. A map of Anthropocene artists and organizations working in the New York area, and 2. a field guide to the dark ecology Newtown Creek that can serve as a model for other field guides about urban nature.

And then, we got to all the questions. What is FSDE? What is a dark ecology? How can we use the Field Guide to the Dark Ecologies of New York to explore new models for art / science / research collaboration? How can we use Newtown Creek as a case study? What are different ways of learning and knowing (ie. Marina’s example of reading a book versus biking 11 miles of shoreline)? Who is the audience — ie. who is this for?

The day’s agenda looked like this:

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