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http://www.pigeonblog.mapyourcity.net/index.php http://www.beatrizdacosta.net/pigeonblog.php http://www.beatrizdacosta.net/files/pigeonstatement.pdf

Pigeonblog (2006- 2008)

Project Credits: Beatriz da Costa with Cina Hazegh and Kevin Ponto The PigeonBlog was a project that tried to make the invisible visible. It explored the idea of cohabitation in urban ecologies, and, in the process, revealed how the interdependent relationship between people, animals and environment is often ignored. It also brought the issue of pollution to the forefront by creating a spectacle that was provocative as well as playful. Beatriz Da Costa, the artist behind the project, quotes Michel de Certeau who said, To make people believe, is to make them act. The PigeonBlog project addresses the apathy of citizens towards their lived environment by finding new, more poignant ways of communicating information. The project also aimed to broaden the notion of a citizen science by using DIY technology to build bridges between scientific research agendas and activist oriented civic action. The artist was inspired by a famous photograph of a pigeon carrying a camera around its neck, taken at the turn of the twentieth century. This technology, developed by the German engineer Julius Neubronner for military applications, allowed photographs to be taken by pigeons while in flight. A small camera was set on a mechanical timer to take pictures periodically as pigeons flew over regions of interest.

The homing pigeons with tracker

Real time Visualization of Pollution data

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Presence: Pigeonblog
This early example of using living animals as participants in early surveillance technology systems provoked the following questions: What would the twenty-first century version of this combination look like? Could animals help us in raising awareness about social injustice?1 Homing pigeons were used to map and communicate the level of pollution across the city. They were trained to carry a device that collected data about pollution levels and then transmitted real-time, location specific information to a central server. The pigeon backpacks developed for this process consisted of a combined GPS (latitude, longitude, altitude) / GSM (cell phone tower communication) unit and corresponding antennae, a dual automotive CO/NO2 pollution sensor, a temperature sensor, a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card interface, a microcontroller and standard supporting electronic components. This design essentially created an open-platform Short Message Service (SMS) enabled cell phone, ready to be rebuilt and repurposed by anyone interested in using the same technology. The development of the basic functionality of this device took about three months; however miniaturizing it to a comfortable pigeon size was the biggest engineering challenge. The data collected was unique compared to the pollution levels gauged by government monitoring stations. Firstly, these stations are static and only collect information at certain sites, typically in the http://www.beatrizdacosta.net/images/projectimages/pigeonvideo/pigeonfull.mov

The project website

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Presence: Pigeonblog
less congested areas of the city, while pigeons could map each and every point in the city. The pigeons were also able to collect data at a height of 300ft. As airplanes or helicopters usually collect data from much higher, more rarified altitudes the data collected by the pigeons was the mosr accurate estimation of pollution in the city. The collected data was layered onto a satellite map real time using Java Script and php that showed the name of the pigeon, its location, altitude, the Carbon Monoxide and Nitrogen Dioxide levels. The varying pollution levels were also visualized using colors of different intensity. The pigeons flew on three occasions. All three of these events took place in August 2006, and the observing human audience members got a chance to interact with the birds and observe the pollution information being visualized real-time over a map of their own city. The visualizations were also made available to a larger audience through a website. Through these visualizations, the audience could track the pigeons as they flew over familiar neighborhoods and localities. As the pigeons gradually mapped the pollution levels over different parts of the city, they became interlocutors between the urban environment and the people. Their flight revealed the direct and potentially hazardous effect of the urban environment on people. It emphasized the precarious nature of the relationship between humans, birds, and the city, and perhaps, for the audience, this experience created a new awareness about their presence within it. http://www.pigeonblog.mapyourcity.net/index.php http://www.beatrizdacosta.net/pigeonblog.php

Pigeon Blog Event

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Presence: Pigeonblog
Although the project did not develop into a sustainable solution that served as an alternative, grassroots approach to the citys model of pollution mapping, it challenged the idea that technology exclusively belongs in the domain of experts, by creating DIY technology that can be appropriated by non-expert participants. The value of the project was, in its impact, as an artistic intervention rather than a long-term design proposal. The replicability of the project also created a potential for diverse communities across the world to create similar interventions in their own context, and if the project had been pushed further, so that more people could be motivated to appropriate it in their own communities, it may have created a larger, more widespread impact. http://www.pigeonblog.mapyourcity.net/index.php http://www.beatrizdacosta.net/pigeonblog.php

1 Project Documentation http://www.beatrizdacosta.net/ files/pigeonstatement.pdf