All the partners had a chance to meet in Hackterialab 2014 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. It is always nice to meet in person. It was also important to see the rivers in person — the first days of the Hackterialab, the group walked through a stretch of the Code River, and met some people in the community adjacent to the river.
One of the focuses of biodesign for the real world project this year, and also for the River Node in hackterialab 2014 is mapping. How does one map contamination in a river, a fleeting sample, which requires some time to arrive at a result? Who will be this map for?
We started by going over the existing maps. Robin talked about the hardware and mapping of radioactivity (data plotted is cumulatively, single value, geolocalized) with the safecast project. We already have a map for Jogjya River Project, where Iyok from Lifepatch has made an interactive map based on the Ushahidi platform, geolocating the coliform counts and panoramic photos of the sample collection sites. Yashas is working with Bangalore Urban Metabolism Project (BUMP), and shared with us the challenges of massive data and the visualization of data.
We agreed that we need to step back and take the opportunity to rethink the perspective of maps: – does River data have to be on a 2-d map? is the river actually 1-d? We had further interesting discussions on how, or whether we “read” maps. In Yogyakarta, the north is indicated by Mount Merapi, the volcano, and the south is the Queen of the sea, and people give directions based on landmarks. We also found out that there are many projects on-going with the waters and rivers in Yogyakarta by other NGOs and local initiatives. We learned that there are historical projects, by Romo Mangun, an architect, activist, and priest who worked with the citizens living by the river, and during his lifetime, was active in working with the river communities and keeping the river clean.
Some maps that were brought to attention, like the 1854 Broad Street Cholera map by John Snow, which was one of the first if not the first example of map use for determining the source of the cholera epidemic, “spatial epidemiology”. The interest of Lifepatch is to locate sources of contamination along the river, so that the contamination source can be addressed.
The desire to bring narratives to the maps, another map was brought to our attention by Pei-Ying. In Documentation: the Shape of the Singapore River, Debbie Ding “collected sketches made by people and what they think the shape of the Singapore River looks like, without making reference to anything else” (Currently showing at the Singapore Art Museum). The shape of the river reflects the memories and the individual’s relationship with the river. This relationship with rivers was echoed during a later dinner conversation, when Novel, who lives near Code River told us how “The river was a friend – it was green, beautiful, we played there…but now the river is no longer a friend. We keep distance”.
Within these 2 weeks, we decided to focus on the following
- research the list of known water/river/mapping projects in Yogyakarta
- enrich the mapping with some narrative
- visit the waste water processing plant
- request to have sewage data from the government
- sampling as performance/ ritual
- organize/agree to build a database to accommodate the different types of data to be mapped – an open platform that would be available to other projects mentioned above
Concretely, what we experimented during this time was to try to set up, and test out a new workshop looking for diatom diversity in the Code River, and exchange of memories/impressions of the river. We learned from Karkhana, workshop basics and ice-breakers to get over language barriers, and with the v.1 of the digital webcam microscope, we visited X-CODE head quarters with kind interns willing to try the fresh-out-of-the-oven workshop. Together, we visited the river and collected the waters, and went through the process to concentrate and observe the diatoms under the microscope. Later, what Shreyasi found out by taking water from the nearby rice patty, was that, while diatoms can be readily seen in the water from the rice field without any process of concentration, the river water had to be processed to see any diatoms. We also asked people to write and share their river experience. It was a long afternoon – and we were amazed everyone stayed til the end. In debriefing on the workshop, we listed what needs to be improved, and brainstormed for the version 2.
The prototypes, and the process were shared at an exhibition at the end of HLab14, curated by Grace Samboh of Hyphen. This exhibition was conceived as pathways into collaborations, organized by the HLab14 research nodes, the Volcano, Forest and River.
Within this exhibition related to the river node, for hardware, there was a GPS/temperature sensing coconut by Urs of GaudiLabs, and a zebra-fish immersed yet segragated in the water (a conceptualization of having a toxin-sensing fluorescent reporter fish in the field) exhibited as Exosynthesis. This prototype stems from the concerns of the BIO-DESIGN for the REAL WORLD biosensor projects, where reporter bacteria, or reporter fish, for example, transgenic zebrafish that can sense environmental toxins, must be confined from the environment. Also, there was the Water Sampling Probe (WASP), a mock-up of a GPS-triggered water sampling raft, collaboration between members of Lifepatch and WAFT-Lab, and a member from the Taiwanese Bioart Community. Musik Batu di Kali Code (Stone Music in Code River) video, was made working with youth in Tukangan, an area along the Code River.
A major concern was “why should people go take river water samples?” – in testing the coconut in the waters, the group noticed that garbage is directly thrown into the river. The technologies for the detection of contaminants is not the limiting factor. If awareness-building is the issue – then a water sampling robot competition can be just as effective. A wine-making workshop requested by the community, where vessel sterilization is performed, can also raise awareness of the water source.
Much was experienced, and now the post-HLab14 reflection and following action is in process.
We will separately be documenting details on the workshop, as well as the exhibition on the hackterialab websites…to come.