Creating a Digital Archive of Physical Sites & Sightings

So I’ve been thinking about how I want to narrow down my project for the semester, and I’ve realized that what I’m most interested in is creating an archive or catalog of physical spaces and artifacts from my surroundings. In creating this archive, there are a few things I’m considering:

  • making it open-source: allowing anyone to upload models, photos, and text
  • local: focusing on a small geographical region. for each submission, i would like to include the coordinates of the finding(s) so that others may actually visit the physical location (maybe even post updates)
  • live: i’d like to create an archive that is live and expanding. the idea that actual change or transformation could be studied over time is an incentive.

My goal is for this archive to inspire people to find ways to connect to their environment. In the way that social media platforms provide opportunities for people to stay in contact with friends that they have already made in real life, I’d like to create a platform that encourages people to notice their surroundings and share those noticings with others, creating a shared appreciation of an environment.

I did some Google searches to see if others have done similar projects. Here are some of my findings:

A People’s Archive of Sinking & Melting 
Amy Balkin
This project is an open-source collection of images that depict objects that have been altered from natural forces. For most of the images, the location of their discovery is noted and there is a stress placed on climate change. So most of the locations are coastal regions that are at risk of disappearing or have disappeared already.
For this archive, it looks like people are sending in the actual artifacts from all over the world. The items are then photographed by the artist and uploaded.

Urban Archives
BMA (2009)
An exhibition from 2009, “Urban Archives” was part of a multi–year series of exhibitions that looked at contemporary culture as a “living archive.” It draws primarily from the personal collections of a number of artists that have been working in and on the Bronx since the late 1970s. In their collections, the testimonies of long-time residents and occasional visitors coexist in the form of mementos, documentation, artwork and other sort of cultural artifacts.

“Urban Archives” opens at BMA


Other inspirations:

  • Geocaching
  • (local town forums)

Photoscan Tutorials

Some tutorials I’ve been watching. I looked for some agisoft tutorials on Lynda but the ones they had were only in German… :-/

I’ve also checked out agisoft’s website which has a lot of great tips and instructions on the program:


Memory, Artifact, and Virtual Reality

I’m beginning to get a better idea of what I want to pursue for my project this semester. I’m still interested in continuing to work with pulp and continuing to research renewable materials, but conceptually, I’m heading in another route.

I’ve always been interested in methods of preservation (photography, reproductions, recording/storing of information) and how these methods of preserving objects/sites/experiences compare to an individual’s subjective experience with memory.

Things I’m considering:

  • our culture’s value of the copy over the original, the virtual over the physical, the representation eventually taking place of what it is re-presenting
  • the presumed loss of value in the original object by creation of its copy
  • data loss/ generation loss in image files, how jpegs “fill in the gaps” where information is lost
  • translation from physical to digital to physical- what is lost, what is gained
  • altered or fabricated memory (in relation to VR:


As I’ve been reading more and more about it, photogrammetry in the field of archaeology and geology is really catching my attention- I’m intrigued by the idea of creating 3d models that create a frozen view of artifacts and terrain within a given space and time. I wonder how this technology will continue to develop towards increasingly engaging simulations of the world.



Rather than just replicating existing things, how can artists use 3d scanning to create new things, new objects, that are derived from (but not necessarily restricted by) their original sources? And further, how can the imperfections and errors of the artist and the technology be used to the artist’s advantage, acting as a creative tool in itself?

I’d like to explore these methods of 3d scanning and photography to create images and sculptures that reference physical spaces and found objects from my own life (and possibly my past) in a way that questions what it means to preserve vs. to remember.


things I’m looking at:

How to set up a successful photogrammetry project


Material Research

After browsing (thanks Annet!), I was able to find some materials that really interest me. Here is a list of renewable materials that I found that have all been molded to create usable products:


Organoid moldings:

Made from organic fibres and a natural binder, are capable of achieving complex curves through a relatively simple production process. Applications include home accessories, door handles, building insulation and car parts.


Mycelium products:

For design and packaging purposes. When combined with different forms of agricultural waste, the mycelium acts as a binder, and results in materials that resemble foam and plastics.



BioBlocks are made of pressed peat from the National Park Weerribben and Wieden. The blocks are air dried for a period of four to eight weeks. These blocks can be used for a variety of  wall constructions or for filling gabions. BioBlocks also regulate moisture very well, absorbing and retaining excess moisture that they later release, thus regulating the natural climate of interior spaces.



PaperFoam is a packaging material made from industrial starch, using an injection moulding process. It is based on natural materials. The main ingredient is industrial starch, which is retrieved from potatoes or tapioca.



Woodcast is a completely non-toxic and perfectly mouldable/re-mouldable material suitable for casting work. It is manufactured from clean wood and biodegradable plastic and can be moulded without water or rubber gloves.

Drawing Inspiration From Nature


Lining Yao – “bioLogic”

After listening to Lining Yao speak at the BMA last week, I have been thinking more about the possibilities for merging technology with nature. Yao spoke about her interest in the natural world, that began during her childhood in Mongolia and has led her career in design and science. The technology in her work is derived from close observation of the inherent properties of natural organisms. Her ‘bioLogic’ material uses natto bacteria to control the opening and closing of flaps on garments, in accordance to the temperature and humidity of the person wearing the outfit. Therefore, the clothing is adaptive to the user’s natural state, and acts as two garments instead of one.




Shuhei Hasado – “Haptic Geta”

Geta = Japanese sandal that is typically worn barefoot

Haptic = relating to, or pleasant to the sense of touch

Interested in the way that geta allows its users to have a ‘sensitized experience of the natural world,’ Hasado designed shoes with various natural materials (wood, soil, grass, stone) on the surface of the sandal, where the foot and the shoe meet. These textures take advantage of our sensory nerves to create the illusion of walking barefoot on nature. I’m interested in how Hasado is borrowing natural textures from living organisms/geology to create products that encourage us to consider our connection to the planet.


Yung Ho Chang (atelier FCJZ) – Lotus Leaf Tray

Product design derived from a digital scan of a dried lotus leaf. Natural textures of the leaf’s veins serve as the structure of the tray, allowing it to stand and creating a tactile appearance. I’m interested in how the scanning acts to preserve an ephemeral, natural object (and action) that would otherwise wither and decompose in nature. The act of scanning, copying, and preserving all express human interests in exerting control over objects, and over the passing of time.


Image result for photogrammetry texture natural

The use of photogrammetry to capture and replicate natural textures is something that really interests me. I’ve scanned organic objects in the past, which were then translated into 3d printed objects and molds, and this is something that I would like to continue to explore. The act of making a copy is something that I already explore in my practice, through the use of mold-making, but the added element of physical->digital->physical would definitely open up areas for further research and elaboration in design.

Of its many applications, I’m most interested in the use of photogrammetry within the fields of geology (to quickly and cost-efficiently obtain models of land masses), archaeology (to produce plans of large or complex sites), and by meteorology (to determine the actual wind speed of a tornado where objective weather data cannot be obtained.)

A technique called photogrammetry created these 3-D images of a baby stegosaurus tracks found near Morrison, Colorado. The track, which is about the size of a quarter, is hard to see in a two-dimensional photograph. With this technique, scientists can send a high resolution 3-D copy of a site around the world with just a few cell phone images. Image courtesy Matthew Mossbrucker, Morrison Natural History Museum
3D images of a baby Stegosaurus track found near Morrison, Colorado

Cybernetics: Deleuze, Weiner, & Pye

2000px-ideal_feedback_model-svgThe feedback loop is a fundamental part of cybernetics theory, as it enables communication between systems and their surrounding environments. The processing of information, into quantifiable data, is essential to this system. Norbert Weiner applied this theory of cybernetics to diverse systems of communication (thermostats, elevators, kittens, and human communication) in his book The Craft Reader. I read this excerpt from Weiner first and really enjoyed the way he used these examples to explain the interconnectivity of all things, through their methods of sensory perception, whether intentional (programmed) or intuitive. David Pye, in The Nature & Art of Workmanship, spoke of the intuitive communication that constantly occurs between the craftsman and the object that is being crafted, as Pye states that the care, judgement, and dexterity that goes into the craft often becomes habitual and unconscious.  

It’s clear that the feedback loop model in cybernetics has been applied to many areas of study and has allowed these disciplines to evolve and expand exponentially, by connecting systems once thought to be completely disparate. This concept of communication and control seems very interesting and cool when applied to areas like design, craft, or thermostat technology, but also has the potential to be frightening and uncool when applied to areas like global capitalism or governance…

“The numerical language of control is made of codes that mark access to information, or reject it. We no longer find ourselves dealing with the mass/individual pair. Individuals have become ‘dividuals” and masses; samples, data, markets or ‘banks.'”

-Deleuze (Postscripts on the Societies of Control)

The Deleuze reading applied this system of cybernetics to our society in an extremely bleak, though extremely accurate way. It is true that the concept of cybernetics has been taken by capitalist and political systems and used, in conjunction with increasingly intelligent technologies, to reduce human individuality and value into data. This data is then fed back into the system of control, allowing it to self regulate, improve, and perpetuate its constrictive power over us.

Modern systems of control that utilize cybernetics are sneaky. They are not a persistent, overbearing and enclosing form of power like that of Foucault’s “disciplinary societies.” Instead, systems of control are a “modulation.” Deleuze’s example is that of the corporation, which tricks workers into competing with one another to push productivity. Deleuze refers to marketing as the “soul” of the corporation. These systems collect information from individuals and use that information to commodify human activity. Take, for instance, the methods by which Google stores past online searches and purchases and then uses that data to individualize advertisements and provide suggestions in an artificially personal way. A creepier example would be facial recognition software that groups the photographs you upload to Facebook into groups, by recognizing and singling out certain individuals. Just the other day, I found my google account had organized saved photos and created a slideshow for me with “highlights from my year.” Clearly, human activities and human relationships are being commodified by corporations, thereby devaluing the real activities, relationships, and individuals to which they are marketing.

Origami Workshop

Images from tonight’s class, including some from Ryan’s grasshopper workshop and from David Kandel’s traditional folding workshop!

rendered origami cuts on rhino
view from grasshopper

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Some notes from tn: (website for material research & development)

as noted in previous class sessions and readings, material has a huge impact on the process of folding. david stressed the importance of working with the paper and paying close attention to its natural inclinations, rather than forcing it to bend. all of the corrugation folds that we created were sturdy because they were folded in ways that aligned with the default behavior of the material.