Movement-Based Arts Inspire Public Lab’s DIY Environmental Science

    by Liz Barry
    August 13, 2012

    Researchers at Public Laboratory pursue environmental justice creatively, through re-imagining our relationship with the environment. Our model is to rigorously ask oddball questions, then initiate research by designing or adapting locally accessible tools and methods to collect the data we need to answer those questions.

    We’ve found, perhaps not surprisingly, that innovation in tools and methods frequently emerges from creative practices. In the larger trend of art plus science collaboration, 2D graphics, illustration, and visualization get most of the glory. But sculpture and dance are also major drivers of environmental imagination — and therefore scientific inquiry.

    taking back the production of research supplies

    Mathew Lippincott, Leo Famulari, Elaine Choi, and Leif Percifield launch a handmade parachute kite.

    In early July, approximately 25 people gathered in the cool interior of the 600,000-square-foot Pfizer building to design and build kites and balloons. This event was led by a sculptor, Mathew Lippincott, one of the co-founders of Public Laboratory. From his workshop in Portland, Ore., he’s been researching the performance of tyvek and bamboo as well as ultra-lightweight plastic coated with iron oxide powder that heats itself in the sun. Because community researchers around the world use commercially produced kites and balloons to lift payloads (such as visible and infrared cameras, air quality sensors, and grab samplers) high into the air, this is part of a mission-critical initiative to take back the production of research supplies into the hands of local communities.

    This delta kite (similar to a commercial model called Levitation) features a low-waste, quick (two-hour) assembly from rectangular pieces of material of any size. The completed kite is held by Lizzie Ingraham, Lailye Weidman, Elaine Choi, Mathew Lippincott, Leo Famulari, and Leif Percifield.

    dancers and scientists collaborate

    Jessica Einhorn and Lailye Weidman exhibit their work on lightweight kites.

    What you may not be expecting to hear is that half of the workshop attendees were dancers or choreographers, organized by Lailye Weidman and Jessica Einhorn, two fellows of iLAND, an organization dedicated to collaboration between dancers and scientists. Inspired by embodied investigations into atmospheric pressure and dynamics, these dancers joined the sculptors to drive forward a research agenda into the little-understood urban wind condition. Other attendees included engineers, theater artists, design students, landscape architects, and urban foresters. This group spent the weekend splitting bamboo, heat seaming painter’s plastic towards building a solar-heated balloon large enough to lift a person, and learning about aerodynamics through attempting to fly their creations.

    This work on the replicability (ease of making) and autonomy (easily procurable materials) of DIY aerial platforms — directed by the aesthetic and embodied sense of sculptors and dancers — has increased the ability of non-professional scientists to ask and answer their questions about their environment.

    Tagged: balloons collaboration dancers iland kites plots public laboratory scientists

    Comments are closed.

  • MediaShift received funding from the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC), which receives support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to launch the MetricShift section to create a vibrant hub for those interested in media metrics, analytics and measuring deeper impact.

    About MetricShift

    MetricShift examines the ways we can use meaningful metrics in the digital age. We provide thoughtful, actionable content on metrics, analytics and measuring impact through original reporting, aggregation, and audience engagement and community.

    Executive Editor: Mark Glaser

    Metrics Editor: Alexandra Kanik

    Associate Metrics Editor: Tim Cigelske

    Reader Advisory Board

    Chair: Anika Anand, Seattle Times Edu Lab

    Brian Boyer, NPR

    Clare Carr, Parse.ly

    Anjanette Delgado, Gannett

    Hannah Eaves, consultant, Gates Foundation

    Ian Gibbs, Guardian

    Lindsay Green-Barber, CIR/Reveal

    Celeste LeCompte, ProPublica

    Alisa Miller, PRI

    Connect with MetricShift

    Facebook group: Metrics & Impact

    Twitter: #MetricShift

    Email: alexandra [at] rationalact [dot] com

  • Who We Are

    MediaShift is the premier destination for insight and analysis at the intersection of media and technology. The MediaShift network includes MediaShift, EducationShift, MetricShift and Idea Lab, as well as workshops and weekend hackathons, email newsletters, a weekly podcast and a series of DigitalEd online trainings.

    About MediaShift »
    Contact us »
    Sponsor MediaShift »

    Follow us on Social Media