Category: Activism

FLOAT – An Open Source Kite Project Helps Monitor Air Quality in Beijing

FLOAT – An Open Source Kite Project Helps Monitor Air Quality in Beijing

The poor air quality in Beijing, China is getting worse.  Recently a hospital in southwest China opened a clinic for people who are having health issues related to smog.  The smog levels are rising, and recently the Chinese government officials recently asked other foreign embassies to not measure and make public the air quality in Beijing.

In order to help Chinese citizens monitor their local air and environment, a team of graduate students have created a project created FLOAT Beijing.  The project combines the local tradition of kite-flying, activism, and science.  For the project, a kite is equipped with air quality sensors that allows citizens to actively monitor their local air environment.

This past August, there were a series of workshops in Beijing that helped instruct participants in how to build and fly their own air-sensing kites using simple materials and open-source technology.  The goal of the project is to empower citizens with information and the ability to access air quality information.

The kites have LED lights that are programmed to light up with different colors in order to show the best and worst air quality.  Green indicates the best air, and pink shows the worst.  The information is mapped using geolocation technology, and the data is collected and made public.

Images and Links:

FLOAT – Workshop in Action Video 






Landfill Dogs:  Photographs of Dogs Without a Home

Landfill Dogs: Photographs of Dogs Without a Home

I recently came across the photography of artist Mary Shannon Johnstone, in doing research about artists in the Raleigh, NC area, where I recently moved.  Johnstone’s current project, called Landfill Dogs is a yearlong project where she photographs dogs from the county animal shelter at the local landfill.

Each image of the different dogs is unique, and the expressions of the animals vary from image to image.  One of my favorite images is taken near the time of sunset.  With red clouds behind, the dog is hopping up into the air, as if he/she is about to catch a Frisbee (or a treat) in the air.

The image of the dogs are beautiful, but also quietly haunting once your learn that each dog is close to euthanasia if they do not find a home.  Each of the dogs have been homeless for at least two weeks before they are photographs.  Each week for 18 months (late 2012–early 2014) the artist is taking one dog from the county animal shelter and photographing him/her at the local landfill.  The landfill site is used because this is where the dogs will end up if they do not find a home, and the dogs are photographed at the site of their potential end.

Johnstone also uses the site of the landfill because the county animal shelter is managed under the same management as the landfill. The artist writes, “This government structure reflects a societal value; homeless cats and dogs are just another waste stream. However, this landscape offers a metaphor of hope. It is a place of trash that has been transformed into a place of beauty.”

As part of her photographic process, each dog receives a car ride, a walk, treats, and about 2 hours of d individual attention. The artist writes that her goal is to,”…offer an individual face to the souls that are lost because of animal overpopulation, and give these animals one last chance. This project will continue for one year, so that we can see the landscape change, but the constant stream of dogs remains the same.”

To see more images of the Landfill dogs, you can check out the Facebook page, where you can keep up with the project.

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Camp Pixelache in Helsinki – A Weekend of Art, Activism, Sustainability and Technology

Camp Pixelache in Helsinki – A Weekend of Art, Activism, Sustainability and Technology

When I read the description about Camp Pixelache this Winter, an event where technology, art, activism and subcultures meet each year in Helsinki, Finland, I said to myself, “These are my people.”  I submitted a presentation topic, and went to present at the event.   I just came back from Helsinki, and have came back with lots of thing to write about, and with lots of friends and new contacts  who are doing projects related to building community, cultural production, art technology, sustainability, and activism from various countries.

This year, Camp Pixelache had a core theme of “Do It With Others” (D.I.W.O) and explored the question of “How can artists, makers, cultural producers, researchers and activists work collaboratively with each other and audiences, to create new co-production models for artifacts/events with sustainability as the core goal?”

A series of presentations around 4 core themes were organized which include Do It With Others (D.I.W.O), Creative Neighborhood Skills, The Art of Gathering Environmental Data, and Social Identity and Augmented Reality.  There also were demonstrations of electronic art and design including various open source, re/upcycling, and other “trashlab” and “hacklab” projects.

Other events at the festival included a keynote presentation, a live performance club event, and a series of professional workshops. The events were held at Arbis, a Swedish-language adult education center that is located close to the Finnish National Museum, in central Helsinki.

I gave a presentation in the early afternoon titled Powerformance which was in the festival’s track, Do It With Others (D.I.W.O.)  In my talk, I talked about the potential that interactive performance has to generate awareness and promote social change.  I made a special stretchable Euro paycheck –which we stretched at the end of my presentation.

The weekend was amazing.  I met so many interesting people and talked to others about art, technology, hope for the future, and other topics. I met others from Sweden, France, Latvia, Estonia, Germany, Finland, Portugal and England at the event.

Some of the main speakers and facilitators of the conference tracks included Marc Garrett, (, London), Pedro Soler (, Barcelona) Jennifer Gabrys, (Goldsmiths University, London) and  Owen Kelly  (Arcadia University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki) and members of the Bio Art Society of Finland.

The dialogue and presentations were engaging and exciting.  I will be posting for probably several weeks about the people, projects, and presentations that I met, experienced, and saw.     I am currently unpacking, doing laundry, and preparing my receipts.  Tomorrow I will start typing up my notes, compiling the information I got, and also connecting with others that I met at the conference.  Get ready to hear more about Camp Pixelache in future posts!

Image Source:
Pixelache website


Camp Pixelache Website

Pixelache website

Camp Pixelache Video:






Want to be a Social Citizen?  Millennials Making Positive Change

Want to be a Social Citizen? Millennials Making Positive Change

In the past two years I have noticed a change in my students.  My students today are different than my students I had even three years ago in terms of their attitudes, skills, and values.  To improve my teaching, I have been reading upon millennial generation in order to better understand and teach my students.

The term Social Citizens is a name for the new generation of activists of the millennial generation who are working to make change in the world using technology. Passionate about social causes and equipped with digital tools, some of the millennials are working to make change in the world.

The website in 2008 released a discussion paper about young people affecting civil engagement, and termed it Social Citizens.

Some issues they investigated with the site were whether institutions can and will survive, if social networks are “bubble cultures” that need to be expanded, if access is granted or taken, and whether government matters.

The outcome of interviews showed that young people feel they have no access to decision makers and decision making, particularly with regard to public policy, that most social networks are cliques and not open, and that millennials value peer relationships over institutional loyalty.

What to become a social citizen, or read about the morals of the millennials?   The site, blog, and original paper are an interesting read that I found to be hopeful since most of my students have no interest in creating change, and on the whole do not seem to believe that they can affect policy and the world.

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