In the Meadows

You will meet a lot of people if you spend six hours in the Northampton Meadows with a robotic camera rig. Dog walkers, bird watchers, cops who want to know if you saw a suspicious SUV go by, people who just want to park and smoke and be left alone. This is truly a liminal space, where many paths cross. Looking down intently, I found many of their traces as well. Here are a few early returns from the project.

For context, here are some photos of my practice in capturing the red bit of plastic pictured above. This latest version of my robotic tripod rides on repurposed rails from a bookshelf and features two powered inline wheels for extra precision.

The damp ground and overcast skies are perfect for my purposes, but make a good set of boots into an essential component of my work.

Cast Aways

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m something of a hoarder, gathering bits and pieces of technology that have the potential for a second act as part of a robot. These cast aways have been coming along nicely over the last few months. I just finished a workshop for teachers where we built robots and drew all over the floor of the Media Lab at Mount Holyoke with them.


Would You Kill A Robot?

“Christoph Bartneck of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand recently tested whether humans could end the life of a robot as it pleaded for survival.” –No Mercy For Robots, NPR

Broken Hard DriveThe answer is yes, most people will terminate a robot with hardly a second thought. But most people don’t see robots as alive, even when they are programmed to beg for their lives.

Furthermore, the robots he used fall somewhere between a bacteria and a paramecium on the scale of complexity. Even with an acknowledgement of life, most people don’t think twice about stepping on bugs.

A better question might be, “Would you kill a robot that is a part of your life, one which has shared in your experiences, holds some of your thoughts, and has memories of you and your loved ones?” Anyone who has suffered the death of a hard drive knows the answer to that question. Such a loss is a personal tragedy, complete with very real anguish and even mourning. That’s why I back up my digital photos and videos religiously – two brains are better than one.