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Public Lab Research note

Digital STS workshop at Arnold Arboretum in Boston

by sara | July 21, 2013 17:28 21 Jul 17:28 | #8914 | #8914

What I did

I was invited to mentor a group of STS researchers in developing a Digital STS workshop at the Arnold Arboretum. The workshop, co-hosted by Metalab at Harvard, was fantastic, the arboretum staff gave us tours of both the grounds and their digital archive and expressed an interest in trying to extend public engagement with the arboretum. Members of the group were:

David Banks Carlo Altamirano Allende Christina Dunbar-Hester Bryce J Renninger Dharma Dailey Faye Rosin

With the goal of extending public engagement with the arboretum in mind, balloon mapping seemed like a perfect project and I'd been looking for a chance to try out Public Lab's new Infragram. With the help of cfastie, who sent a Rosco #2007 filter my way, I made a Super Blue camera following Jeff Warren's super helpful video. I went with taping a Rosco Blue Filter over the lense so it is removeable. Making the camera took two tries (subject of a research note to come).

Though we battled with storms both days of the workshop we managed to get the balloon aloft with a two Cranberry Juice bottle rig I put together. The weight of the camera's and light rain made getting the balloon high difficult.

Because we worried rain could start anytime we just set the cameras going as we walked through the arboretum to the spot we sought to map. We were aiming for a stand of trees that had recently between treated for an invasive species. We wanted to see if the infragram camera could separate healthy from unhealthy groups of tree. Unfortunately the wind was headed in the opposite direction so we got some nice shots of a brook instead.

My attempt and results

Carlo compiled all the images from both cameras into two fun timelapse videos:

As part of this workshop we had a an "ethnographer" following our travels to document our work, this lead to some great pictures of us all moving along as procession and showed how many of the arboretum visitors stopped to inquire about the balloon.

Carlo, Christina, and Dharma made a couple of balloon maps of the site:

Visible Light Map

Near Infrared Map

Questions and next steps

Discussions of this effect lead us to develop a presentation about how balloon mapping and Public Lab approaches make "making science a spectacle". The Arboretum staff who saw the presentation were very excited about the possibilities of further balloon mapping events or developing a science procession as ways for visitors to get involved in making science in the arboretum. We're following up on ideas for next projects in the park currently! Here is a pdf of the slide show we put together:


The pdf is not attached.

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