the art of surveillance

a bird caught by a “camera trap” on bumpkin island

In the summer of 2008 I was lucky enough to be able to collaborate on an artistic experiment on camouflage and surveillance on one of the islands in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. It’s hard to believe that was almost four years ago. On the principle that late is better than never, I thought I’d attempt to describe what we did and why it turned out to be such an exciting experience/experiment.

The Camoufleurs project was initially dreamed up by historian of science Hanna Rose Shell and architect Dan Hisel, who successfully proposed it to the coordinators of the Bumpkin Island Art Encampment, then in its second year. At the time, Hanna was in the process of writing what would turn out to be a fascinating book about the history of camouflage. Dan had also been studying the history of camouflage and teaching his students about its relevance to architecture. Continue reading

One Infrastructure, Many Global Visions: The Commercialization and Diversification of Argos, a Satellite-Based Environmental Surveillance System

One Infrastructure, Many Global Visions: The Commercialization and Diversification of Argos, a Satellite-Based Environmental Surveillance System, Social Studies of Science 42, no. 6 (2012): 846-71.

a revolutionary new technology … from 1960

In the past day or two a bunch of people have forwarded me an article in the New York Times about a new wildlife tracking device, touted by the author and some of his interviewees as potentially revolutionary for ecology and wildlife management — as revolutionary, the author suggests, as the smartphone and Facebook have been for human communication.

Revolutionary claims are no surprise in science journalism, but this one seems unusually thin. The collar combines an accelerometer with a GPS receiver, but the main advance seems to lie in calibration efforts that the developers are doing with a captive mountain lion (“Mischief”) in Colorado to match movement patterns with certain activities — stalking and killing a rabbit, for instance — and to calculate the corresponding expenditure of energy. Nice if it works, but not exactly Copernican. Continue reading