[-empyre-] transdisciplinarity and transnetworks

Brett Stalbaum stalbaum at ucsd.edu
Thu Apr 15 05:00:15 EST 2010

Thanks Chris. I do think it is useful to put on the table some info  
about exactly what the TBTool is in a technical sense. Most basically,  
the application is *both* JavaMe MIDP 2.0, CLDC 1.0, JSR 179 for the  
mobile handset, and a J2SE deployer application that allows orgs to  
add their own maps, expiration dates (so far our only solution to the  
stale data problem), and some other info to the MIDlets. (MIDlets are  
the software that is loaded on the phone.) The software on the phone  
is designed (with the help of Jason Najarro, a recent ucsd cog sci  
student) to function in well in a cognitively difficult environment.  
(Among the main ill effect of dehydration is cognitive disruption.) It  
utilizes a very innovative "water dowsing" feature designed by Jason,  
simple haptic feedback (using the phone's vibrate feature), and more  
recently I have been adding an audio alert system as well, so that  
important user interface events present info across three modalities,  
screen/haptic/sound. The interface is very simple to use, based on a  
compass rose metaphor for dynamic navigation. Recently, we also added  
a "low gps" mode that the application enters when it realizes that the  
gps fix updates are below a threshold useful for dynamic compass- 
pointer navigation. Finally, TBTool provides poetic sustenance,  
messages of hope with embedded information. Amy Carrol is currently  
working with the idea embedding useful navigational information into  
the poems. The north star. That the lids of the water stations are  
designed (by John Hunter) to provide insulation from the hot ground.  
This work is still very much under development, and is based on in  
situ research. We are all spending time out there working with the  
coords of actual water stations, and volunteering with Border Angels  
and Water Station inc to maintain stations. This in situ experience  
has been the most valuable in terms of suggesting weaknesses of the  
alpha software, and needed features.

The notion of legality is an interesting and vexing one for us. First,  
by design, the software is designed only for short-distance, emergency  
navigation. Sort of an emergency rip-cord if you will. This also  
relates to the battery life of the very cheap, used mobile phones we  
are targeting to drive the cost (hopefully) below $10 for emergency  
navigation. We understand that the public has only their inductive  
experience with GPS. In recent years, I have been surprised at various  
people's surprise about the user interface metaphors used by typical  
outdoor GPS devices. Once what every GPS geek was familiar with, the  
compass rose and very simple mapping capabilities of outdoor GPS  
devices (with two bit lcd screens and battery life worthy of  
backpacking trips) are no longer connoted by "GPS" except among  
outdoors people. The turn-by-turn direction metaphor of automotive GPS  
navigation has for the most part replaced it. So what people imagine  
when the media reports "GPS for immigrants" is nothing like what our  
platform actually does. For the record, it facilitates short distance  
emergency navigation for people traveling by foot in the wilderness.  
It is not useful for long distance overland navigation in the way that  
a good outdoor GPS that is available at the Best Buy or Walmart in TJ  
would be. TBTool is an attempt to produce a humanitarian platform that  
enhances the effectiveness of the water stations set out by courageous  
activists, to increase survivability.

It is of course informed and embedded in a critique of our duplicitous  
immigration policy that allows millions in and symbolically deports a  
few thousand, and tragically kills a few, to appease conservatives  
while simultaneously allowing the exploitable labor to come. I have  
two things to say about our laws against aiding and abetting. First,  
these do not apply to humanitarian situations. Water Station Inc and  
Border Angels have both in fact transported seriously ill immigrants  
to the hospital. Putting out the water stations too is protected  
humanitarian work - Water Station Inc actually has permits to put  
their stations out.

We think that solving the last mile problem (helping guide people  
short distances to the water stations), must therefore be legal too.

We are saddened that our employer has decided to hide behind weak  
commitments to academic freedom in public while harassing us  
internally. We feel that they should be helping us explain the  
humanitarian nature of our research to the public and defending the  
work aggressively, instead of worsening the problem by aggressively  
investigating us, obfuscating the truth and playing into the hands of  
conservative politicians who see this as a red meet issue for the  
voters gathered at the foot of their table.

So yes, I think the reaction is all an absolutely absurd farce to date.


On Apr 13, 2010, at 10:19 PM, christopher sullivan wrote:

> I think that it is important to acknowledge that
> the notion that the Transborder Immigrant Tool might be illegal in  
> notions of
> aiding and abetting, is not absurd, arguable, but not absurd. often  
> Artists
> cross cultural borders of legal limitations, and this is important,  
> but I don't
> think that shock should be part of our response.

Brett Stalbaum, Lecturer, LSOE
Coordinator, Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Major (ICAM)
Department of Visual Arts
9500 GILMAN DR. # 0084
La Jolla CA 92093-0084

OFFICE HOURS (Note: these change every quarter)

FALL 2009: Wednesdays, 1-3PM, Mandeville 221 (Near Vis Arts Advising)

WINTER 2009:  Tuesdays, 1-3PM, Mandeville 221 !!!*Moving to VAF, TBA,  
sometime during Winter Quarter*!!!

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