Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Island Art Encampment and Cartography Archive

In late July of 2011 Uta Hinrichs and I (working as the TRAUBENSAFT! Collective) took residency on Bumpkin Island in Boston Harbor, and spent five days using experimental cartography and psychogeography methods and strategies to create a map archive of the island– a participatory mapping project. This Archive is part of the Berwick Research Institute’s Annual Bumpkin Island Art Encampment, produced in cooperation with the Boston Harbor Island Alliance and the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Visitors to Bumpkin during the Encampment browsed Traubensaft’s small collection of original, experimental maps of the island. The map archive also offered visitors use of a “map-making kit”, with materials and instructions to create their own maps. As part of the map making process, physical flags/pins could be placed in the environment (and carry a message or label) by the artists and participant cartographers. These flags referred to landmarks or symbols recorded on particular maps, and created visible signs of the mapping process on the landscape.

Visitor-created maps were donated/contributed to the Bumpkin Island Map Archive. The Archive headquarters and display site was fully integrated into the landscape, located on under a tree at the center of the Island. At the end of the project, the archive consisted of over 70 maps, the vast majority created by the public. This project is documented on Traubensaft!’s website.

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Awkward_NYC, a map of awkward social interactions in public spaces

Awkward_NYC, or The New York City Map of Awkward Social interactions in Public Spaces, is a collaborative online map for reporting social accidents and small interpersonal traumas that occur unexpectedly in public spaces. The map pinpoints sites in the New York Metropolitan area where misunderstandings, outbursts, physical altercations, arguments between friends or strangers, and romantic spats or break-ups have occurred. These mishaps are characteristic of the human urban experience– they’re unsettling, often comic, strangely powerful mini-narratives and dramas that would otherwise go untold, but may linger in memory for months and years, as we move through the same urban landscapes, day in and day out.

Anyone can add a story to the map; the project is fully web-based and participatory. The map taps into the confessional, voyeuristic, narrative impulses that typify online behavior and subverts the notion of mapping as reductive, objective, and authoritative. As stories are added to the map, a series of data visualizations depicting the emotional terrain of the city will be generated.

Awkward_NYC is a 2012 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts for its Turbulence website. It was made possible with funds from the Jerome Foundation. Thanks to Rodrigo De Benito and Adam Lassy for troubleshooting code.

Click here to use the map on

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Heartbreak Haiku

The Heartbreak Haiku site invited visitors to condense their tragic, failed-relationship stories into three line haiku. While many internet communities spring up around common interests or obsessions, Heartbreak Haiku attempted to create a community of users organized around a particular set of emotions:

“Your best pals are happy to listen to your rambling, romantic sob stories once, maybe twice. But don’t be tempted to go on and on… Channel your obsessive thoughts, weepiest self-pitying moments, and bouts of vengeful fury into the concise, elegant Japanese poem form HAIKU. Submit your haiku here, your comrades in frustration and devastation and misery and rage will read them… and you might even feel better.”

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Give-n-Get Economy Outlet

The Give-and-Get Economy Outlet is a pop-up store and a dynamic, distributed collection of objects. It’s a structure that serves as a site for interaction. And it’s a series of practices, strategies, and resulting interactions with and between users.

As a system, the Give-N-Get is an experimental economy, with transactions (exchanges) between participants (who are all members of the same community). It seeks to produce a new narrative form: an object that contains personal meaning or emotional value, transformed into a “product” using explicit visual language and conventions of commercial/advertising practice.

In the Spring of 2009 I built a cardboard and masking tape structure, the Give-n-Get Economy Outlet store, and installed it at 721 Broadway, 4th floor. Prior to the store’s opening I collected small keepsake objects from some members of the community. I requested objects that had particular abstract, personal emotional value or meaning independent of any material value; I asked contributors/investors to write an explanation of the object’s history and meaning to them. I created hand-drawn graphics for each object, and packaged the objects as consumer products. When the store opened, these objects were its products; visitors to the store could acquire an object only by trading a keepsake of their own. Incoming keepsakes were packaged and added to the inventory.

While the outlet was open, there was usually free limeade and cake available to lure in potential visitors. These consumables also had an abstract meaning/story connected to them, which was explained on hand-drawn and hand-lettered signs. Promotional pins were also given away at the outlet. The outlet was open for 5 days, during which 62 trades were made. A total of 66 objects passed through the system, plus 3 gallons of limeade, three cakes, and 40 free pins were distributed.

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Sandwich Competitions

The Sandwich Competitions were experiments in interaction design for large groups. They were planned as an antidote to the screen and technology obsessed and stressed culture at my graduate program, the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU. We wanted students take a break from pixels, code, and microprocessors, and get a chance to be creative with organic, messy, sloppy, gooey, tactile, and flavorful materials. Rules were devised by the Sandwich Commissioners, myself and Vikram Tank. Sandwich Competition participants had 30 minutes to make a number of identical sandwiches. Toaster sharing was required. The ITP community was invited to sample the sandwiches and use our custom text-to-vote system to express their opinion. Real time results were visualized with a Processing application.  The project was a collaboration with Vikram Tank; Tom Gerhart assisted with coding the visualizer for the second event. We founded the Sandwich Competition in 2008 at ITP; I co-organized the first and second annual events. A third event was organized by current students in 2010.

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