Transborder Immigrant Tool / b.a.n.g. lab

If you’re not familiar with the goings on at b.a.n.g. lab at UCSD, then you should definitely read up on it and become privy to their current situation/crisis. I thought it would be prudent to blog about this now, in light of the outrageous new immigration law in Arizona, and all the conversation and attention around the topic.

Part of the story, and links to other stories here: http://bang.calit2.net/xborderblog/?p=173
b.a.n.g. lab website: http://bang.calit2.net/
Transborder Immigrant Tool main blog:  http://bang.calit2.net/xborderblog/

b.a.n.g. lab (bits, atoms, neurons, genes) and EDT (Electronic Disturbance Theater) are a really innovative group of digital media artist and activists working in the realm of digital civil disobedience, “disturbance” and intervention, border politics and transience. They are an affiliate of UCSD’s department of art, where director Ricardo Dominguez is a professor.

On the project:

The technologies of Spatial Data Systems and GPS (Global Positioning System) have enabled an entirely new relationship with the landscape that takes form in applications for simulation, surveillance, resource allocation, management of cooperative networks and pre-movement pattern modeling (such as the Virtual Hiker Algorithm) an algorithm that maps out a potential or suggested trail for real a hiker/or hikers to follow. The Transborder Immigrant Tool would add a new layer of agency to this emerging virtual geography that would allow segments of global society that are usually outside of this emerging grid of hyper-geo-mapping-power to gain quick and simple access with to GPS system. The Transborder Immigrant Tool would not only offer access to this emerging total map economy – but, would add an intelligent agent algorithm that would parse out the best routes and trails on that day and hour for immigrants to cross this vertiginous landscape as safely as possible.

In short, it’s a tool that enables people who are committed to crossing the US/Mexico border, a means by which to do so safely, and avoid needlessly dying or being killed. It reminds me a lot of the discourse around controversial programs like the Needle Exchange.

I won’t go into too much detail, since the story’s been chronicled better by the artists themselves on their blog, etc. Basically UCSD is “investigating” Ricardo Dominguez and the group, doing things like threatening to revoke his tenure, plus the group is receiving numerous threats of violence. I just want to bring some attention to the project because I feel like it’s a really great example of critical design in action. These sorts of artistic action and disturbances are prudent and necessary, and in keeping with the rich tradition of calls for change associated with civil disobedience. Not to mention, it’s really refreshing to see impassioned work that comes from research and actually has a tangible effect on the environment. Check it out.

Also here’s an interview with Ricardo Dominguez in Vice: http://www.viceland.com/int/v16n11/htdocs/follow-the-gps-225.php

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