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Visualizing and digitizing environmental impacts: Andrea Polli, Particle Falls

Visualizing and digitizing environmental impacts: Andrea Polli, Particle Falls

Hello all!

Just to get a conversation going, I wanted to mention Andrea Polli's project Particle Falls, a digital media installation currently on display in downtown Philadelphia, PA. The project seeks to raise awareness about how invisible particles in the air may affect human health. I'm curious as to others' thoughts on this project. What kind of public knowledge might it generate, and what can individual viewers do with this knowledge? Is there a way to make digital media projects such as this, which seeks to raise environmental awareness, more intelligible to the public and/or more likely to generate positive, behavioral change? I raise these issues because activists (be it for the environment or other causes) encounter many barriers to engendering change. I'm interested in what roles digital technology and public digital media projects may play in mediating positive reforms and lowering barriers to social revolution.



Thanks for posting this, Cait. I actually made my way down there a couple nights ago, and I guess the lights haven't been working, which is a bummer. I suppose that's one obvious challenge with technology, especially in larger scale public installations -- can be unpredictably uncooperative at times. Unless, of course, there was just no pollution that night... hmm.. 

I'll definitely check it out again sometime. 



Thanks for the post!  Although I'm not able to visit, it looks like a great way of generating a feedback loop between atmospheric data and people.  I'm wondering if the placement reaches mostly pedestrian traffic though--in which case, it would be broadcast to the people already doing a good thing (walking).  Would there be a more influential place to put such an installation that might influence people to choose form of transportation that doesn't use gas?

The artwork also reminds me of this great talk I heard at the ACLA (Am. Comp Lit Assoc) conference this past April, by Tobias Menely entitled "Auras of Air, Matters of History." (That's not exactly the link but it's the best I could find).  The talk looked at Romantic era conceptions of air in contrast to philosophers/others who systematically disregarded air as a matter of history (or that we have a bias towards thinking history as solid).  So different ways of seeing (or feeling) air's changes sound like an important way to reconsider the formation of material history in the present... although in some areas of the world it's already quite palpable.   

It's also sort of related to my disseration, which develops a technique of underwater displacement to ask, "what if we consider ____ (ex: communication, history, inscription) underwater? How would this not only reveal the terrestrial biases of the concept, but potentially lead to alternative ways of sensing it in the changing world?"  


@ Teresa: Too bad! I'll be in that neighborhood this Saturday, so I can check it out and report back.

@ Melody: That's a good point regarding placement; however, I believe it's placed on a busy street (with automobile traffic) and is placed high enough up that it should be visible to drivers. I'm not sure if there's a subway stop nearby, but that's an interesting thought - (to attempt) to render conscious one's transportation choices and their environmental impact through digital media/public arts projects. And thanks for sharing the talk about different ways of conceptualizing air. Also, could you clarify further your own dissertation research? What do you mean by "a technique of underwater displacement?" Apologies, I'm just not familiar with the term/concept.


Just a quick follow up on this thread. The building where some of the equipment for this project is being housed lost power to do some construction taking place in another area of the building. The power has been restored and the lights are back on. They run from 7-11pm until December 1.