On the Potential for the Supernatural

“ There’s a real magic out here.

I heard that exact sentence, with that exact phrasing, at least three times during my stay at Dinacon. I heard the sentiment behind it countless times, and already knew what the next set of words would be, too.

To start: I learnt how-to and made some Origami birds that can flap their wings, I learnt how-to solder and made two different DIY-Arduinos — and then used one to test variable water quality based on electrical current conductivity, I sketched the rainforest slightly abstractly (and definitely too faintly), I was part of a duo with Leoni Voegelin that called ourselves The Cutie Agoutis — and produced a few comedy ’shopped dystopic images for one of the Dinacon Open Houses, I worked along with definitely professional writer Nate Walsh on a computer generated poem, and I foraged for, helped design, and helped film a costume for a movie!

Every step of the way, the work I produced was preceded by my learning the skillset required to do it right before diving in. Part of the magic of Dinacon is just the sheer breadth of participant expertise and open expectation. The average participant probably had one or more graduate degrees, is an adjunct at a university, or is a lifelong experimenter and artist. And yet they were here. In the middle of the rainforest, in the middle of the rainy season. And it’s because they wanted to learn more from others at the conference. The tone of the conference was set early when one of the requirements was to receive commentary on your work from other people. The socializing aspect was built into the conference structure, and the inclusivity of attracting people from all walks of life, as long as they self-selected to be part of an experimental conference, ensured that everyone would be open to the interaction — which led to people furiously teaching each other everything they knew.

The largest (in scale) project I worked on was with Craig Durkin where we produced some cutting edge watermelon quality prediction research for one of the Dinacon Open Houses. We had gone shopping in Panama City during the morning, and on our way back wondered what, if anything, we could each display during the Open House. Craig, professionally a Materials Scientist, mused that we could just run a simple experiment to test whether or not it was a myth that people can predict watermelon quality prior to opening them up. I told him I can confirm it’s not a myth because I knew for a fact that I could do it. And we were off.

I think here hid another secret of the magic of Dinacon: the complete self-unimportance of the participants. Just reading through the Proceedings of the First Digital Naturalism Conference, everyone felt comfortable scaling back the scope of their project and talking about their work in exploratory, hilarious, matter-of-fact ways. The conference itself requires so little of the work that participants produce. A blog post, an infographic, and an art display of four sculptures with projected imagery all count as ‘something’ and are all celebrated as successes. The point isn’t to produce your best work, it’s to just produce. When the barrier for success is so low, people aren’t afraid to invest their time in one another’s projects, or to collaborate, because they see their own work as complete and valuable, and are ready to spread that joy with others.

The other part of this is that with conference-wide projects, such as spotting a minimum of two sloths a day, everyone was encouraged to be out and about together daily, and with the conference-wide initiative to give talks in any shape or form everyone felt like part of the project-building process could be introducing people to their passions and part of the receiving-feedback process could be having input from experts external to their field. Everyone was on equal footing all the time, and the conference structure and culture maintained the momentum required for people to get to know and respect one another really easily.

“ There’s a real magic out here. For some reason it’s really, really easy to make friends out here.

I heard the words above, almost verbatim, multiple times. From people who hadn’t even met each other due to not having overlapping attendance days. If enough people agree magic exists in a place, if enough people’s hearts feel the same way independently, if enough people chant the same words across conversations after feeling as though they’re part of something larger than themselves, maybe I can be convinced that magic really exists.

I’m glad we have Dinacon in the world, and feel like I found my tribe. I hope it can be a vector for change in everyone who reads this.

Shedding one’s skin in a new era

by Päivi Maunu

Shedding one’s skin in a new era is an artistic and bio- metamorphological project that I implemented at the Digital Naturalism Conference 2019 in Gamboa, Panama. It is a visual work with tropical rainforest plants, their shadows, and animals such as ants.

Drawing with ants,
with hungry ants.
Disappearing art

I used Performental Art, a combination of performance, environmental, and community art. The purpose of the method is to instigate a deep understanding of one’s own role in the ecosystem by observing, studying, analyzing, imitating, and blurring the distinction between the human animal and other natural beings and systems. In meditative work, I reflect on the possibilities of Posthumanism. How would I thank the earthworm that aerates the soil? What position do I adopt in relation to interactive technology? A critical examination of one’s lifestyle forces one to live one’s own art.

By a new era, I am referring to the Anthropocene, and humankind’s profound geological effect on a changing world. My work with the Biomimeticx2 team responds to these changes via research that attempts to discover in the nano-world biomimetic solutions to the management of eco-catastrophe. Macrocosmic photographic material shared by the DiNaCon community is analyzed, interpreted and combined with microcosmic material from biologists and other experts in various fields.

Through art, the project aims to bring us closer to a realization of our existence as part of a whole and to the recognition that, by destroying our environment, we are perpetuating a process of self-annihilation. The methods the project uses include artistic and biological metamorphoses – transformations – that have been implemented in performance and environmental art works. Openness to interpretation as well as tolerance of chance and contingency open the project up to wonder and the restoration of seasonal change.

Heartfelt thanks,

Andy for all possible reasons

Hannah Marti & ants, Jorge & camera, Daniella & 360°camera

Supported by Frame Contemporary Art Finland

Transubstantiation – Radiophonic Sculpture Installations | live documentary

Rabía Williams (ACA)

Radiophonic seed pod pictured : pod, copper wire 22, screws, AM radio receiver circuit (detail below), pill bottle coil, and telephone receiver. The phone is supported by L-hooks and the structure hanging with wire.

Made possible thanks to the support of  Institut Roman Llull & Sean Mcgraw 
Special thanks to: Andy Quitmeyer, Cherise Fong, Lucille Bertie and for the  sound collaborations of Kristina Dutton and Lisa Schoenberg.

During my time at Dinacon I was making radiophonic objects to create kind of living documentary installations working with radio waves, found and archive objects and sound,  the so-called inanimate, the man-made and the natural.  They are something like witness objects.

Circuit

Somehow nothing feels so present to me as working with radio waves. Pulling radio waves, tapping in, circuiting, a translation.   It is though rather an act of presence.  Distance is compressed.  There is a leap in time. 

Wrapping the coil around the object also keeps one present. If you are counting the turns, as any good crystal radio aficionado is supposed to, you cannot lose yourself in the action fully. I sometimes did this canal-side. It feels like a mantra.

The pill bottle at the center of this pod I brought from my grandmother’s house in New York. Both my grandmother´s parents lived a time in Panama, emigrating from the West Indies, before coming to the States and meeting in a church in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, over 100 years ago.  

My Grandmother´s thyroid was damaged as a child, burned through iodide painting, an experimental practice of the time. This left her with a permanent thyroid condition that she has been taking medicine for ever since.

Through this telephone headset you can hear the AM long-wave radio, recognizable as radio with help of the diode.

AM receiver consists of:
Two coils (copper wire 22): 1st band of 40 turns and 2nd band 30
1N34A Germanium diode
47k Capacitor
Variable Capacitor
Telephone headset – headphones
Insulated wire: 50ft for antenna / 25ft for grounding cable

Dinacon lab my working space. With AM radio transmitter.

 I decided for this iteration to record and collect audios that I would broadcast, some uncut and others collaged for future iterations.

To think about how these radiophonic objects could be I spend time in Gamboa´s Soberanía rainforest, sometimes recording alone and others accompanied by some of my Dina colleagues who made exploring a much more curious experience…

On the Laguna trail, Lisa Schonberg demonstrating the many sonic layers heard and unheard in this jungle – recorded with an ultrasonic mic.

Mostly the village of Gamboa seems like a ghost town, abandoned structures and houses.  You could easily walk the loop of the town without crossing another pedestrian.

But it does not sound like you are alone.

Two sonar worlds seemed to rule here – the balance unknown:that of the jungle, which the town is carved and shaved into, from inside the trees and grounds, the sky above  –  I think of my childhood books now rendering into words, within the collection of my first spoken, perhaps just after Moma and Dada and no, no, Rabía no  –  roaring, picking, tweeting, buzzing…

The other, sounds from the bordering canal. “Canal” is quite appropriate: a vibrating, tremble, something like a “horn blows low”.   It is a recognizable machine-at-work sound. And water

The other, sounds from the bordering canal. “Canal” is quite appropriate: a vibrating, tremble, something like a “horn blows low”. It is a recognizable machine-at-work sound. And water.  

Does the nature remember, what? 

The people remember the territory occupied.  They remember who lived on which side of town.  Pastor Wilbur explains: “The Black West Indians lived on this side…” 

This town exists as an important drenching point.  Here in Gamboa the land slides into the canal and must constantly be dredged.

I  also often wander around Gamboa town and I sometimes go to  Panama city for supplies. I record folks I meet, not on the street but along the way: the local sign builder; an American pastor recruited to preach in English over 40 years ago;  a young man, the son of Panamanian canal engineer- one of the only in his position during those times when Americans ran everything to do with the Canal.  And I collect sound archives.  

The Americans came up with the locks as a solution for the canal project the French gave up on. 

Matthew Parker:
“[The canal] did not so much impact on the environment as change it forever. Mountains were moved, the land bridge between the north and south American continents was severed, and more than 150 sq miles of jungle was submerged under a new man-made lake. To defeat deadly mosquitoes, hundreds of square miles of what we would now call “vital wetlands” were drained and filled, and vast areas poisoned or smothered in thousands of gallons of crude oil.”
– Changing Course, The Guardian

 Many lives have been lost in the building of the canal most to accidents and others to yellow fever.   The majority of lives lost were black men from the West Indies. Thousands died drenching the canal – over 20,000. 

I recover items from the River Charge:  flip-flops, obviously modern, so many types and sizes of flip-flops -there is something about shoes that are haunting – and find lots of pesticide containers and bottles of many different sorts too. 

The Americans made there own little universe in Panama. The archives are astounding – and some shameless. ...”it was a provincially ordained world empire domination that the U.S. was meant to enjoy” – Jackson Lear
Pastor Wilbur shows me where one of the last standoffs happen of Noregas troops happened during in 1989.
A conversation across-time. Testing a mix at Dinalab space, live, working with archives American Propaganda film and a testimonial documentary about the 1989 Panama invasion.

Rabía Williams
salvaging for radio parts.

Nate Walsh

[August 1 – August 15th] Background in advertising and psychology. I currently live in Austin, Texas, USA, working at a...

Jorge Medina Madrid

Jorge Medina Madrid, es un estudiante de 24 años que cursa el último año de la carrera de Biología Animal...

Ananda Gabo

I am here as part of the documentation team for DiNaCon 2 (2019) to help archive some of the collaborative...

Watching Agoutis

I came to Dinacon already a devotee of agoutis. I had been observing them, photographing them, and following them around a city park in Rio de Janeiro for over a year.

In Rio the urban population of agoutis are not quite tame, but not quite wild any longer – they are not afraid of humans. Humans bring them vegetable scraps, french fries, even piles of cat food that they congregate around to enjoy. These agoutis only rarely flare up their butt hair, the signature agouti skittish gesture of fear. They co-exist with the population of stray cats, ducks, pigeons, geese, and peacocks that call the park home…

getting close to agoutis, Campo de Santana, Rio de Janeiro, BR
french fries + agoutis, Campo de Santana, Rio de Janeiro, BR
the agouti crowds, Campo de Santana, Rio de Janeiro, BR

In Gamboa, I had planned to film the local agoutis. I knew on some level that they would be different from their quasi-domesticated Brazilian cousins, but I did not realize that my entire understanding of agouti behavior was skewed by the city population I knew.

In Gamboa, an agouti is approximately 7.92x more skittish (data forthcoming). They hear the crinkly sound of a human stepping on a decaying leaf on the ground, and they snap to attention, look up, and run away. The most common image I captured when I began agouti observation in Gamboa was that of a retreating rear end.

The biggest difference was how the jungle agoutis in Panama did not seem to crowd around in groups. I never observed more than two agoutis in the same place, and often if there were two grazing, one would attempt to dominate the other and scare it away (cue: flare butt hair). The urban agoutis act more like we do in cities, gathering, eating fried food. In the jungle, the agouti’s important job of burying and dispersing seeds around the forest seems to be a solo endeavor.

So: in order to observe the agoutis of Gamboa, I knew I needed to get closer, and get quieter.

I took note of a spot near the water on the Laguna trail where multiple agoutis had crossed the footpath – frantically, running from me. I went back to the same spot on different days, in the early afternoon, and saw agoutis retreating from me on multiple occasions. This was a place they liked. This would be my stakeout. I set up a very lo-fi camera trap: my Ricoh GR II fixed-lens camera, attached to a hanging vine with a gorilla tripod (approximate cost: R$15, or less than $4 USD).

Under the gaze of the camera, I set up an offering. This was not the french fries and cat food of the Rio park, but a near-rotting pile of orange peels, banana peels, and hibiscus flowers. I set the stage. The bright colors of my food offering lay against the greying palm underneath it. I walked away. I waited.

lo-fi agouti camera trap set up
for watching agoutis, Ricoh GR II and cheap gorilla tripod

I waited until the forest forgot I was there. Or until I forgot to consider myself different than the forest. I looked through my scopes at hummingbirds, at toucans in the canopy. I knelt until I no longer felt my quads burning. A blue-crowned motmot landed on a branch inches above my face. A Panamanian flycatcher looked at me, asking. I became like a stone, and when I quieted the forest came alive, dense and throbbing.

I stayed wilding myself for a little more than an hour. When I stood up creaking and walked back to my camera, I saw that some of the food had been taken. I realized in that moment I could have caught any creature in the act – who else might want that banana peel?! But after about 40 minutes of filming only the food pile, my camera caught this:

key moments in the video:

0:18 – the second agouti arrives, clucking
0:22 – brief moment of shared snacking
0:47 – agouti fight!
1:30 – paws out, digging underneath the palm
2:47 – agouti returns, from under the palm
5:42 – return of the agouti, part ii

stills from the video:

If the garbage-food offering was a step towards domestication for these jungle agoutis, my sitting in the woods was a step towards wildness. We met somewhere in the middle.

possible extensions of project:

-what would the urban agoutis of Rio have to say to the forest agoutis of Panama? with a similar simple set-up, a signal could be sent (Arduino connected to Internet) from one group to the other – an LED light, a banana peel being delivered…the above could have been Phase 1 of “Cross-Continental Cutia Communication” (cutia = the Brazilian Portuguese word for agouti)

-an agouti hide, like a birding hide, built to be able to disappear and observe like my camera

-more footage, and a full-on documentary about agoutis

Thanks to everyone at Dinacon! And to agoutis everywhere.

-Madeline Blount
http://mab.space

LISA SCHONBERG (pattern ecology)

I am a percussionist and composer with a background in entomology and ecology, and am interested in bringing a focus to inconspicuous elements of ecosystems through sound work and music composition, with a focus on insects and their habitats. I attended Dinacon with my collaborator in Pattern Ecology, musician/composer Kristina Dutton.

My focus at Dinacon 2019 was recording hidden sounds – those sounds that humans cannot hear without the aid of technology. How can human opinions on invertebrates be shifted through listening? Can listening encourage us to challenge our assumptions, and change our behaviour and decision-making processes concerning our relations to non-human species? Can it move us towards a biocentric viewpoint? In this time when talk about the ‘environment’ is all over the popular media, I wonder if people are becoming more open to paradigm shifts of this nature.

1. BUILT HIDDEN SOUNDSCAPE: Pipeline Road, Gamboa
https://vimeo.com/364574378

At Dinacon I worked on developing a process for constructing synthesized “built” soundscapes of hidden sounds. Built Hidden Soundscape: Pipeline Road, Gamboa is a video of a spectrogram of sounds that cannot be heard by humans without the use of technology. I built a sound work using field recordings I made on Pipeline Road, and synthesized an imagined soundscape represented by the spectrogram. Sounds that are easily heard by human ears are excluded from this soundscape. The Y axis represents frequency and the X axis represents time. This built soundscape includes ultrasonic sounds (above the range of human hearing, played back at lower frequency), substrate-borne vibrations, and otherwise very quiet sounds. I recorded all of the sounds on and around Pipeline Road, with the exception of one recording of a wasp nest, recorded in a field in downtown Gamboa.

Sounds featured, in rough order of appearance:
1. Ultrasonic component of dawn soundscape on Pipeline Road
2. Paper wasp nest on cecropia branch, through substrate
3. Atta (leaf-cutter ant) foraging trail, locomotion sounds
4. Azteca ants on Cecropia tree, locomotion sounds
5. Cicada, ultrasonic component
6. Odontomachus (trap-jaw) ant, stridulation (partially ultrasonic)
7. Labidus (army ant) trail, sounds of locomotion and aggressive behavior
8. Ultrasonic component of dusk soundscape, from canopy, Pipeline Road

2. PATTERN ECOLOGY – with Kristina Dutton

Much of my work at Dinacon was in collaboration with my Pattern Ecology partner Kristina Dutton. We produced two videos and conducted interviews with biologists and artists about the intersection of their practices. In 2018, Pattern Ecology composed a musical score to Rearing Anartia, a 1976 8mm documentary film produced by entomologists Robert Silberglied and Annette Aiello at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Barro Colorado Island (BCI) research station in Panama. We had the opportunity to visit BCI and to meet with Annette while in Panama, and our work came full-circle. At Dinacon, we worked on material for an eventual video-album in the spirit of Aiello and Silberglied’s efforts to share intimate details of field work and scientific processes with the public. We are embarking on a revision of the Rearing Anartia score with Annette this coming year, to carry out the vision they originally intended for the film.

We completed two short films while in Gamboa. These films feature Kristina’s immersive binaural audio and video recording and my field recording using ultrasonic and substrate-borne techniques. The first video shows workers of a colony of Atta ant species moving across Pipeline Road in Gamboa, and includes sounds of locomotion and stridulation from the ants, and binaural ambient sounds from the trail environment. The second video was filmed while kayaking in the Rio Chagres one afternoon, and features ambient sound, underwater soundscapes, and video. These videos will be combined with ecological insight from the field and components of interviews in our future works.

a. ATTA ON PIPELINE ROAD: https://vimeo.com/359170608

b. RIO CHAGRES: https://vimeo.com/359166693

Myrmecologist Hannah Marti observing stridulation movements of workers of Atta columbica colony while these sounds are being recorded, at her lab at STRI in Gamboa.
Recording flora + fauna + machines in the Rio Chagres

My time at DINACON was truly transformative. I learned so much from the other dinasaurs, whether over meals or on trails. Dedicating ourselves to our practices in tight living quarters created this sort of synergistic creative energy, and it affected my process and my scope of possibilities. Everything started to seem possible, and I am excited.

web: lisaschonberg.com
instagram: @lisaannschonberg | @patternecology | @atta_________
twitter: @schonbergpdx

Binaural Audio/Video Recordings – Kristina Dutton + collab with Lisa Schonberg

I wanted to capture what it feels like to wander in the forests of Gamboa during both the sunset and evening choruses. Once I spent a little time on the Rio Charges I decided to weave that into the mix as well.

Binaural recordings imitate the spatial dimensions of human hearing. In other words, they reproduce sound the way we actually hear it. Because of this, listening to binaural recordings works best with headphones.

The microphones I used are designed specifically for quiet environments and I found the noise level of the evening chorus on Laguna Trail was enough to occasionally blow out the mics.

The audio was recorded in tandem with the video, so I moved both camera and mics (since they were attached to my ears) in whatever direction I was looking. This way, when I turn, the viewer hears the sound of the howlers from behind just as I did, whereas a moment before they were to the left, etc.

I wanted to convey the experience of sonic density in contrast to how little we actually see with our eyes in these environments, and to explore the idea that listening would have been important for our ancestors in wildly different ways than it is for us in most situations in modern cities or suburbs. Our relationship to sound has lost much of the meaning it once had and understanding it required. In cities we primarily filter out “noise” whereas, in the forest, we lean in and listen to understand what is around us.

For example, acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton found that human hearing range is a perfect match for birdsong – that birds are indicators of a habitat that would be prosperous for human survival. He states that hearing is vital for all animals’ survival, and the bandwidth from 2.5 to 5 kHz are the resonant frequencies where we have super-senstive hearing – which is a perfect match for birdsong.

I’ve only made it through about 25% of what I recorded so I’ll continue to post more to my Vimeo page that will include other parts of Gamboa and the surrounding areas.

This video was taken between 6:30am and 8 am and includes sounds of the red-lored parrot, howler monkey, black-necked stilt, collared plover, ringed kingfisher, green heron, wattled jacana, northern waterthrush, smooth-billed ani, anhinga, and southern lapwing. And the occasional fish splashing around.
This 3rd vid is mostly made up of binaural recordings, but I threw in a moment recorded with a shotgun mic just to demonstrate the difference. Also this vid has a lot of great frog sounds!

The collaborative project I did with Lisa Schonberg involved combining technologies to enable others to experience the ecosystems in Gamboa from new perspectives. We made two videos. The first of leaf-cutter ants combined substrate-borne stridulations and locomotion on Pipeline Road with binaural ambient sound. The second was filmed underwater in the Rio Chagres and uses a combination of hydrophone and iPhone recording above and under water.

In the Rio Charges, while putting my iPhone in the water to film, I discovered that many small fish were interested in sucking at my skin. I ended up playing with them for quite a long time, as the fish didn’t react much to me scooping them into my hand. Playing in the water reminded me a lot what I felt like as a kid when I’d hang out at the edge of the pond near my house. I decided to make the video from that perspective – an intimate, playful view of the world just below the surface of the water.- wonder and curiosity being two of the greatest assets of art/sci/tech folks.

Recording Atta species on Pipeline Road
Wearing binaural headphone miss on Laguna Trail
Lisa Schonberg recording with ultrasonic mic on Laguna Trail
6:30 am on the Rio Charges with fellow Dinasaur Cherise

complexity + leafcutters: code/improvisation

The shimmering, industrious leafcutter ants that build highways on the forest floor make up a complex adaptive system – the sophisticated structures and patterns that they build are well beyond the sum of their individual parts. The ants’ collective intelligence emerges through the repetition of simple tasks, and somehow through self-organization they build cities without architects, roads without engineers. There’s something magnetic about their energetic movement as they carve through the jungle – wherever I found them at Gamboa, I found that I could not look away.

from pipeline trail and laguna trail, Gamboa
ant, Atlas
going around the stick barrier

I altered the code from a classic NetLogo simulation to model the behavior of the leafcutters. NetLogo allows you to code agent-based models and watch them play out over time – each of the ants acts as an autonomous “agent” with a simple task to perform, and the iteration of multiple ants performing these tasks begins to simulate how the ants behave in the jungle. What starts out as random walking drifts into road-like patterns as the ants pick up pixel leaves and deliver them to their digital fungus…

Ant Tasks:
1. choose a random angle between -45 and 45 degrees
2. walk 1 unit in that direction
3. repeat.
4. IF there’s food (green leaves or pink flowers), pick it up by turning green, and deliver it back to the fungus at the center.
5. IF you sense digital pheromone (ants carrying food tag the pixels they walk over with digital “scent” as they head to the center), follow that pheromone.

The Twist: music
A symphony of digital fungus stockpiling
An audio representation of the complex patterns and surprising order that arises from randomness…

Each ant in the simulation has an ID number, and that ID number corresponds to a note on the piano. When an ant picks up a leaf and successfully brings it back to the fungus in the middle, that ant will sound its unique note. I calibrated this so that extremely low notes and extremely high notes on the scale won’t play – instead of those extremes some ants are assigned the same middle C, which you can hear throughout the simulation over and over like a drum beat…

the simulation: turn up the sound!

The ants play their own bebop, they compose their own Xenakis-like songs. No two ant improvisations will be exactly alike; whenever you run the simulation, each ant makes different random choices and the behavior of the model will be different. But they sound like they spring from the same mind:

ant improv #1
ant improv #2
the ants start searching for food
making highways
one food source left…
starting the last highway

Our minds love patterns too – I find myself cheering the ants on when I watch the simulation, rooting for them to find the next leaf, hoping for them to route into the highway pattern, waiting to hear their eerie plunking, playful jazz…

coding in the jungle – on the balcony, adopta

extensions for this project:

-there is a web extension for NetLogo, but without sound; could translate these ants into Javascript/p5.js so users can press “play” themselves online and control different variables (how many ants? speed of ants?)

-connect the MIDI sound that the ants are making to a score, print out sheet music written by the ants, play it on the piano

-make the model more complex, closer to the structure of actual leafcutter colonies: different sizes of ants, different tasks…

-interactive projection version

you got this, ant.

Thanks to everyone at Dinacon!

-Madeline Blount
http://mab.space

NetLogo citation:
Wilensky, U. (1999). NetLogo. http://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/. Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modeling, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.

Aerial Map of Gamboa

Jonathan Hefter

During dinacon, we utilized aerial photography and photogrammetry to create an aerial mapping of Gamboa.

First, we used the resident dinalab drone, a DJI Mavic 2 Zoom, and an online tool, DroneDeploy, to create a flight plan that would send the drone autonomously zigzagging across Gamboa, producing hundreds of high-quality photos. Then,we processed the photos with software that performed photogrammetry – a technique that measures the difference in perspective from multiple photos to create a range of specialized digital images. Some of the software we tried for photogrammetry included DroneDeploy, 3DF Zephyr, Metashape, and OpenDroneMap.

One limiting factor was computing power. Photogrammetry is a very processor-intensive operation, best done with powerful graphics cards. For this project we only had the CPU of a Lenovo X1 Carbon ultrabook, leading to many hours of processing to achieve maps of medium detail. Fortunately, the DroneDeploy software is cloud-based, so we were able to get quick results with that. Additionally, by fine-tuning settings and allowing the laptop to process overnight, we were able to get good results with the other software, particularly 3DF Zephyr.

Models are all opensource and available here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=19eKoAMwny8L8_hqb_ZFEF0w98g-6tIlv

(And soon on sites like Thingiverse)

Processing drone photos (bottom) into maps in 3DF Zephyr.

The following images were processed using DroneDeploy.

3D Model
This 3D model of Gamboa is an obj file, which can be imported into Unity or printed with a 3D printer.

Gamboa 3D Model
Gamboa 3D Model, with artificial lighting added for a sunset

Orthophoto
An orthophoto is an aerial photo that has been geometrically corrected, giving an accurate, uniform scale between points on the map and providing a direct, top-down perspective for every point of the image.

Orthorectified photo of Gamboa with areas of interest circled (displayed below)
Dinalab (mild distortion)
Adopta Guest House
Cresolus Tropical Architects
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Elevation Map
Displays relative elevation of an image, from lowest (blue) to highest (red).

Relative elevation map of Gamboa

Joetta’s Project: Animal-Inspired Playful Eating Experiences

  • Idea: a handful of food experiences inspired by the creatures around us in Panama, using either the food eaten or the manner in which its eaten to bring this to life
  • Reality: two rough prototypes of interactions with edible materials inspired by animals (hummingbird and anteater) and limited to what I could find at the tienda and locally

HUMMINGBIRDS & FLOWERS

  • Idea: fill edible flowers with nectar that people eat sipping through a small straw, like a hummingbird
  • Reality: 
    • Marzipan made with salted almonds from the tienda is an ugly color due to the skins
    • The humidity makes it nearly impossible to hold a structure with just almonds and sugar, cornstarch helped, as does lots of drying out in the fridge
    • Using the blender did NOT work—and then I realized there was a food processor
    • The goji berries mostly got blended in but there are some chunks
  • Supplies: 
    • Marzipan flowers: food processor, 2 snack packs of salted, roasted almonds, a bunch of powdered sugar, goji berries and algae (blue and green—thanks Elliot!) for color, cornstarch to try to deal with the humidity, some marshmallow fondant for the extra flowers
    • Nectar: the flesh of jobo fruits (spondias mombin, thanks Jorge for the ID!) gathered from the ground (thanks Sid for the idea!) boiled with sugar, water, honey, and cornstarch to create a nectar, then used the boiled fruit for the center of the extra flowers, and straws I took from the coffee shop at the Miraflores locks. 

ANTEATERS & BUGS

  • Idea: create small “bugs” out of food from the tienda and have people eat them out of a fruit with a tongue made of a palm frond covered in honey 
  • Reality: 
    • In 2014 Hershey’s patented a chocolate that doesn’t really melt. That’s the chocolate they sell at the tienda, so I wasn’t able to coat the marshmallow fondant in chocolate to make ants. So…they’re larvae.
    • The original bugs were too big and heavy to be lifted by honey so I had to make them pretty tiny and shapeless.
    • I couldn’t really figure out the right fruit to put the bugs in, so I ended up chopping some green coconuts in half and using those to hold the “bugs.”
  • Supplies:
    • Palm fronds from Andy’s front yard coated in Dinacon honey
    • Bugs made from a combo of marshmallows pilfered from a bag of chocolate cereal and powdered sugar
    • Green coconuts pulled from a roadside tree

ENJOYING THE EXPERIENCE

  • Be a hummingbird:
    • Grab a little straw and put it in your mouth. Sip some of the nectar from one of the flowers.
    • For advanced mode, flap your arms like wings the whole time. Ha!
    • Grab a flower from the plate as a sweet snack if you want.
  • Be an anteater:
    • Grab a palm frond and dab some honey along one side.
    • Put the wide end in your mouth and use it to collect some “bug larvae” from one of the coconut shells.
    • You can eat the larvae if you want—they’re very, very sweet. 🙂

Two Generative Poems

Generative poetry introduces chaos and multiplies possibilities. Also, it constrains the author. It forces her to consider language as a series of assorted tools. What does an adjective do to a poem? How can we categorize adjectives? What makes an answer?

The process for creating these poems involved stretching my brain into a different type of writing-thinking. Normally when I write, I think of specific words and ideas. For these poems, I had to make myself consider questions like: “What are the characteristics of the language formula, ‘the + adjective + noun + verb + direct object?'” What associations do we have with that particular language equation? “

There aren’t concrete answers to these questions. But by asking the questions and sorting different language formulas into what feels most thought-provoking, I could begin to write the poems. For example, the first step of my writing process for the poem, “theProjectOfTheAgouti,” was a decision to have the poem be a short narrative about coming across a person, asking them a question, and waiting in anticipation for their answer. This was my more Dinacon-related poem, as one of the primary dynamics of Dinacon for me has been trying to learn as much as I can from others, which is an inspiring, but sometimes fraught process. A large portion of the word banks for this poem involved Dinacon-related words and overheard conversation, and I inserted Dinacon participants’ names in for the characters of the poem. I also brought in the personage of Bolsonaro, and the location of the Amazon, since the Amazon fires were just being publicized at that time, and seemed especially poignant as we were in a different, not on fire, rainforest.

For the second poem, I allowed myself to venture away from Dinacon a little bit. I wanted to write a poem about the process of searching for things and being thwarted, and then trying to appreciate what happens even if it’s not what you were looking for. The poem, “sometimesAtDawn” was the result.

One of the technical challenges of the poems was playing with timing. I wanted to introduce a bit of hesitation into the program, in order to mimic the rhythm of writing. The idea was to further flesh out the fantasy that the computer was writing a poem. I think I succeeded only partially in this respect, and have other ideas I still want to implement.

A language-related challenge was how to make the poems surreal, while also seeming potentially meaningful. So many automatically produced poems come across to me as complete nonsense. I wanted the reader to have that pleasurable feeling that comes from reading something very strange and somewhat random and making meaning out of that. This challenge involved a lot of tweaking of the word banks, so that no poem would seem completely unreasonable. The more I can walk the line on this though, the more the reader can recognize the creative process involved in reading anything and processing any information. My most ambitious hope with a project like this is that the reader will come away with an understanding of how much their particular brain shapes everything that they take in, and along with that, a healthy distrust of their own thinking patterns.

Here are two examples of the poems. If I’ve calculated correctly, “theProjectOfTheAgouti” has about 200 million possibilities (though many of them are very similar to each other) and “sometimesAtDawn” has around 500,000 possibilities. Automatically regenerating versions of the poems can be viewed on my website dezmediah.com

projectOfTheAgouti

In the Dinalab,

there is Andy.

“What is the project of the agouti, Andy?”

Andy screams.

“The slime eats the oats in the most efficient way possible.”

sometimesAtDawn

Sometimes

at dawn,

I look past the

hairy
3D print of a rambutan

behind my bathroom mirror,

and find

instead

a drooling

valerian root.