there is a continent in the sky

Yesterday evening, December 29, 2017, I had the pleasure of listening to Agency (Ersela Kripa and Stephen Mueller) speak on the results of their Shenzhen residency. They walked accessible edges to produce drawings and embroidery patterns of data, the embroidery algorithms derived from the difference between reported and their on-the-ground measurements of air particulates. The talk was inspiring, not least for “Roller Blade Boy” who skated circles around us, pausing only to check out the data.

My response to the talk has taken poetic form, which tracks the conversation and its sites of uncertainty, where polysemy sneaks in possibilities unintended but no less present. Grateful to NCFR, Future + aformal academy, Hong Kong Design Trust, and UABB for bringing it all together.

There is a Continent in the Sky (but We Live in the Deltas)

(Friday, December 29, 2017, Nantou, Shenzhen)

Boundaries reimagined from

El Paso–the passage through

managed borders.

We imagine cities as sites of power / autonomy

as war sand

as built with sand gutters

as situated in global dust streams

where we are constantly cleaning the machine.

Satellite images, haboobs and vader visibility.

Predator drones capture people within dust trails.

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How do we measure dust here?


10 days walking,

10 days visualizing data (even if not an architect)

and mapping the invisible.

Shen Kong is ignored in dust export debate

or rather, the data is under available

if literally on the ground.

Sensor tracks airborne particulates.

If and how much present

reported as lines tall and short

and points—good, moderate, dangerous.

Screen caption of what is considered hazardous here, or there.


Delta is also a mathematical term,

the difference between what you expect and what you get

when you are walking off the charts,

a new topography for nerds in time relation to our passages through—

the deltas are important.

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Bringing data to dust management

because data is a basic human right;

Weaving urban fabrics

because a different map is data activism.


But what can I do with this knowledge?


Your site is a node

is a big gesture

is embroidered—uneven ripping or tight weaves—

These algorithms are materialized via robotic arms,

giving data to people,

building prosthetic futures.

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Go back to the site

because the data is opaque.

Local pollution and that which passes through

reimagined gently within the constraints we are given.

We talk to the tech community

crowd sourcing the truth

to discover its inhabitable deltas.


Project images used curtesy of Agency.


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