For the last 10 years I have worked in some of the world's most brutal conditions. Along the way I've made and lost friends, witnessed miracles and tragedies, and have immersed myself into every moment of it. But I've always known that this is not a sustainable or necessarily healthy way to live. In my desire for a full life, I cannot always live and work in war and violence. So a few years ago, just at the same time I took up residence in Afghanistan, I began laying the foundation to one day take all the lessons hard-learned from the battlefield into a different direction.
Shifting the Terrain at HSpace
At the beginning of 2014 I transferred my practice from Kabul, Afghanistan to Detroit, Michigan. Detroit is famous for its poetic ruins and tragic rate of decay. I have also continued to work abroad - in fact, I am posting this blog post from downtown Mogadishu at this very moment. And in the meanwhile I have experimented with new methods to engage urban environments and to create technologies that shift the way we experience the world around us.
Today today my work is a fusion of deep theoretical understanding of complex urban environments and cutting-edge experiments in physical computing and design strategy. Although it has not been featured online, much of my time since January has been heavily occupied in a partnership with a global technology giant to develop a new technology to monitor events in Syria. Those who were present for my talk at the School of Visual Arts in New York City
got a sneak-preview of the work we have undertaken.
In my off-hours, I've also been bashing out an array of prototypes and design mockups, primarily in the realm of augmented reality, experimental cartography, and drone-based design. Here is a sample.
Choose Your Adventure - The Mobile AR Experience
Problem: I've never been a fan of video games. There is nothing wrong with them, but my sense has always been - why play a game when you could live it? In fact, I recently discovered that playing a video game will satiate my desire to explore the more challenging environments in the world. But playing a video game also imposes tremendous limitations.
Concept: What if we combine geo-caching exploration with AR gameplay? What if we use our existing mobile technologies, gps positioning, social networks, and user-generated rating systems to refine the games?
Below I've put together two brief concept videos to show how this can work. The first video presents how such a game could be organized. The second video presents some screenshots of how such a game would function.
The cool part: This is an entirely new way to engage our cities and communities. Your city is no longer just an environment, but it is also an interface, stacked against a digital interface, so as to participate in the construction of new narratives. The natural syntax of our urban environment shifts, opening new interpretations of space, time, and meaning. Consequently the identity of the city is no longer what you see in the street, but also how it is constructed in the cloud. Like your online digital identity, cities can have a digital self, to be pushed-probed-and-hacked. We've had this digital infrastructure for years, but we lack sufficient methods to maximize its potential.
(Best enjoyed with headphones or decent speakers)