Mojo Plantation

On 26|09|2011 Cat wrote:
(I was there too)

I just got back from a 4 day trip to the rainforest in Coorg with 4 of the Bangalore igem students. We stayed at the Mojo Plantation – a beautiful place run by two molecular biologists + experimental organic farmers; Sujata and Anurag Goel.


Just off the bus in Madikeri the moisture of the region is already apparent in the surrounding buildings.

We took several hikes on the farm and in the surrounding areas, where our guides (Sujata, Ravi and/or Archana) shared their intimate knowledge of the region, telling us about their experimental farming practices and pointing out the local biodiversity.


Sujata showing us the crops they grow at Mojo Plantation: mainly vanilla beans, coffee and cardamom.


For a larger version of the panorama click here.

Silver oak trees were planted close to the Mojo Plantation by the forestry department many decades ago. This was a failed attempt at soil errosion prevention and they have since learnt to use other strategies. Stemming from Australia, these trees are a point of contention. Archana explained that they do not provide enough of a canopy for other species of plants to thrive and their leaves cover the ground, preventing growth and biodiversity.

However, the region has very diverse terrain and on our hikes we encountered several curious creatures:



There was an abundance of insects including the pill millipede. Most noticeable however, where the audacious leeches.

The students were tasked with collecting soil samples. Having produced tools for the expedition at Srishti, the rainforest offered an intense user testing experience, as well as an exercise in dealing with unexpected challenges of field research. We faced torrential rains, an onslaught of leeches and a jungle rat, but the diversity of flora and fauna was breathtaking.

Talk at DIY Citizenship

This talk was part of DIY Citizenship: Critical Making a conference at the University of Toronto

DIY Citizenship Critical Making: Genomic Gastronomy Lecture from genomic gastronomy on Vimeo.

Learning from Bangalore: Urban Informatics at Street Level

How To Eat a GMO @ Ignite Portland 9

We need to stop calling the people who don’t give us data, scientists. They are just BioHackers like me and you.

Lecture @ CSTEP

“”Genomic Gastronomy: Food Systems, Security & Policy” at (CSTEP) Center for the Study of Science Technology & Policy in Bangalore, India.

Lecture at CSTEP in Bangalore, India from genomic gastronomy on Vimeo.

This talk gave a broad overview of international issues and policies in agriculture and food security, and showcased three research projects that explore Agricultural BioDiversity, Genetically Engineered Crops and the difference between European and United States food laws.

CSTEPpresentationPostSrishtiFinal2

Indian States Are Massive

Some Maps I made in the last few days:

When comparing economic and social data we generally compare like political types: we compare Brazil to China or Texas and California, or even Shanghai and Lagos. (See 19.20.21 for an example of interesting comparisons of megacities). However, in the case of such a populous nation such as India, more insights may be gleaned by comparing individual states such as Karnataka with entire nation states such as France. As this chart shows the population and land area of these two political entities are very similar even if they have very different governance structure.

ScalingComparingStates

Indian States Renamed For Countries With Similar Populations Indian States Renamed For Countries With Similar Populations (Click Map for Larger Version)

Inspired by: US States Renamed For Countries With Similar GDPs


Indian States As Countries of Equal Similar Population
Click for Larger Version

Inspired by: US States As Countries of Equal Population

Indian States As Countries of Equal Similar Population
Indian States As Countries of Equal Similar Population (Click Map for Larger Version)

Ambient Commons

I hate to post to a blog with just one link, when I can twitter it and you can choose, but today, at the Think Tank where I am employed I was trying to tease out what we mean by
“infrastructure.” I found myself returning to the writing of Malcolm McCullough, my mentor in grad school.

I was trying to understand if street signage is hard or soft infrastructure, and it seemed to me it might be neither. It is the informational layer of the city. Without Informational infrastructure the city might be reasonably negotiated by long-time inhabitants through embodied, local and iterative knowledge, but is totally opaque to new comers. And we know there are a ton of new comers to megacities, and many of them may not speak the local language (linguistic, cultural, economic etc.)

Malcolm’s new book is called Ambeint Commons – (the chapter abstracts and a “How to use this book”) are up on his website as a .pdf

Abstract

Rapid cultural shifts made necessary by planetary change generally place more value on surroundings. Ubiquitous information, once thought placeless, increasingly influences this transformation. Yet at this writing, “environmental history of information” yielded a null search on Google. Many people, particularly architects, believe that cultural outlook somehow lives in the way people dwell, and in what public places they choose to build and embellish. Fewer people see information enhancing the physical world, however. The effect more often seems like white noise, dematerialization, or escape. Where notions of a commons have applied to information, those have instead addressed intellectual property, especially where intellectual capital has been socially produced over networks. Now the move beyond the desktop into many more formats and physical contexts demands new approaches to shared resources. The genre of “urban computing” has arisen to explore this. How do the architectures of ambient information enrich urban experience, operate architectures, cultivate environmental sensibilities, or renew responsibility to some idea of a commons?

Ambient Commons is about attention in architecture. It is about information media becoming contextual, tangible, and persistent. It begins an environmental history of information. I am taking two phenomena that I see gaining currency in the rise of the “augmented city,” and exploring whether it makes sense to combine them. “Ambient” is that which surrounds but does not distract. Information is becoming ambient. Architecture is rediscovering environment and atmosphere. “Commons” is that which self-governs resource sharing, a process which political economists increasingly see complementing markets. “Information commons” has been topical since the mid 90s, but only now begins to merge with physical space. “Ambient Commons” does not exist except in a few niches of music: not in media studies, nor pervasive computing, nor urbanism. But should it?

Malcolm brings together a passion for good urbanism, complex systems thinking and IT like no one else. And I am thinking that I might better understand this whole informational infrastructure thing, and how we actively create humane augmented reality cities by intentionally designing informational infrastructure.

If you get a minute I recommend taking a look as we enter the adventures of always-on-electronically-augmented-urbanism of Bangalore, MegaCity Asia and beyond.

Final Talk at Interactivos? ’10

During the Q&A session of the talk curator Lucas Evers of the Waag Society asked me about genetically engineered Rennet which I had never heard of. Here is the wikipedia post with more information about GE Rennet.

Images from the Brinjal Cooking Contest

Bangalore DNA coverage of Brinjaal 4-Way


((The DNA Newspaper doesn’t easily allow links to its articles so I have republished it here))

Students let brinjal dishes do the talking

They spoke of the crop’s diversity instead of posturing on bt debate

Malavika Velayanikal. Bangalore

How often is the brinjal celebrated? Probably, a few times since the bt brinjal started threatening to flood the Indian market. But when an artiste chose to experiment with it, the brinjal proved to be quite a creative medium. A brinjal cooking contest to celebrate India’s crop diversity — conceptualised by Zack Denfield, artiste in residence at Srishti School of Art Design & Technology — saw a slew of tasty dishes, served along with interesting information about the core ingredient, brinjal, at Jaaga, an art space in Richmond Town.

Seven students — Aratrika De, Bidisha Das, Barath Jayarajan, Karthik Illango, Kavya Satyakumar, Sachin Gupta and Sayad Nooshin — worked with Denfield on this project. They borrowed interesting recipes of traditional Indian dishes like baingan ka bharta, yennegai badanekai and badanekai thokku, and also cooked up some novel ones. “The contest idea of came with the bt brinjal debate. But then, we didn’t want to talk for or against it, but just demonstrate the crop diversity,” says Jayarajan, who was surprised to find eight varieties of brinjal in the Bangalore markets.

Initially, the plan was to use four different varieties of the vegetable in each dish. But later they decided to experiment with two kinds per dish. The guests at the contest were asked to vote on the dishes, pick the most creative, most delicious and most tastefully presented one. The recipes of all the dishes served will go into a cookbook, which Denfield would present at an art and bioscience exhibition in Spain. “The recipe book is unlike the usual ones. This one will have a detailed description of the kind of brinjal used. Like, it is pear-shaped, is purple with light stripes and so on,” Jayarajan says.

“In about five years from now, bt brinjal may be the only kind in the market and people will forget that we had such a wide variety. Our idea is to create awareness about what is about to be lost,” he adds.

v_malavika@dnaindia.net