Eggplant Mapping Bangalore

These were created during a short course I am teaching on food culture and technology:

Brinjal (Eggplant) Cooking Contest

Brinjaal 4-Way is a cooking contest to be held at Jaaga to see who can come up with the recipe that uses four varieties of Brinjaal.

This event is a celebration of India’s crop diversity.

We have put out a public challenge for someone in Bangalore to come up with the best recipe possible that uses 4 varieties of Brinjaal. (But any recipes with at least two varieties will be accepted). Contestants can bring their cooked or written recipe. Food will be shared, awards given, and a cookbook will be compiled to be sent out a few days after the event.


A: India recently had a rather public debate about whether a new Genetically Engineered plant technology, BT Brinjal, should be approved for sale and cultivation in India. During the debate the huge diversity of Brinjal varieties grown and sold in India c. 2010 was brought to the foreground.

Dumbfounded by the range of shapes and colors printed in newspapers, on website and on campaign posters and wanting to manifest the possible culinary experiments implied by the images we saw, it seemed that a cooking contest was in order.

Let us celebrate and cement the endless possibility of Brinjal as it exists today. These recipes should use as many varieties of Brinjaal as are available in our rich urban markets. This is an opportunity Taking generation old recipes and making trying out a remix. Or possibly being inspired by pairing new and well known ingredients to create a recipe that tells the story of discovery.


This Jaaga site is located on Rhenius Street, Off Richmond Road, Opposite the Hockey Association Stadium main gate, Shanthinagar.

How to get there:

1. If you are getting here via auto-rickshaw or cab:
The primary landmarks are “Opposite the Hockey Stadium near Richmond Circle in Shanthinagar”
once you get close we’re “8 buildings to the right of the TV9 building, across from the Hockey Association Club main gate on Rhenius Street”

2. If you are driving:
– Get onto Richmond Road, going towards Richmond Circle (it’s a one way road in the right direction)
– Take a left just before Richmond Circle at the Coffee Day (you’ll be turning onto Rhenius St but the sign is hard to see)
– Just go straight and you’ll pass TV9 on your left and the Hockey Stadium on your right.
Jaaga is the weird looking, 3 story building on the left, covered in Japanese ads.

AR TEXTILES Digital Preservation of Indian Craft?

ABSTRACT: How can we bring the stories, myths and pattern languages of Indian Textiles to life for the digital natives of 21st century? Can adapting machine vision algorithms and Augmented Reality libraries be used to animate either historical artifacts or to create new textiles processes and forms based on historical content?

PROOF OF CONCEPT: Using an off the shelf AR Flash program (from thanks!), we created this fabric using potato block prints and ink.

Three Year FeedForward

I recently ran into Marko Ahtisaari at a wedding in New Delhi. He was asking me and a few friends to engage in some arm chair futurism asking: “What will we know / not know in 3 years time in your field of interest.”

Seeing as I am currently employed at an Art Lab and a Think Tank, and have a long standing interest in an Interaction Design company, all in Bangalore, I thought I would write from the perspective Design, Art & Policy, but in no way do these assessments reflect anything other than my own opinions.

(And the voice is a bit in the style of the group I most often working for a “Haunted Think Tank” in Portland, OR. Even though I am back in India I am still waiting for my soul to catch up with my body half way around the world. Sorry for the US centrism, I should have an India version of this post in about 3 months.)

Here is my 3 Year forecast:

DESIGN: Digital Animism
ART: BioHacking Goes Global
POLICY: From Sustainability Resilience

DESIGN: Digital Animism / Designed Animism / Sentient Landscapes

It’s obvious that locative media is where the web has headed. What may be less obvious (not to Nokia, I know, they’re on top of it 😉 is how this may birth, specific local physical places that are magical, mythical, sacred, and just possibly, cared for. On the other hand, contested spaces will really light up your data devices. If you think the inane flame wars on YouTube get out of hand, wait until you see the Little Gods that are conjured by teens (and hopefully) seniors to protect or hex the places they live. This overlay of Digital Animism is an offshoot of what I have been calling EnviroCasting for a while.

I’d be on the look out for geo-enabled eco-SPAM fighter crews that are out busting invasive species with the help of their smart phones, trees that crank-tweet you, and occasional outbursts in your inbox from Wetlands who are sick of the way you are dumping on them. What we won’t know is if this all makes any difference in the planetary carrying capacity game and (perhaps more unexpectedly) if this is the electronic nervous system extension which pushes us over into serious post-human space.

I gave a strange little lecture on this topic last semester at PNCA called: Attack of the Non-Human Actors.

Augmented (hyper)Reality: Domestic Robocop from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.

[I get motion sickness when I see this feedfoward: AR’s dark side if we follow business-as-usual ad supported content creation can be found here.]

Its one things to have technological mind children which perpetuate themselves and co-evolve with humans, but when the land gets its voice back and enters into a serious networked co-evolution with the net and starts bossing puny humans around, things could get really interesting. My Reads on this one are STILL HeadMap Manifesto (.pdf) (after all these years), and Malcolm McCullough’s book in progress: Ambient Commons (.pdf), and Brenda Laurel’s “Designed Animism” is worth a read.

Or if you want to see some of my thoughts on the matter you can check out an incomplete collection of snippets at

ART: BioHacking Goes Global

The Genie is out of the bottle. Whether it be the outlaw biology conference or our very own Teenage Gene Poets and BioPunks, there is no turning tide back on open source Biology.

Unless state actors choose to make Synthetic Biology and other forms of home-brew biotech explicitly illegal, it appears that our best defense against Grey Goo and its banal-colored cohort, is as many opensource biologists as we can muster. The molecular IP fights have just begun, and A Free culture Culture is gong to take some heavy lifting.

What we will know in three years time is that BioHacking is not going away. The early art / experiments will look as awful as but will have some charm twenty years after the fact. And the networks of hobbyists, hackers, artists and professionals working side by side will set up a generation of unexpected non-normative interactions.

What we won’t know is how so many people, deploying so much potentially scalable technology with possible non-linear interactions will play out. A bang or a whimper? I say, not to worry, we have always been BioHackers and GeoEngineers (at least since the dawn of agriculture) but the non-state, non-market actors better get some good standards and libraries in place. If we are lucky in three years we will at least have some good maps of how the pre-existing planet hacks (agriculture, energy) are doing in terms of the abundance and distribution of material and information.

POLICY: From Sustainability Resilience

You only know your system is NOT sustainable once it falls apart. Sustainable is an either/or proposition. Until the very second it no longer exists, the system is, presumably “sustainable” because it keeps on chugging along. Or as Buckminster Fuller said “Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment. . . . Humanity is in ‘final exam’ as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in Universe” This is the long game.

On the other hand, systems are always being tested by outside influences, and one can assess the degree of a system’s resilience based on past evidence as well as hypotheses and tests. In the face of adversity a resilient systems adapts, but in different ways, that may be beneficial for different human and non-human actors. In the face of adversity an UNsustainable system collapses. It’s a small but meaningful difference.

In three years time I am pretty confident policy makers will have stopped using the Utopian rhetoric of “Sustainability”, and move to the much more scary but real task of making systems at different scales resilient. Resilience implies ongoing changes in status and relevance for different actors that will have to be dealt with, whereas the rhetoric of sustainability is largely devoid of these political implications precisely because it is a binary. Either a system sustains or it doesn’t so everyone is equally effected.

I am interested in the Transition Towns movement but need to find out more about it, and I am glad that the doomers are off spinning their black threads, in order to get the rest of us moving.

In three years time I think we will have a better idea if Orlov, Kunstler and Michael Ruppert should have been written off as cranks long ago, or if we should have started creating resilient cities YESTERDAY.

Well, there it is. Some short term futurecasting. I am excited to look back in 2013 on this blog and see how innaccurate these predictions were. 🙂

MJ / Tamil Mashup & Green Building Class

My friend Jackson is helping build a bamboo garden on my deck with students from his green building class.

One of the students, Raja C. came early today and we started jamming with Synth & Harmonium and talking about music.

He showed me a music video he had on his phone and bluetoothed me a copy (It was in the the 3GP file format, so I converted it so it would be easier to view online):

His brother’s friend works at a computer store, and in his free time he made this remix by putting together a tape of a Tamil song, and a downloaded a MJ video. Raja has a few of these videos on his phone, and even an “english” MJ video, but really, isn’t the mashup more fun and relevant in Bangalore?

Photo Update: The Green Building Class in Action:

Animation of Bangalore Urban Sprawl 1950 – 2003


Urbanized Area in color.

Source: Bangalore Development Authority. “Bangalore Master Plan 2015. Volume 1: Vision Document”, pg. 12. 2007.

Is This the Future of Modeling Complex Systems?


This experiment gives a whole new meaning to “Bio-Computing.”

Talented and dedicated engineers spent countless hours designing Japan’s rail system to be one of the world’s most efficient. Could have just asked a slime mold.

When presented with oat flakes arranged in the pattern of Japanese cities around Tokyo, brainless, single-celled slime molds construct networks of nutrient-channeling tubes that are strikingly similar to the layout of the Japanese rail system, researchers from Japan and England report Jan. 22 in Science. A new model based on the simple rules of the slime mold’s behavior may lead to the design of more efficient, adaptable networks, the team contends. Read More at Wired. Read the Abstract in Science.

What I like about this story is the use of a technology and non-intuitive way. We spend a lot of time here at CSTEP creating models of complex dynamic systems, often employing agent based models which have so many interacting parts that there are often “surprising and unexpected results.”

In this case, a team of researchers set up and executed what could be described as a “analog computing program”. Obviously, if one wanted to change the parameters after the initial run, it is a bit more costly than simply changing a parameter in a piece of digital code. On the other hand, there may be some advantages to creating predictive and descriptive non-linear models using biological agents. I am particularly interested in what the programmers at CSTEP think.


Ring Roads as Beasts to Be Conquered

This week I am doing some research on transportation and pedestrian issues in Bangalore. I was reminded of this excellent information diagram created by ThumbProjects last year. (Bangalore is the Dark Purple shape in the center).


(Click for larger version)


In my head Bangalore’s ring road is unfathomably large, like some massive underwater giant squid that everyone knows is dangerous, but that you only experience in a tentacle that occasionally lashes out at you. I have been many parts of it in my year’s in Bangalore, but I have never experienced it all at once.


But if you look at this map, Bangalore’s inner ring road is more of a small dragon, that with the proper tools, policies and infrastructure could be harnessed and ridden to create a beautifully dynamic city rather than a blatantly dangerous one.

Are there other images or maps of Bangalore that help you understand the scale and the flows of the city and put it into perspective?

How To Get To Work?

Today was my first day of work at CSTEP. The entrance to CSTEP is located right before Infrantry Road goes into one way mode.

I have been to the building a handful of times before. In previous journeys I have walked, taken an auto and gotten dropped off by Taxi on previous visits. Even though the building is on a T-Junction that leads to a 1-way street I seemed to have arrived on a radically different path every-time.

I have lived in Bangalore on and off for 4+ years and am still developing a mental model of the city. In part, I have grown up navigating the “rational” grid system found in American cities such as Manhattan, Portland OR. I have also lived in Hong Kong, and although I never quite figured out the street plan my primary means of transportation was the MTR and bus system which was very clearly signed and mapped even so even a foreigner like me, with no Chinese language ability could easily move around.

Now I need to figure out my daily commute to CSTEP. I do not own a car, and ideally I would like to avoid having to take an auto to work everyday. My main concerns for getting to work are safety (not getting hit while crossing streets), health (avoiding peak pollution) and sanity (minimizing time spent in traffic jams / listening to honking). What are my options?:

View Larger Map

WALKING: I have done the walk from Home to CSTEP before. The positives are that I get a little exercise before I arrive at work, and the distance I have to cover is actually much shorter than motorized transport because I can avoid many of the one ways and roundabouts that make the driving trip so long.

The negatives are that the walk is along some very busy car streets, the pavements are not comfortable for walking forcing most pedestrians onto the streets themselves sharing space with motor traffic. This causes the walk to feel claustrophobic and forces me to be very close to the fumes from the motor vehicles. In particular, the section where Jaymahal Road meets Miller road is extremely dangerous for pedestrians, are there are no pavements or provisions for non-motorized traffic.

BUS: I have no idea where a bus leaves from or how I would even find out what bus routes are available. If I find this out I will give an update.

AUTO: This is a fast way to get to work, although the location covered is greater than walking because of the one way streets which have to be avoided. Although is cost is not great (30 – 50 rs. depending on route) it is still more expensive than Bus. A major negative is that taking the auto to work puts me in the center of traffic pollution. The cost is not a major disincentive for me to use Auto’s. Regardless, I am primed to use the bus, but I can not figure out easily if there is a route, before I can even determine if it would be convenient.


PANOPTICONCENTRATE (gifeconomizing) by This Owl

Pictures taken with iPhone during the live performance of A Lexiconspiracy by Weird-Fiction at the Tractor Gallery in Portland Oregon on Dec 18, 2009. The images consists of series of crowd-sourced animated GIF files on projector screens and other ficto-quizzicisms. 378 images on an iPhone at approximately 2 to 4 second intervals. Live improvisational music from (((WFT)))

GIFECONOMIZING (weird fiction) by Wm Randth

Pictures taken with iPhone during the live performance of The Gif Economy by Weird-Fiction at the Tractor Gallery in Portland Oregon on Dec 18, 2009. The images consists of series of crowd-sourced animated GIF files on projector screens. I took 378 images on my iPhone at approximately 2 to 4 second intervals. There was live improvisational music during the event, but I have put the images to Bach famous Prelude in C major from the Well-Tempered Clavier.