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Posts about temporary expert

Final Reflection

Project Summary

Light Pollution is a serious environmental problem that alters our ecology and our experience of the night sky. Inhabitants of major cities often cannot see more than a few stars. More than just a cosmetic issue, light pollution affects human circadian rhythms and has known health effects. Light pollution has also been shown to interfere with bird migration by diverting them from their normal flight path.

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Final Presentation

Yesterday I presented my final project for this class. My presentation consisted of walking through the website I made documenting my research and project outputs: lightpollution.ixora.io. In addition to the interactive light pollution map I went birding and orienteering in an effort to learn more about birds and how they function. "Embodied Knowledge," as Marina said. Both good experiences and for me, new ways of pursuing knowledge about a subject. I see the value of this approach and I'll be looking for similar activities for future projects. My website concludes with a design of a new system that will assist migrating birds and help them avoid the dangers of light polluted areas.

I need to make a few improvements to that website and I'll take care of that in the next few days. Also, a final blog post reflecting on my process, next steps, and a summary of my critique.

Drafts of Final Project Due

Drafts of our final projects are due this week but unfortunately my project is facing serious difficulties. The general idea of what I proposed in last week's post to remap bird migration patterns is terrible. The dataset that I thought existed doesn't exist at all, and even if it did, doing that re-mapping would be complete garbage. For a lot of reasons. When birds migrate they fly within large territories but choose specific flight paths that follow the guidance of the earth's magnetic field and the sun and stars but also adapt to changing wind patterns, weather, and food availability. Trying to force birds to follow a specific route is insanity and if it could be done it would kill lots of birds.

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Topic 2 Project Description

The end of the semester is in 4 weeks and I need a concise plan for what I'm actually going to do for this research project on light pollution.

Description

I am going to do a critical design project that will examine the impact of light pollution on bird migration.

As I've learned over the past few weeks, light pollution is a growing problem that unfortunately isn't generally accepted as an actual problem. There are serious consequences to our ecology because of light pollution. We lose the ability to see the night sky. Our circadian rhythms are disrupted. Bird migrations are thrown off course. Astronomers can't study the stars.

This is a large topic so I am going to focus on bird migrations and how birds are impacted by light pollution.

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Understanding Critical Design

In class we learned about something called critical design. The idea was completely foreign to me at first but after discussing the practice with Marina I now have a better understanding. In a way it kind of reminds me of science fiction. A good science fiction story will change something about the world and then build a story around it, examining the consequences of the altered world. The story itself can help us see our current world or potential future from a new, critical perspective. Similarly, critical design can help us gain a new critical perspective of the world through the design of new objects that are not necessarily useful beyond their ability to make us pause and think. This is closely related to design fiction.

I'd like to do a critical design project for my light pollution topic because doing something like critical design is outside of my comfort zone and I know I learn more when I do things like that.

Let's do this.

First I need to brainstorm some critical design ideas. I thought about it for a while and come up with these ideas:

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Ongoing Research

I am continuing to do research on Light Pollution and am learning a lot more about this field.

Library

I met with Margaret this week. Definitely good use of my time. In addition to helping me research light pollution she gave me good advice for the research I am doing for my Redefinition of Art class.

The biggest problem I have right now is sorting through all the information and narrowing my scope. I know from my meeting with Gregory Dobler that the subject of light pollution can be subdivided into four subtopics:

  • Loss of enjoyment of the night sky
  • Limits astronomers' access to stars
  • Ecology problems and bird deaths
  • Human health impacts such as phase shifts of circadian rhythms and cancer

Of these four, the first most strongly resonates with me. I'm going to narrow my research focus to pursue this subtopic.

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Constraint-Based Daily Practice

This week I did 7 days of a constraint-based daily practice and I interviewed my first expert, Gregory Dobler.

Constraint Based Daily Practice

The main idea of a constraint-based daily practice is to challenge ourselves to explore our topic by making some kind of quick sketch or janky prototype every day for 7 days.

My topic is light pollution. A major cause of light pollution is outdoor lighting that emits light skyward because of light sources that are not shielded. A typical bare light source will emit light in all directions. Light that is emitted straight up into the sky rarely serves any purpose but contributes to the light pollution that prevents us from seeing the stars. Putting a cover of some kind above a light source can keep this from happening without noticeably diminishing its usefulness.

It happens I have 7 light sources (lamps, etc) in my apartment that partially illuminate the ceiling. It doesn't do me any good to illuminate the ceiling because I don't do anything up there. Is it possible for me to modify each light source so that I can continue to use the them without illuminating the ceiling and without inhibiting my ability to live there? Experimenting with this will help me understand how much of an impact proper lighting design can have on reducing light sources that emit light skyward and contribute to light pollution.

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Topic 2 Begins

Research on my second topic, light pollution, is well underway.

Project Statement

First, a clear statement of the problem I am addressing.

My intent is to study light pollution and the ways it is impacting the lives of the humans and animals on this planet. I would like to understand how our city infrastructure contributes to the problem and the kinds of modifications that should be done to mitigate the damage. I would like to learn about the scientific research being done on the subject to quantify the extent of the current and future consequences. With this knowledge I would like to educate others about the issue so that more people can be advocates for this cause.

The big question on my mind right now is what I can do as an individual to work towards a less light polluted sky. Anything? Can I do more than raise awareness about the issue?

And as far as milestones go, I'd like to have a working prototype of some art project that addresses this issue by Thanksgiving. Within a week or two I would like to have a good foundation of research completed so I have a good idea of what knowledge is out there available to me. And by the middle of November I would like to be experimenting with different ideas for what to do with the information I am gathering.

My ideas for experimenting involve nighttime photography and planetary maps showing global light pollution. Also, disseminating information about infrastructure changes that would be necessary for reducing light pollution.

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Final Field Guide and Topic Two

The final-final version of my Field Guide is finally(!) available. I made some improvements to it based on my thoughts from my previous Field Guide Reflection post. Most importantly, I made it more clear who the intended audience is. In the introduction on the inside page, I added this:

Jumpstarting home ownership in low to middle income communities is an important component of community development that you as a community leader need to recognize. As you read this guide, consider how government policy can encourage home ownership and make it accessible to people who don’t have the resources to pursue it on their own. Critically, people need access to fairly priced mortgages and financial literacy information. Additionally, think about how government policy can confer the same benefits to renters and other people who don’t or can’t buy homes.

I think this improves it quite a bit because I make it more clear who I am addressing and that the content is intended for the development of low to middle income communities. Improving high income communities isn't something the people living there need help with beyond what they can accomplish on their own.

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