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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Today, humanity faces an urgent climate crisis. What impacts have the ubiquity of computers and computational representations of the environment had on public and scientific understandings in light of this crisis? As the Earth becomes mapped, tagged and digitized, what new relationships are emerging between climate, science and society?

This theme invites the works of artists, researchers and scholars involved in decoding the complex relationships between people, nature and technology and in shaping social change in the age of climate crisis. Areas of interest include but are not limited to: ubiquitous, locative and mobile technology, sustainability, social entrepreneurship, scientific intervention and creative innovations.

Theme Leader:
Andrea Polli
Director, Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media (IFDM)
UNM Center for the Arts

Cover page of Playing the Environment: Games as Virtual Ecologies

Playing the Environment: Games as Virtual Ecologies


Alarming environmental trends are increasingly the subject of a variety of games that suggest surprising new approaches to both game studies and environmental advocacy, traditionally conceived. Such games raise an interesting complex of questions: how do games model “nature” and relevant scientific theories, and how do code-based representations of nature differ from those in more traditional media? Do games potentially permit a better understanding of natural processes by moving past the mere visualization of data to procedural or algorithmic embodiment? As the work of Ian Bogost and Alexander Galloway, among others, suggests, digital games and networked media offer promising avenues not only for rendering the realities of environmental crisis—nature as problem space—but also for schematizing possible solutions in ways that leverage the unique affordances of the computer, the Internet, and player collectives.

Cover page of The Sea As Sculptress—From Analog to Digital

The Sea As Sculptress—From Analog to Digital


In this paper I consider the potential of digital technology to raise ecological awareness and motivate change, focusing on my artwork, The Sea As Sculptress, a macrophotographic record of the marine life growing on sculptures I placed in the San Francisco Bay. Originally presented thirty years ago as a performative lecture with slide dissolves, I recently redesigned and updated the project as an extensive web site. Here, I present the initial context and intention of the project and then outline the strategies that I employed to translate and re-envision the work in light of both the development of new technologies and changing conceptions of art and ecology. I argue for the importance of collaboration between artists and scientists to develop and promulgate the values and policies necessary to address the many ecological challenges of our times.

Cover page of KRFTWRK – Global Human Electricity

KRFTWRK – Global Human Electricity


Health problems and the search for alternative energy solutions are two ongoing issues of western society. In this paper the author describes his continuing eco-political art project "KRFTWRK – Global Human Electricity", which connects these subjects and tries to present aesthetic and social solutions to these problems through artistic activities.

Cover page of Every New Thing: Artistic Technologies in the Antarctic

Every New Thing: Artistic Technologies in the Antarctic


Technologies deployed by artists in the Antarctic art have progressed in cumulative fashion from painting and drawing to photography to new media, such as installation and performance art, a sequence which parallels historical eras in exploration.

Cover page of Airspace: Antarctic Sound Transmission

Airspace: Antarctic Sound Transmission


This paper investigates how sound transmission can contribute to the public understanding of climate change within the context of the Poles. How have such transmission-based projects developed specifically in the Arctic and Antarctic, and how do these works create alternative pathways in order to help audiences better understand climate change? The author has created the media project Sonic Antarctica from a personal experience of the Antarctic. The work combines soundscape recordings and sonifications with radio-style audio interview excerpts. This work will be examined in the context of the other sound transmission science and art works..

Cover page of ‘Translating’ and ‘Retranslating’ Data: Tracing the Steps in Projects that Address Climate Change and Antarctic Science

‘Translating’ and ‘Retranslating’ Data: Tracing the Steps in Projects that Address Climate Change and Antarctic Science


In this paper I discuss the notion of translation as it relates to the practice and communication of science. While science is a creative translation of the natural world, it pretends to be a carbon copy of reality and therefore it eschews expressive and metaphorical use of language. I argue that the denial of subjectivity in the pursuit of science and in the scientific approach to language impedes communication with the general public. The use of digital data has exacerbated this ‘objective’ trend. Art can bridge the gap by retranslating this data into metaphors thereby making the information more sensually and emotionally accessible as well as intellectually comprehensible. I present two case studies of my collaborations with scientists centered on ocean acidification and ultraviolet radiation respectively, showing how digital data is retranslated into physical phenomena and inserted into a larger historical and cultural narrative that includes the history of Antarctic science.

Cover page of Northern Crossings

Northern Crossings


In this paper, I discuss issues of the North related to climate change and sovereignty that are examined in my current artworks that use patterns and paths related to crossings of the Canadian North and its Oceans (Arctic and Atlantic) as well as cultural and political references to the North and myths of North.

Cover page of Distracted: Poetic Interpretations of Climate Data

Distracted: Poetic Interpretations of Climate Data


This paper introduces the creative work Distracted and discusses conceptual, aesthetic and technical aspects of the work. The work was conceived as a luminous, interactive, computational media installation informed by our interest in the Antarctica. Through the paper we focus on: how the work addresses the themes of climate change and sustainability; how we attempted to work with selected sets of scientific data to evoke the delicate yet extreme nature of the environment and the ways in which ice is a record of the earth’s geological history and recent human impacts; and how the process of making this artwork caused us to reconsider our practices and formulate strategies for redirecting our practice in a manner that addresses the challenges of sustainability.

Cover page of Call Me! Calling the Glacier

Call Me! Calling the Glacier


This paper introduces the project Call me!, a series of interactive projects in acoustical emotional field research by sound artist Kalle Laar on the global impacts of climate change.