Last weekend I attended the GIS Conference hosted by the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC) here at UCSB. I watched one of my colleagues, Desiree D'Alessandro present her past work from her Desert Studies class with Dick Hebdige last year.
Out of the presenters I was really interested in Brett Stalbaum's Transborder Immigrant Tool, a project that he and a group of collaborators from San Diego have undertaken for some years now. Brett had created a simple GPS tracking program and installed it into an old cell phone, which would be used by transborder immigrants find local water stations to keep them from dehydrating out in the desert. The use of this locative media serves as a short-term emergency tool for these nomadic survivalists to seek aid.
This project stirred up plenty of controversy in the past (and it still does), which angered right-winged groups in San Diego. There is even a misguiding video of Glenn Beck with inaccurate information about the Transborder Immigrant Tool.
Brett and his team are still refining their project as they have made efforts in working with local NGOs and a non-profit that already offer rescue aid to transborder immigrants. With technology advances in cell phones, Brett is looking forward to the decrease in value of Nokia phone models that will become relatively cheap for purchase and transform them into working locative tools.
The Transborder Immigrant Tool project made me think more about my current undertaking with the parks in Isla Vista and using GPS tracking devices, Tracksticks, to record movement and collect data. I asked him questions and he and his wife Paula Poole stopped by my studio to see more closely where I am heading with this project. He mentioned that it might be worth pursuing having conversations with the homeless that are currently inhabiting the park spaces to see if they want to be tracked or to at least bridge a dialogue with them.
For me, I have asked myself, "what will that relationship be defined as with my impending conversations with the homeless, and what do they really need?" among many other questions which I have yet to develop an answer. But I feel that there is one coming.