Ozone Tattoo

Ozone Tattoo

Partners: Dr. Vehram Elagoz, Lesley University, Dr. Kent Burkey, USDA ARS Maryland

Among other issues, climate change leads to an increase in ground-level ozone, a pollutant with harmful impacts on plants, animals, and humans. Ozone tattoo is an autographic visualization project that uses ozone-sensitive plants as bio-indicators to visualize ozone pollution. Ozone tattoos are damage patterns on the surface of the leaves created by localized exposure to ozone. These damage patterns allow decoding the impact of the pollutant through visual comparison with the healthy portions of the leaf.

The project is based on the established citizen science approach of planting ozone gardens, which allow communities to monitor pollution by observing plants that are sensitive to ozone. One of the indicator plants used in the project, the tobacco plant, has historical significance for Massachusetts and its history of industrialization. Until the early 1920s, western Massachusetts was a center of tobacco production, the source of high-quality cigar wrappers. One factor that ended this thriving industry was the adverse effect of ground-level ozone resulting from industrialization. Tobacco plants are highly sensitive to ozone and show visible damage already at low concentrations. This sensitivity makes the plants an excellent bio-indicator that is often used in ozone garden projects.

Exhibition at the Cambridge Council of the Arts

Staubmarke (dustmark)

Staubmarke (dustmark)

Staubmarke is a public space installation for the Drehmoment Festival in Stuttgart – a city affected by airborne particulate matter pollution.  Controversies between public health advocates, the city, and the local industry often manifest in disputes about proper methods of measurement and the veracity of citizen-collected data.

The project visualizes air pollution by calling attention to the patina on the city’s surfaces. The dustmarks are executed as reverse graffitis, making the accumulated pollution visible by partially removing it. By calling attention to dust as a material rather than an abstract value, the project contextualizes the sensor measurements with their physical basis.

Over the following months, the dustmarks will fade, as new dust will accumulate in the cleared areas of sign. Ultimately, the project is about the limits of objectivity – just as the dustmarks are no accurate representation of pollution exposure, the quantitative metrics are subject to political debates and at the same time only able to capture a limited aspect of the complex phenomenon of particulate matter.

Project website: http://dust.zone

In collaboration with Luftdaten.info, thanks to Lara Roth, Jan Lutz, Michael Saup, Pierre-Jean Gueno, Annekatrin Baumann/HLRS, Fa. Diezel

Paper: Maps of Daesh

Paper: Maps of Daesh

Maps of Daesh – the Cartographic Warfare Surrounding Insurgent Statehood 

January 2018

The ongoing Syrian civil war raises new cartographic challenges, including the ethical question of how the self-proclaimed Islamic State should be represented. States and news organizations face a conundrum: by mapping IS territory, they implicitly acknowledge its statehood. I investigate how different mapping methods carry different connotations for representing the strength and nature of the terror state, arguing that the statehood the IS is symbolically contested through cartographic choices that reflect the diverging interests of map makers.

Based on a comparative study, this article investigates the visual languages of IS sanctuary maps as published by news agencies, intelligence agencies, or circulated by the insurgents themselves. I argue that the statehood of territory held by the IS is symbolically contested through cartographic choices that reflect the diverging interests of the map makers. Beyond official representations, the article also considers the maps created by amateur conflict mappers and visual forensics experts, who extract and cross-reference information from social media including posted cell phone and drone footage, georeferenced tweets, and satellite images. I argue that the novel visual strategies developed by these practitioners for presenting visual evidence emphasize nonrepresentational aspects of cartography and represent a countermodel to established cartographic languages that follows an indexical rather than iconic or symbolic paradigm. 

Link    Pdf      Link to the Map Archive 

Pdf with original figures from the paper 

Tracings of original images by Azam Majooni





Women’s March Archive

Women’s March Archive

Art of the March


Just-In-Time preservation and documentation of 6000 protest signs of the Women’s march protest that took place on Jan. 21, shortly after President Trump’s inauguration. After the event, protestors arranged their signs along the fence of the old graveyard at the Boston Common. Struck by this ephemeral monument, a group of colleagues including Nathan Felde, Alessandra Renzi, Lucas Freeman, Alifa Rachmadia and myself spontaneously arranged for a collection of the signs after we learned that they were bound for disposal. With the help of volunteers, we collected, stored, sorted, classified and digitized every individual sign, which is currently the only complete collection of protest signs covering a major event.

Credits: Initiated by Alessandra Renzi, Nathan Felde, Dietmar Offenhuber. Visualizations & Web: Siqi Zhu, Navarjun Grewal, Christopher Pietsch, Colleen Curtis

Video by Emily Gordon, Ellie Lacourt, Connor Lewis.
Urban Radiance

Urban Radiance

A visual companion for the essay “Sticky data – context and friction in the use of urban data proxies.” published in Data and the City. ed. Rob Kitchin, Tracey P. Lauriault, and Gavin McArdlel. New York: Routledge. [pdf]

What have global data sets that estimate population density, economic productivity, measles outbreaks, rural poverty, resource footprints and electrification rates, urbanization and suburbanization, or average wages in common? They are all based on nighttime imagery of city lights captured by the Operational Line Scanner (OLS) sensor on the satellites from the US Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP).

What should later become the workhorse of geographers and economists was initially a completely accidental by-product: of a cold-war era military satellite program—launched in the 1950s by the US Air Force for estimating cloud cover and precipitation for reconnaissance missions. Army engineers discovered that the sensors were sensitive enough to capture the artificial radiance of cities during moonless nights without cloud cover.

In 1978, Thomas A. Croft published the first global composite of night-time images in the Scientific American. At that time, the image data had to be manually stitched together from analog films ejected in capsules from the satellite, which had to be laboriously recovered by the military. Today, the Black Marble data set has become one of the most popular motifs of space imagery.

While DPMS images are usually used to show regional differences, this project visualizes the temporal change in urban radiance from 1992 until 2015. It is the first interactive visualization of radiance time series data.

Link to project