Politicizing the AIR Down Here

Those of us who make communication technologies a part of our daily life are familiar with the challenge of searching for wireless hotspots, good mobile reception zones, and the like. But we often neglect to think about that other stuff floating in the ether--pollution. Even when it is on our minds, it tends to escape our vision. This conundrum is ironic, if not sad, given the relationship between technological development and environmental degradation. The Preemptive Media collective's newest project gives users a chance to identify pollutants and their origins, thus mapping a different sort of 'hotspot.' The AIR (Area's Immediate Reading) project outfits individuals with GPS-enabled portable devices that constantly monitor the atmosphere in the users' vicinity and compares these readings with data collected from other AIR devices in the region. Preemptive Media tend to employ alternative research and policy tactics in their work, and AIR is not unlike their previous projects in that the object created as a result of their investigations has wider social implications. The artists say that the AIR device is not only 'a tool for individuals and groups to self identify pollution sources, it also serves as a platform to discuss energy politics and their impact on environment, health and social groups in specific regions.' This fits into PM's efforts to reflect on the broader culture and cultural production of technology research and development while striving to bring something deeper to light. - Marisa Olson