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Plateaus: Computation, Geology, Ontology

Plateaus: Computation, Geology, Ontology

Zachary Kaiser, Rebekah Blesing, Gabi Schaffzin / USA
Michigan State University
kaiserza@msu.edu, http://mediated.space

“The smooth skin of the device demands gore to feed its gloss.”
—Benjamin Bratton

In this Artist Talk, we will present a recent work, entitled, Plateaus: a meditation on the geological nature of mobile technologies and the socio-political and environmental implications of the mining of minerals for those technologies. Plateaus seeks to elicit an understanding of the relationship between humans, geology, and media technologies: media not as immaterial but as geological.

Plateaus itself is an interactive transmedia system: a topographical model of a region of the Congo in which some of the minerals for our mobile devices are mined sits atop a stainless steel sifting tray. Meanwhile, a device inside the pedestal on which the landscape sits tracks mobile devices searching for Wi-Fi networks and, in response, shakes the topographical model with a force proportionate to the total number of Wi-Fi devices it counts, causing the landscape to erode and be sifted through the steel grate.

The structure into which visitors enter in order to view the work references temporary shelters—ranging from those of peoples displaced by environmental crises to those of ancient civilizations—as well as Faraday cages, which are used to block electricity or Wi-Fi signals.

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