@EarthChurch1 – Final Presentation

After months of research, interviews, discussions, contemplation and self-reflection later, I formulated a final project. Here is an attempt at articulating my entire process in a single post.

PROJECT IN A SINGLE SENTENCE

@EarthChurch1 is an attempt to use art and technology to preach climate change to Christians and try to normalize conversations of the environment in a religious context.

INTRODUCTION

Liberalization and bifurcation of popular media has created a great divide in the United States. People have started aligning themselves with either of two major ideologies, democratic or republican. And an alignment with either is not only a political conformation, but an adherence to everything that is prescribed by the leaders of that one political ideology.

This has triggered a cultural movement of conservatives with republican beliefs who have found the freedom to completely disregard issues of the environment. However, the same people are also outrightly religious and believers of God. And religion has always been closely tied to Earth and fellow human beings, animals and flora. This presents us an opportunity to use the narrative of religion to preach climate action. Reasons being:
1. Pontification over information – People are not very receptive to information. To a lay man, digesting statistics and figure is more difficult than digesting provocations. The recent election only helps testify this claim. They need directions, and not the coordinates.
2. Obligations over options – Religion advocates morality. And morality brings advocation, shame and virtue. Taking advantage of religion, to give people a moral environmental compass to maneuver their daily actions and beliefs. If not done so, there’s guilt of the conscience.
3. Of human empathy – Religion prescribes empathy for fellow beings. And climate justice is not only justice for the environment, but also justice for the poor facing the consequences, the animals that are approaching extinction, and the trees that are being deforested by the hundreds.

TARGET AUDIENCE

Conservative Catholic Christians would be primary population that this project will try to address.

MEDIUM

Twitter – Twitter as a medium, has been witnessed driving a mass number of people to affirm and propagate a certain ideology, political party or even a joke.

Meme – Visual medium is much easier to resonate with compared to lengthy sermons. Also, memes are easily shareable and already have an established presence on the internet.

Language – The language is heavily inspired from the Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change. The language has to be religious, empathetic and sermonized. Mockery is not an option.

The idea is to use empathy to resonate with the pre-established beliefs of the conservative audience. They have already been alienated from many liberal ideas, due to the binary divide of the country’s population. The topic of the environment shouldn’t be something that is intellectual, liberal or urban. To shift people’s thinking, the first step is to normalize conversations around the shift. To normalize climate action using sermons and religion is what this project seeks to achieve first and foremost.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The first project prototype is set in the form of a twitter bot ecosystem. For this prototype, I have created three twitter bots that tweet about climate change while resounding religious ideas:

  1. Earth Church (@earthchurch1) – This bot autogenerates memes and tweets them. There are three classes of memes between which it randomizes – though-provocation, empathy for fauna and hope.
  2. Earth Apostle (@earthapostle) – This bot retweets everything that is tweeted by Earth Church. It also simplifies some memes and makes them more blatant and generalized. The memes generated by this bot aim at being easily shareable and to be shareable in more than one context.
  3. Earth Missionary (@earthmssionary) – This bot is meant for intervention. It searches for the word ‘God’ on all public tweets on twitter and responds to the original poster with a religious response about the environment. The idea is to directly reach out to Christians who are tweeting about climate change. This bot also retweets everything that is tweeted by Earth Apostle, thus in turn retweeting everything tweeted by Earth Church.

The bots are similar in persona, and differ in their ways of operation. Earth Church posts sermons, Earth Apostle simplifies and retweets sermons and Earth missionary intervenes everyday conversations. Initial testing has proved the missionary bot to be the most successful thus far.

IMAGES

NEXT STEPS

The next step is to:
1. Host the bots on a public server – Right now, I’m manually running the bots periodically. My intent is to host them on a public server and keep them running for weeks, maybe months.
2. Collect data – See which bot is the most successful. Which bot gets the most retweets. Which bot has the most number of followers.
3. Add content – Keep adding different content so that the bots don’t become overtly repetitive and have many images and texts to switch between. Also add smarter responses, so that the bots can contextualize tweets and respond accordingly.

Presently, ,my strategy is to gain a following on the Missionary bot first, and then popularize memes and the other bots through posting directly for the following.

FEEDBACK

Some of the questions presented after the presentation were :
1. How do I collect data and analyze the performance of the bots?
2. How do I gain better traction?

Some recommendations were to check out the work being done by Sojourners Magazine, On Being Podcast/Blog (suggested by Prof. Nick Hubbard) and Cambridge Analytics (suggested by Prof Katherine Dillon).

 

Initial Prototyping

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 12 / Prototyping

Brainstorming:

As mentioned in the previous post, we had chosen the problem of representation to be our topic for the final project. The next step was to select a location. We decided to start locally and think of devising a solution for local communities, and thereafter think about other cities across the world.

NYC has been putting extensive effort into collection of data and making it open to public use (NYC OpenData). Our plan was to add another layer on top of data collection. The layer would comprise of data analysis, comparison and organization. The desired result is to develop a platform that can cater to community organizations and facilitate them in using data to prepare a research report so as to assist them in reaching out and making their concerns heard.

The online platform is generalized to study the many problems posed by urbanization. Poor communities remain in such dire conditions because they’re afflicted not by one or two clearly definable problems, but a tangled web of delicate issues that compound in ways that makes themselves visible (sometimes) only in big data.

Initial Prototype:

The platform shall be a combination of two things: an IDEO how-to manual on design research and TurboTax.

The platform will have informative guidance on how to approach need/problem finding, and then the platform will have guided input forms that will visualize the data inputed in real time in a way that simplifies a very complex and convoluted process.

           

Results:

The platform needs to do the following things:
1. Guide users in the research and data collection process
2. Provide options around quantitative and qualitative research
3. Supplement their data with government and city standards/thresholds
4. Visualize data and recommend designated people to reach out to

 

Beyond Memes

Thoughts around how the final project implementation can be twofold.
Does it have to be restricted to memes? Can it be extended to gifs?
Is a series of memes necessarily an art project? Can it be something that strikes out as shocking or absurd?
What if I combine it with the final project for live image processing and develop an interactive installation?

Talking about Climate Change with a Religious Narrative

Taking my research forward, I started reading Pope Francis’ Encyclical on climate change and looking up the work of Prof. Mary Evelyn Tucker for the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology.

Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change :

The Pope’s Encyclical is a comprehensive commentary on how a believer should feel about the environment and what are the concerns that she/he should have in their minds. It not only raises an urgent and earnest request to think about the environment, but also provides them to be instruments of action, control and environment-friendly practices.
How it helped me: While I was more or less aware of what the encyclical said, it offered me a language that is Christian, empathetic and preaching.

FORE AND PROF TUCKER :

 

The video above eloquently explains how religion is a great opportunity to inform people about the environment and climate action. The words of Prof. Tucker resonate with the ideas using which I started working on the project. The forum gave me some hope around me not being the only one to be thinking in these terms.

“In probably the most profound way, the religious traditions for millennia have offered to humans a way of sustaining life in the midst of tremendous suffering, of despair, of a sense of tragedy, of facing death.”

Conversation with Experts

Temporary Expert / Conversation with Experts

1. Jennifer Jacquet, professor at the department of Environmental Studies NYU

Jennifer has been working in the space of climate action for a long time. My interest in her work developed due to her study of psychology and climate change. The discussion with her was particularly informative in terms of understanding how shame affects human action, who are the primary propagators of global warming and how corporations are generally indifferent towards the concerns raised by the public. One highlight was to develop a different understanding of the problem of climate change. To view it not as an environmental issue, but as a humanitarian issue. The rich cause climate change and the poor are generally on the front line facing the consequences. Wildlife is not even involved but is facing the worst consequences.

2. Robert and Irene Keim, board of directors Unitarian Universalist Ministry of Earth

Robert and Irene Keim have been working in the space of climate justice and religion for a long time. They were probably the best people to reach out to in order to understand the explore the connection between the environment and religion. Credits to Marina for connecting me with them. Their work is generally community based and philanthropic. But they were very responsive to my ideas around an art project that talks about this theme, and had some great suggestions. They pointed me towards Yale Forum of Religion and Ecology, where Prof Mary Evelyn Tucker has been studying and teaching how to make this distinct connection and how influence people. They also gave me feedback based on their experiences with climate marches and social work. One great point was

“People who are not environmentalists, become immediately dismissive about the issue if the speaker mentions climate change. Stay away from the use of the specific term and try to speak using non-scientific terms.”

I had also reached out to Prof. Wendy Doniger at UChicago but couldn’t have a dialogue with her due to her busy schedule. She mentioned that she is open to a discussion post mid-June if it relates to Hinduism in any way. This might be a possibility if I can use the same themes to work on a project about Hinduism and women empowerment in India.

Representation : A Case Study on Brownsville

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 11 / Case Study and Ideation

The group is considering a tentative idea around which we are planning to construct a rough prototype. The problem we are tackling is representation of people living in low income neighborhoods in urbanized cities. Below is the project idea accompanied by a data driven case study of Brownsville, Brooklyn. We are starting with a area local to NYC but the eventual scope of the project would be to be able to cater to any neighborhood in any major city around the world.

Tentative Idea

An online tool that enables local communities or non-profit organizations to enter and organize data. The platform would generate graphs, and data maps for the data that is inserted into the system. It also facilitates the concerned user to directly reach out to the designated authority through the neighborhood details or zip code.

CASE STUDY ON BROWNSVILLE

Community asset mapping :

Community asset mapping provides an illustration of both the needs of a community and available resources. Asset mapping can help community stakeholders, foundations and government leaders determine whether existing resources are— or are not—meeting a community’s needs so that strategies for community development can be implemented accordingly.

There are many different indicators across six domains of well-being – economic security, housing, health, education, youth, and family and community—to determine where risks to child well-being are concentrated.

Poverty rate :

High rates of poverty in Brownsville are driven by low rates of employment that result in very low household incomes. The median household income in Brownsville is just over $25,000, third lowest among Brooklyn neighborhoods and significantly lower than the borough wide median household income (nearly $47,000) and less than half of the citywide median household income (nearly $53,000).

Access to banking :

New York City households are more likely to be unbanked and underbanked than households nationwide, and households in Brownsville (PUMA) have the third highest unbanked rate and ninth highest underbanked rate out of 55 PUMAs in New York City. Nearly three out of ten households in Brownsville (PUMA) do not have a bank account, compared to just over one in ten citywide. Over half of households in Brownsville (PUMA) are either unbanked or underbanked.

Possible Emphasis Strategy: Banking development in Brownsville

In 2003, New York City adopted its own BDD program using city funds to help establish bank branches where they were most needed. The Banking Development Working Group, a partnership between the New York State Banking Department and several New York State and City agencies, was created in 2004 to promote the new city BDD program. The working group identified eleven communities, including Brownsville, which were lacking in mainstream banking institutions. These communities are eligible for ‘Enriched BDD’ status and banks that establish a presence in these neighborhoods through the BDD program are eligible for combined incentives from state and city agencies. The ‘Enriched BDD’ program has resulted in branch openings in six of the eleven identified communities, but not in Brownsville.

Vacant Lots :

Around half of the 730,810 square feet of vacant lot space in Brownsville is publicly held, adding up to 357,123 square feet, or the equivalent of 7.5 football fields.

LIH Housing Projects : The New York City Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) has been soliciting community input for plans to develop vacant lots in Brownsville.14 With the help of community stakeholders, HPD is holding public meetings and collecting input through an interactive online mapping tool. While HPD’s priorities include affordable housing and retail spaces, residents are also expressing the need for youth recreation centers, supermarkets, and community spaces.

Transportation :

The limited access and reliability of subways in Brownsville may contribute to Brownsville workers having among the longest commute times for workers living in Brooklyn. According to census data, 70 percent of Brownsville workers use public transportation to get to work, an even higher share than New York City (56 percent) and Brooklyn (62 percent) as a whole. Thirty-seven percent of Brownsville workers report a commute of an hour or more, the sixth highest figure of all Brooklyn neighborhoods. Brownsville residents report longer commutes than those in many neighborhoods that are just as reliant on public transportation and even further from the primary job centers in Manhattan. This includes East New York—Brownsville’s neighbor to the east—where 70 percent of workers report using public transportation, but only 27 percent report a commute of over one hour, despite being further from Manhattan than Brownsville.

Social Programs with a focus on Brownsville :

The Brownsville Partnership, Jobs-Plus, Ocean Hill and Brownsville Neighborhood Improvement Association

Source :
CCC From Strengths to Solutions document on meeting community needs in Brownsville

Fail Story : Liquid Traces

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 11 / Fail Story

Introduction:

For the fail story, I was conflicted between two topics. One was a fail story during my experience working at Amazon. The story involves working for a new workflow on a website that caters to millions of vendors globally, and making errors on it due to lack of customer interaction, hence delaying the launch. However, since the data around this project is supposed to be confidential I decided to present this other story that I came across during my visit to MoMA.

I wanted to present this incident which talks about a vessel carrying 72 Libyan migrants, and how they were stranded and left to die at sea.

Description:

Here’s a chronological outline of the story:

  • 72 Libyan migrants decide to sail in the Mediterranean north-bound towards the Italian island of Lampedusa. This was in consequence of the Libyan Civil War in 2011.
  • The boat went out of fuel midway and sent out a distress call to an Eritrean priest in Italy.
  • The boat’s position was determined and was found to be outside the search and rescue zones of Italy or Malta (see picture). Italy relayed the message to NATO.
  • During the entire time, the boat was in NATO surveilled waters and was identified and positioned by the NATO patrols.
  • NATO protocols dictate minimal assistance for migrants.
  • Resultantly, the boat was stranded in the sea. The passengers soon ran out of food and water. Subsequently, they started passing away one after the other.
  • For fourteen days, the boat was adrift at the mercy of the ocean currents and the wind.
  • On the fifteenth day, the boat washed away at the coast of Zlitan, Libya. With only 11 passengers still breathing.
  • Two passengers died while being rescued and held in prison. Only 9 out the 72 survived.

Talking Points:

Below are the talking points that I have identified:

1. What should’ve been a straightforward search and rescue operation turned into  a game of shifting responsibility. There were military vessels as close as within two hours of travel from the boat, yet there was no assistance offered to the dying people.
2. Negligence of human life. Just because the distressed boat was carrying refugees bears no justification for indifference. This one instance shows that 63 people died. In the year 2011, 1500 other deaths have been documented for the people fleeing Libya due to the conflict. 14,000 deaths have been documented in the past 20 years in the maritime borders of the EU.
3. Lack of communication. Although, certain parties were informed about the boat’s position and distress there was no follow-up by any of the concerned authorities.

Source:

My source of reference was the UN exhibition at MoMA which installed a screening of the short film Liquid Traces. You can watch the film here.

Final Project Idea Progress

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 9 / Systems

Group – Danni Huang, Jixuan Sun, Kenzo Nakamura, Utsav Chadha

Overview

The group, thus far, has spent majority of the time conducting thorough research on the topic of urbanization and the problems associated with it. We have familiarized ourselves with the different aspects of the urbanization problem, namely:

  • Infrastructure
  • Basic Services
  • Transportation
  • Violence and hazards
  • Connectivity

We have been looking up related articles and deriving ideas from them. Through this process, we have constantly referenced “Innovating for Children in an Urbanizing World” handbook, shared with us by Tanya. The handbook provides a comprehensive overview of urbanization and its many facets. After brainstorming and review, the group naturally gravitated towards the issue of connectivity, highlighted in the said handbook as a relevant concern, and used the article’s “statement of need” and “prompts” as a framework for our work going forward.

Problem

Representation.

We are planning to focus on accurately representing slum-dwellers in data that is used to plan for the future and having them actively represented in the government so that they may participate in the planning of their cities and futures.

Related Articles

Street violence and exploitation in slums:
• http://pluralsecurityinsights.org/violence-manifested-nairobis-slums/• https://www.pri.org/stories/2015-09-15/mumbai-slum-dwellers-say-i-have-help-stop-violence-against-women
• http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-housing-idUSKBN14I009

Poor disaster preparedness:
• https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/urban-resilience/ideas/community-led-participatory-disaster-management-system-to-reduce-risk-of-fire-hazard-in-urban-slums-of-bangladesh
• http://www.irinnews.org/news/2010/09/21/reducing-risk-slums

Indoor & outdoor air pollution:
• https://anglejournal.com/article/2015-06-protecting-urban-populations-from-air-pollution-in-an-age-of-global-urbanisation/
• https://eos.org/features/urbanization-air-pollution-now

• http://reports.weforum.org/global-risks-2015/part-2-risks-in-focus/2-3-city-limits-the-risks-of-rapid-and-unplanned-urbanization-in-developing-countries/
• http://www.academia.edu/3196699/SLUM_EDUCATION_PRESENT_SCENARIO_AND_FUTURE_NEED
• http://visual.ly/left-behind?view=true
• https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738359/
• http://www.uis.unesco.org/_LAYOUTS/UNESCO/oosci-data-tool/index-en.html#en/intro
• https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/SOWC_2015_Summary_and_Tables.pdf

Systems Diagram