Sensor City

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In collaboration with Neighborhood Networks, PwO deployed a specially-outfitted, human-powered vehicle carrying a small array of sensors designed to create an alternative image of the City of Pittsburgh. Three common urban pollutants–carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and ambient sound levels–were measured by the sensor array to create a dataset which was then plotted on a Google satellite image map and shared with a larger group of stakeholders. The vehicle made two reconnaissance trips, each roughly 20 miles long, traversing a representative cross-section of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Each trip captured a particular set of circumstances and creates a unique representation of the time at which it was created: in the “Kenny Chesney case” (see map below), elevated levels of toxins are found under a freeway overpass leading to a concert at Heinz Field.

PwO’s imaging process brought both subjective and objective measures back to observers, mirroring the ways and means through which contemporary policy decisions, especially those involving science, have been and still are made through the use of rhetorical “evidence”, as collected by sensors that document phenomena we cannot see or sense ourselves. It also points to the ways in which these sensor-generated portraits leave much out of the “picture”, representing only a brief, situated moment in time.

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