TAKING DIGITAL TO THE WILD

Come 15 February 2017, Dr Andrew Quitmeyer, who recently came on board the CNM family, will be starring in Discovery Channel’s ‘Hacking the Wild’ series. The series is based on Dr Quitmeyer’s research about building electronics and using technology to survive in the wilderness or Digital Naturalism (watch the trailer here).

“What is Digital Naturalism?”, you ask. Dr Quitmeyer says, “Digital Naturalism is about using all the cool new abilities that computers can give us for exploring nature. It’s about figuring out how to make our own DIY sensors, robotics, and portable tools to let people interact with and discover new questions in the wilderness”. You can read more about the concepts of Digital Naturalism at www.digitalnaturalism.org.

Dr Quitmeyer at one of his research expeditions

Dr Quitmeyer currently teaches the NM4225 – Design Fiction and GET1033 – Exploring Computational Media modules. Students in NM4225 will be exposed to Digital Naturalism as they explore a special topic this semester on “creating new cool ideas for the future of how humans interact with the natural environment”. They recently went on a field-trip to ACRES (Animal Concerns & Education Society) to understand the challenges that animal rescue organisations face, when urban environments intermingle with Singapore’s natural flora and fauna. As a result of which, organisations such as ACRES spend hours rescuing pythons that get stuck in gutters near hawker centers, flying squirrels that get stuck in glue traps and endangered pangolins hit by cars. Dr Quitmeyer shares that students were given lots of inspiration for coming up with new solutions to a wide variety of real-world problems, from this trip.

Students from NM4225 during their trip to ACRES, experiencing Digital Naturalism first-hand

Apart from teaching at CNM, Dr Quitmeyer is looking forward to knowing more about the ‘makers’ scenario in Singapore and hopes to set up mobile makerspaces for people to study and create prototypes in nature, with instruments ranging from electronics to laser cutters. He also works on grants with people from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Climate Foundation to fund art-science projects surrounding growing massive kelp farms deep in south-east Asian oceans. His recent work includes building a floating makerspace to study coral reefs in Dumaguete, Phillipines, check it out here https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=n0L-SNO4A5w

Talking about the ‘Hacking the Wild’ series, Dr Quitmeyer says, “Filming for Hacking the Wild was pretty crazy. Usually my research expeditions before in my PHD work, were not really funded, and so we had to improvise, and were constantly figuring out solutions on the spot. I thought once I was working on the TV show, that things would be way more figured out beforehand. Ha! Instead those hacking and improvisation skills were constantly being used to make new weird devices to help navigate and explore the environments I got tossed into. It was a really amazing experience working with top of the line filmmakers who, just like me, were always having to modify and hack their own equipment to adapt to the environment. This adaption of technology to wild new environments is at the core of my research in “Digital Naturalism,” and I was happy I could continue my research in this way.”

The show which premieres on Feb 15 10pm EST in the US (Feb 16 at 11am in Singapore), will be broadcasted in Singapore later this year, but Dr Quitmeyer is planning to host a live premiere screening and give personal commentary. For those interested, do join the live screening at LT 7A, Building 36 at 11am on 16th Feb 2017.

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