(wherein we refer to the ideas underpinning the Hidden Ecologies Project as opposed to the building housing the bar down the street).

I thought it might be useful to gather, revisit, and perhaps extend notes on the conceptual underpinnings of the Hidden Ecologies Project. I have set these pages up to allow the addition of notes at the bottom of each page. We could use this feature to gather ideas about the next logical steps or pressing questions associated with each area.

I need to work out authorship privileges for this section. As it stands it is associated with my name but I will shift this to be a group endeavor. If you would like authorship access drop me an e-mail.

PREMISE: A cartographic base

From the very get go our Hidden Ecologies discussions invoked the notion of mapping. If the project is to reveal invisible relationships and encourage the reading of place then what better framework than a map? This is doubly true if the map becomes an interactive tool of group authorship. Enter the concept of collaborative geo-annotation.


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PREMISE: Scale bands
spanning from 10^7 meters to 10^-6 meters

When we began it was imagined that the project would be constrained to the Bay Area or perhaps the edges of the San Francisco Bay. As Wayne suggested one should be able to zoom out to see the broader contest and zoom in to see intimate geographical detail. I imagine this as playing out across four scale bands: 1) satellite/aerial plan views, 2) kite aerial photography, 3) ground-based photos, and 4) microscopic photos. While scales 1&3 are common, 2&4 could be hallmarks of the project as could the juxtaposition of all four scales.

Scale bands sm

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PREMISE: Focusing efforts on specific sites:

As the project continues we note that part of our effort is directed at method — notions on reading a particular landscape – while another part is developing examples of these methods applied. Both parts seem imminently extensible. We have selected four sites in the along the edge of San Francisco Bay as places to explore and develop Hidden Ecologies methods. These range in broadly in character and scale.

Hidden Ecologies project sites

Layers of time
A temporal framework

Behind the visual richness of the South Bay lie its interesting history and the active formulation, at this very moment, of bold initiatives for its future. For two years I have taken low-level aerial photographs over the South Bay salt ponds. That these images are often visually compelling is in no small part because they reveal remnants of an enigmatic past. It turns out that aerial images greatly reduce sky reflection from the salt pond surfaces thus exposing colors, textures and information hidden from normal points of view. Furthermore, the views exposed contain elements from a variety of historic layers (see examples in the attached Appendix) as though layers of tracing paper on an architect’s desk.

To this day the landscape holds remnants of wind-driven Archimedes screws, narrow-gauge railroads, entrepreneurial produce landings, industrial works, and abandoned towns. When researched these remnants yield entertaining tales involving ingenious invention, Chinese laborers, camels, oyster wars, and bawdy houses.

Points of view — multiple readings of the landscape


While I was editing headers for this blog site I paused on the image above. Taken from a kite along the edge of Pond N1 in the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge, it shows a high-salinity saltern with its borrow ditch. The image could inspire many different readings. A microbiologist might be drawn to the orange/red colors and their suggestion of abundant carotene rich organisms. Or perhaps the microbiologist would note the pond floor’s fractured heaving pattern characteristic of micro-organism rich mud. A salt producer (specifically a waterman) might read the color as indicating a pond ready for cycling. A cultural geographer might note the marks of the clamshell dredge that created the levee enclosing the pond. Perhaps a hydrologist would smile at the ‘frozen’ shape of a dendretic marsh channel. What would an artist see? A child? My point is that potential readings of this landscape abound and that they would be interesting to gather, juxtapose, and present.


Earlier in the project I imagined Hidden Ecologies to be anchored by “a core group of folks interested in, and knowledgeable about, the key topics engaged. The idea would clearly benefit from staff support and this is particularly true regarding the WWW media. Core participants would offer classes designed to entertain and train collaborators (e.g., Wayne’s Hiking with a Field Microscope class) and we could encourage these folks to make an ongoing contribution to the project. Finally, the project should engage the general WWW-surfing public (which itself will range from expert to novice).”

Ideas / actions:

Capture project related artifacts from the UC Berkeley Documentary Photography and SFAI ??? classes. Encourge students to continue their participation.

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