Thermal Sensing; Urban Studies

Work type: Essay (any type)
College (1-2 years: Freshmen, Sophomore)
Subject or discipline: Urban Studies
Title: Thermal Sensing
Number of sources: 0
Provide digital sources used: No
Paper format: MLA
# of pages: 5
Spacing: Double spaced
# of words: 1375
# of slides: ppt icon 0
# of charts: 0
Paper details:
Connections between art and place in the city are multiple, ranging from economic stimulus and redevelopment to civic pride to artistic works and performances calling attention to social issues and environmental ills. Aesthetic sensibilities are receiving increasing attention as part of the ‘performative’ turn in the social sciences and humanities; in geography and urban planning this work is seeking to bring spaces and places of the city to life in new ways. We ‘perform’ space and place every day in all manner of ‘artful’ ways—acts, deeds, words, images—in relations amongst humans, non-human beings, materials, architectures, structures, objects and things. Nigel Thrift uses the wonderful phrase “the art of performing the now” to capture the dynamic sense of space and place in performative geographies. In this project we embrace ‘practical aesthetics’ which entails apprehending the world via sense-based and affective processes that touch us. The human body is the instrument par excellence in qualitative study. And the human body is an instrument in the production of art, where art is defined as the creation of sensations and affects that move us. The word ‘aesthetics’ traced to its Greek roots means to sense and perceive. Connotations of aesthetics as referring to ‘high’ or ‘refined’ art emerged much later with the rise of modernity. In recent years, we have witnessed a return to the broader perceptual sense of aesthetics as artful, and a great flowering of aesthetic approaches across diverse fields and settings.

In this project we are sensing Downtown Phoenix with the aid of FLIR Systems infrared cameras. We might say the i5 camera is a kind of prosthetic device which renders our bodies ‘more-than-human’. With i5 camera in hand we move through the city with compound eyes, sensing a strange and alien world of heat rendered ‘visible’ via IR images. We must remember that it is no longer (visible) light that makes an impression; in the infrared world there is no light, only heat registered as temperature which is converted to image via an algorithmic color palette. Representational logics that hold sway in identifying things in the visible world begin to breakdown in the infrared. Binaries used in perceiving and ‘making sense’ of the world (e.g. human/nonhuman, animate/inanimate, subject/object, earthly/otherwordly) are disrupted, as are categorical ways we tend to think about the human (gender, race, ethnicity, age). This affords the opportunity to sense and think differently and creatively about the city and its inhabitants (human, nonhuman and inhuman).

IR images are infinitely interesting as sensationsthat is, they affect us much like other artful expressions. In writing about the affective force of some painting Gilles Deleuze makes an astounding observation: “It is difficult to know where the material ends and the sensation begins.” This places emphasis in being attuned to sensations, affects and effects of environs, objects and things; more than we are accustomed to ‘thinking’ about in our (conscious) everyday lives. Customarily, instant recognition and taken-for-granted facts reign supreme … even as brains are constantly struggling to keep up with sensing, feeling bodies! What I am suggesting, in a nutshell, is that IR images open up possibilities for sensing, experiencing, and expressing the city in novel ways.

The mission is to create a photo-essay that expresses Downtown Pheonix in thermal, along an interpretive theme that you find compelling. You may develop whatever frame or theme you think interesting and meritorious; I do not wish to limit your creativity and personal style in developing an impactful essay. Your photo-essay should include about 18 to 24 IR images and about 1,200 words expressing the frame and theme.

You should take seriously playful attunement with place as performative in your expression of Thermal Tempe. Write in first-person, present tense, active voice. If you are inclined, feel free to express this in personal terms. You may ‘play’ yourself in the essay or pose as another (e.g. a thermal sleuth). Remember that you are both participant and observer in this research event. What event? The event of creating an expression of urban place! We wish to know what you think and what you feel as a sensing being. Be creative. Strive for an essay with notable voice and impactful images. You may want to do some background reading about urban sensing and experience

Taken collectively, our photo-essays begin to build a public arts project that we title, A Thermal Guide to Downtown Phoenix. Down the road SGSUP will be looking to partner with Downtown Phoenix in creating thermal exhibits and installations probing and portraying the city. Your contributions will be noted!

The photos are provided .. the writer has to pick a theme.


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