Institute for Advanced Study, DASH, and Research Computing Present

Towards an Infrastructural Ecology

Past event
Mar 31, 2022
Black and white topographical map with silhouettes of birds and a target scope

Loli Ellison and wife, 1930s San Antonio. Institute of Texan Cultures

Helga Tawil-Souri
Associate Professor, Media, Culture and Communication & Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies
New York University 

The Internet Pigeon Network (IPN) is a prototype-solution for internet access infrastructure based on homing pigeons in the Gaza Strip that is resilient, scalable, less open to surveillance and destruction, works without electricity and without reliance on the Israeli backbone, as well as is affordable, community-managed and owned, and environmentally sustainable. Economically it fosters job creation and new businesses, and saves the exorbitant costs of machinery and backbone connection through Israel. It provides a democratic, community-owned, participatory model where needs are assessed by the community rather than an ‘ideal’ of internet access that is technically (and economically) dependent, echoing recent examples of mesh networks and local WiFi programs. The IPN demonstrates how a community can plan and build a technical network by reliance on animals and the environment that neither exploits, monetizes, nor harms them, but harnesses pigeons’ locative abilities, presence, and intelligence, and supports and improves their urban existence. The IPN contributes to scholarly discussions about mobility, movement, and displacement. The IPN demonstrates how infrastructure can be beneficial ecological entities themselves, outcomes of the relations between humans, animals, and the local environment; and demonstrate that an ‘intelligent’ infrastructure or ‘smart’ city is about being symbiotic and ecologically connected. It proposes that infrastructure be informed and defined by ecological consciousness. 

Presented in partnership with the University of Minnesota Human in the Data Initiative.

This event is free, open to all, and will be held via Zoom webinar. You will receive an automatic email reminder one day and one hour prior to the event including your registration link.

HELGA TAWIL-SOURI is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication and the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at NYU. Helga’s work deals with spatiality, technology, and politics in the Middle East, with a particular focus on contemporary life in Palestine-Israel. She is interested in how media technologies and infrastructures function as bordering mechanisms, and, conversely, how territorial and physical boundaries or objects function as cultural and mediated spaces. Much of her published academic work has been about Palestinian im/mobility and infrastructure, which has taken checkpoints, mobile phones and internet, film, and questions of borders and space as its focal points. She has also written about Arab media, identification cards, surveillance, video games, and other topics. She is co-editor of Gaza As Metaphor (Hurst, 2016), and has published in journals including Qui Parle, SocialText, Cultural Anthropology, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Space and Culture, Political Geography, Journal of Palestine Studies, Jerusalem Quarterly, Arab Studies Quarterly, among others, and serves on the board of Social Text and Public Culture.

Currently, Helga is beginning long-term research on turnstiles, experimenting with collage, transforming some of her work and interests into visual and/or digital modes, and creating and supporting academic work that takes non-traditional forms.

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