Weekly recap: Mazes and Magai Paan

It’s been a busy past two weeks: we’ve started and named our project, met loads of interesting people, took an epic city tour, had a panoramic Skype session at Cisco, and have narrowed down the scope of and started our research for the project.

Meet (from left to right) Iain with the GoPro, Tarun and Ankita. You’ll see Sruthi and Lisanne around.
Meet (from left to right) Iain with the GoPro, Tarun and Ankita. You’ll see Sruthi and Lisanne around.

So, we’re Ecosense. Whether temporarily or for the long haul, we’ve christened our project. Seriously, it took a lot longer than you would think to come up with this name. It tries to capture what our project is about: citizen empowerment, smart citizens and ecological sustainability (particularly in relation to consumption). Oh, and our Bangalore-based team working at Fields of View consists of: Sruthi Krishnan, Indian writer and journalist (and acting mentor for the project), Iain Kettles, UK Developer, Lisanne Binhammer, Canadian Graphic Designer and Ankita Victor and Tarun Dutt, Indian IIIT-B students. Basically, we’re an international and interdisciplinary force to be reckoned with.

Post-meeting with ESG brainstorm.
Post-meeting with ESG brainstorm.

Last week (and the week prior) we ran around town on many, many meetings: the Environmental Support Group (ESG), WorkBench Projects and Hita Unnikrishnan and Seema Mundoli. They were all fascinating, invigorating and delicious (we ended up going out for lunch either during or after each meeting. #Winning). For our meeting with the ESG, we with met with Professor Abhayraj Naik of Azim Premji University to talk about the general scope of our project. He provided invaluable insights as to the key environmental issues that are currently circulating in Bangalore (from the loss of tree coverage with the newly built Metro to the privatization of parks). It was a dizzying start to the project (the vast amount of problems in the city is staggering), but it did help us to get an, albeit, shaky foothold into what Bangalore citizens are dealing with on a daily basis.

Tools at WorkBench projects.
Tools at WorkBench projects.

A few days later, we met up with Pavan Kumar from WorkBench Projects, which is a makerspace in Bangalore (conveniently located right underneath the Halasuru Metro station). Sruthi and Harsha (a fellow Fields of View-er) were interviewing Pavan for a new podcast series that the studio is doing. We got to learn about the maker culture here, and how WorkBench is trying to cultivate and add to this culture. Finally, we met with Hita Unnikrishnan and Seema Mundoli last Tuesday. Hita is a Ph.D student at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, and Seema is associated with Azim Premji University. This particular meeting was a bit less broad: we talked lakes for about an hour. We learned about dealing with the intricacies of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewer Board (or the BWSSB, because that name is a mouthful), the complexity of Bangalore’s lake network (as everything is connected, problems just pass from one body of water to another) and the problems surrounding the privatization of lakes (and what this loss means for a community). After the meeting, it was starting to become clear that even picking a topic like lakes is still heaps to unpack within the five-month project duration (as, you know, there are sub-topics and sub-sub topics and whatnot). Whew.

Our new friend that we made on the tour. Also featured in the video.
Our new friend that we made on the tour. Also featured in the video.

On Wednesday of last week we were taken on a tour all over Bangalore. It was, well, hard to describe, so we’ve got a video that’ll much more aptly show you what it was like. It’ll be up next week, promise.

Skyping at Cisco: The real deal.
Skyping at Cisco: The real deal.

Our first ever Cisco meeting was on Friday. Joining the conversation was: Jan and Peter from Cisco, Gijs, Marco, Willem, Joan and Thiago from MediaLAB Amsterdam and Jorge from ELISAVA (the rest of the Barcelona team is still being sorted out in Spain). Tucked away somewhere in the enormous Cisco complex, we Skyped from a room with screens big enough to make our Dutch comrades look like they were sitting around the table with us. Beyond the super nifty audio-visual experience, we discussed crucial themes such as: How technology can encourage citizens to become smart (or active) in a smart city? How are resources used at different levels in a city (from individual use to household or housing complex usage)? And how can people “step” into sustainability at these different levels? All labyrinth-like issues, especially when you remember that we’re dealing with three gapingly different cultural contexts. Yeah, that’s right. Not only are the problems that we’re facing crammed with complicated paths and hidden doorways, we’ve got to take into account that Holland and Spain are thrown into the maze. Game face on.

Mapping out e-waste and (look , very, very closely) sad discarded Macs.
Mapping out e-waste and (look , very, very closely) sad discarded Macs.

Post-meeting we were able to narrow our focus to e-waste or personal electronics (including post-consumption flows). It’s an exciting and highly relevant problem (as you can tell from the video) that we’re keen to unravel. We’ve done some desk research and mapped out a general flow of the waste within the Bangalore context, and are trying to schedule some meetings with some key players next week. So stay tuned.

Magai Paan: You’ve been warned.
Magai Paan: You’ve been warned.

Oh, and one more thing. Magai paan, pictured above: Maybe don’t stick the whole thing in your mouth if you’ve never tried this typical Indian post-meal cleanser. Iain’s face just about split in two with, um, slight distaste. Or something.

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