March 12, 2021
Solar Protocol: Reimagining The Internet Through Natural Logic
In this talk, Tega Brain & Benedetta Piantella, faculty members in the Technology, Culture & Society Department at NYU Tandon, will share their recently launched project Solar Protocol, developed in partnership with NYU Adjunct Professor Alex Nathanson. Solar Protocol is a participatory research initiative consisting of an experimental global network of solar-powered servers managed by volunteer server stewards. Unlike conventional network protocols which favor speed and proximity for efficiency, Solar Protocol directs web traffic to whichever server is enjoying the most sunlight thereby using the sun as a form of logic. In this way, the project examines how to design systems with natural rather than artificial intelligence while exploring grassroots digital infrastructures, environmentally responsive UX design and computing within planetary limits. The project has been supported by a NYU Green Grant and more recently through an Eyebeam Rapid Response Fellowship and it is currently the topic of a Solar-Powered Media Vertically Integrated Project at NYU welcoming undergraduate and graduate students working across the University.
Tega Brain is an Australian born artist and environmental engineer whose work examines how technology shapes ecological relations. She has created wireless networks that respond to natural phenomena, systems for obfuscating fitness data and an online smell based dating service. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide. Tega is an Assistant Professor of Integrated Digital Media, New York University. She works with the Processing Foundation on the Learning to Teach conference series and P5JS project. She has been awarded residencies and fellowships at Data & Society, Eyebeam and the Australia Council for the Arts.
Benedetta Piantella is a designer, humanitarian technologist and educator. She has been involved in international development ever since her experience of surviving the Tsunami in 2004. She has also been teaching for the past two decades in different disciplines and to different age groups, from Lego Robotics to K-12 students to HCI, Physical Computing and Resilient Engineering to graduate students at NYU. She co-founded three R&D companies focused on producing sustainable interventions to social problems worldwide and built partnerships with Governments, International Organizations such as the UN, UNICEF, The Earth Institute, Universities and multiple NGOs. Her research and practice focus on applying systems thinking and participatory design methods to ensure equitable access to life-sustaining resources, often through community-owned networks, citizen science, real-time data, and distributed and decentralized infrastructure.