Virtual fencing, and the new aesthetic

This just in from Venue, an online mag produced by StudioX.

(10 gallon) hats off to Studio-x for mixing urban and non-urban considerations of architecture.
I’ve been ruminating (yes) about how to better interface with and represent ecocritical investigations on remote public lands, and have the work BE more salient to an urban public.
I sometimes (often) get blank looks if I talk about the fact that we all own the USA’s public land.
So much real and symbolic action takes place on this vast area (over 95,000 square miles) of high plains and high desert*.


In response to the interview about virtual fences, I’m thinking about

– at what point in the interview Anderson (and interviewer) mentions animal welfare – not until midway or later in article, certainly framed as secondary or even an after thought

– how easy it is to privilege convenience and human progress, continuing to make animal welfare second to your priorities (if that)

– looking at Anderson’s enthusiasm about technology controlling our literal actions (and not even in the future, right now, how that’s leading us)

– cows are ‘handed’ (left and right) as we are. They can recall where virtual fences were (because they experienced unpleasant feedback to approaching theses zones)

– question: to surveille the animals via drones and electronics performs what in relation to control of human biopower?

– can one *really* fence off poisonous plants (a single one?)?

– can the drone birds be sent to frighten off wolves and lions and bears (oh my)?

– can songs be sung for other purposes across that landscape, like Anderson does in the cows’ ear pieces?

– the ‘new aesthetic’ privileges a remote sensing of the world, acknowledging the ever-decreasing direct apprehension we have or are interested in having (what are we doing with all that time we gain?)

–  the ‘new aesthetic’ takes non-critical pleasure in surveillance, distance, and the production of accidental wonders. how does this operate with real animals (and real meat and money) at the end of the line?

– the positive impacts of the virtual fencing are great: ease of moving livestock  away from riparian areas and depleted landscapes, away from predators, away from wild herds, removal of hard fencing helps wildlife’s mobility.

– remote sensing from drones (robo birds) can tell you a detailed story of the current conditions of the landscape:


Christie Leece (my collaborator on Gila 2.0) and I are trying to figure out next steps — hopefully in Arizona.



On a related note, basal ganglia controlled (like the robo rat in the Anderson article) in mice is featured on Radiolab:
Damn It, Basal Ganglia


*The North American Deserts includes all the deserts located on the continent. It is also the term for a large U.S. Level 1 ecoregion (EPA)[1] of the North American Cordillera, in theDeserts and xeric shrublands biome (WWF). The continent’s deserts are largely between the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Madre Oriental on the east, and the rain shadow creatingSierra NevadaTransverse, and Peninsular Ranges on the west. The North American xeric region of over 95,751 sq mi (247,990 km2) includes: 3 major deserts; numerous smaller deserts; and large non-desert arid regions; in the western United States and in northeast, central, and northwest Mexico.

gila wilderness / mexican wolf recovery contacts

Huge props to my collaborator Christie Leece!

In addition to my generous, amazing hosts Michael Berman and Jennifer Six, I’m privileged to have met or spoken with a variety of informed people, specialists on all sides of the wolf reintroduction issues,  experts  and locals specifically in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, and conservation and animal behavior researchers at large.

Kim McCreery,  New Mexico Wilderness Alliance
Dave Parsons, carnivore conservation biologist
Harley Shaw, wildlife biologist and mountain lion expert
Patty Woodruff, wildlife biologist / naturalist
Steve Dobrott, manager of Ladder Ranch
Todd Schulke, cofounder, the Center for Biological Diversity
Bill Mader, wildlife biologist
Sharman Apt Russell
, nature/science writer
Peter Russell, city planner, Silver City NM
Cynthia Wolf, wildlife biologist, Wild by Nature Tours
Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity
Jess Carey, Catron County Wolf Interaction Investigator
Delene Beeland
, nature writer
Ed L. Fredrickson, livestock specialist on heritage breeds and professor of agriculture
Liz Jozwiak, project coordinator, Fish and Wildlife Service’s Interagency Field Team
Chris Bagnoli, Arizona Game and Fish Department
Wendy Peralta, Glenwood Trading Post
Ysabel Campbel and Paul Luecke, Doc Campbell’s Post
Joe Saenz, Wolfhorse Outfitters
Cynthia Bettison, archaeologist, museum director at Western New Mexico University
Carey Dobson, Timberline Ranch. AZ
Michael Metcalf and Christine Rickman
Faye McCalmont, Mimbres Region Arts Council, Floyd McCalmont, Builder
Elena Gellert, Black Gold Emporium, Reserve
Nancy Kaminski, Gila Conservation Education Center
Dave Mech, wildlife research biologist
Sue Morse, Keeping Track
Maggie Howell, managing director,  Wolf Conservation Center
Rebecca Bose, curator, Wolf Conservation Center
Stewart Breck, wildlife biologist, USDA-National Wildlife Research Center
Julie Hecht, MSc, lab manager, Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab @ Barnard College
John A. Shivik, mammals coordinator, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

A BIG thank you to the Interactive Telecommunications Program, Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, for their support.