Patterns Toward the Future

Posted in Conferences, Companies, Science on April 25, 2009

Many air quality studies are conducted on a national scale, or in the form of basic science studies. They all indicate the massive negative impact of human activity. However, most of us don't seem to change our behavior. Is it a problem of information we don't believe? Most of the air quality information is chronologically, geographically, or politically remote from our daily lived reality. This information is not easy to verify and to scale down to the scope of individual behavior. This gap between information and experience may well be too wide to produce innovative behavior change on a wide scale.

To address this perceptual gap, UC Berkeley Associate Professor Greg Niemeyer and his group developed a low-cost air quality sensing network he calls the Black Cloud. The network includes wireless sensors, a website, and a character, Cloudy McPufferson, who helps communicate air quality in the location in which it is measured. In his talk, Niemeyer discusses the development cycle of the local, citizen-based air quality sensors, and the design of games and narratives to support a culture of information exchange. Reviewing versions of Black Cloud citizen actions in many cities, Niemeyer will attempt to structure the many modifications Black Cloud participants engaged in as they tried to address air quality in their immediate vicinity. He will also describe when the project was successful in helping participants perceive and articulate relations between individual actions and global outcomes.

For more information about Black Cloud, visit or watch

Presented by Greg Niemeyer

Born in Switzerland in 1967, Greg Niemeyer studied Classics and Photography. He started working with new media when he arrived in the Bay Area in 1992 and he received his MFA from Stanford University in New Media in 1997. At the same time, he founded the Stanford University Digital Art Center, which he directed until 2001, when he was appointed at UC Berkeley as Assistant Professor for New Media. At UC Berkeley, he is involved in the development of the Center for New Media, focusing on the critical analysis of the impact of new media on human experiences.
His creative work focuses on the mediation between humans as individuals and humans as a collective through technological means, and emphasizes playful responses to technology. His most recognized projects were Gravity (Cooper Union, NYC, 1997), PING (SFMOMA, 2001), Oxygen Flute, with Chris Chafe (SJMA, 2002), Organum (Pacific Film Archive, 2003), Ping 2.0 (Paris, La Villette Numerique, 2004), Organum Playtest (2005), and Good Morning Flowers (SFIFF 2006, Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, Egypt, 2006) and of course, with Joe McKay, the Balance Game (Cairo 2007, London, 2007). His current project, the Black Cloud, an Alternate Reality Game, is funded by the MacArthur Digital Learning Initiative.

Google Tech Talks
April 23, 2009

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