Amber Case is an artist and designer who studies the interaction between humans and computers.
Amber looks at how our relationship with information is changing the way cultures think and act, and how they understand their worlds. Amber's work in the field of cyborg anthropology and user experience design led to a two-year fellowship at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and the MIT Center for Civic Media. Amber is the author of two books: “Designing with Sound” and “Calm Technology: Design for the Next Generation of Devices”. Amber’s TED talk, “We are all cyborgs now,” has been viewed over one million times. Amber was featured among Fast Company’s Most Influential Women in Technology in 2010, was the co-founder of a location-based software company acquired in 2012, was named one of National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers and was listed among Inc. Magazine’s 30 under 30.
Along this journey, just for fun, Amber founded CyborgCamp, a conference on the future of humans and computers. I caught up with Amber there, at the tenth anniversary of CyborgCamp, where we stole some moments away in a sunny corner of a little classroom. We enjoyed a wide-ranging discussion on career, creativity, class, the theory of time, and time management.
Listen to the whole episode here.
Find out more about Amber here.
We have been accepted into an arts mentorship program with Northwest Oregon’s Regional Arts & Culture Council, and I’ve begun the lengthy process of establishing Future Prairie, not as an LLC, but as a formal non-profit with the mission of developing emerging and under-represented artists. We’re going to need a lot of help from our community as we strategize development and finalize our 501c3 documentation. If you or someone you know is interested in helping out, either as a volunteer or as a board member, please get in touch!
This month’s Future Prairie Radio episode features interviews conducted out and about in the streets of Portland, Oregon.
The artists of Future Prairie spent a day interviewing the public in celebration of International PARK(ing) Day, an annual global event that occurs on the third Friday in September and has been taking place in Portland since 2006. PARK(ing) Day supports creative placemaking by allowing people to temporarily convert on-street parking spaces into interactive public spaces. This year, eighteen parking spots around Portland were turned into unique spaces such as a bubble park, a miniature salmon stream, an art studio, a putt-putt golf course, a letter-writing lounge, a bike-fixing station, and more.
We set up a mobile podcasting studio on NW 11th Ave between Couch and Davis right outside the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world, Powell’s Books, and we asked people, “What do you envision for the future of our city?” Produced in collaboration with the City of Portland and the Bureau of Transportation.
Listen to the whole episode here.
Find out more about PARK(ing) Day here.
Our music for this episode is by Maiah Wynne.
This short film is a collaboration between writer Joni Renee, producer Sean Cumming, and director/editor Anna Weltner. Each of the three artists contributed ideas to the filming and post-production process.
The poem in the film, written, read, and sung by Joni Renee is an elegy for her deceased father. The poem and film interpret grief and loss through the lens of the autistic experience, highlighting the sensory and tangible details of memory. The green chair of the poem becomes a green screen onto which memory is projected. This lush account of neurodivergence in loss honors nature, family, and the body.
Author’s Note: My use of the word “Mexicans” seemed an essential contextual choice; the word was used disparagingly by farmer neighbors to dehumanize migrant workers of many different backgrounds and justify unreported employment in the vineyards. To use any other politically-correct term would have been a falsity. In the late ‘90’s, Pacific Northwest vintners demanded long hours into the night for many weeks on end with minimal pay. The practice has declined but still exists. If you are interested in helping, please contact The Campaign for Migrant Worker Justice.
Our September Variety Show was held at Blanc Space, a queer art gallery and community gathering space that regularly hosts poetry readings, photo shoots, and art shows.
Musician Maiah Wynne was back for another rousing set; this time she played a mixture of covers and original songs, and she even tested out some new material with our audience.
Poet Joni Renee shared a poem from her new book "Self Defense".
Artist Jaleesa Johnston shared a new visual poem with elements of performance and dance, and everyone in the audience got to take home a copy of her work.
Artist Amy Subach shared some new music she's been working on, including hilarious songs about raising her children.
Musician Molly Kate shared songs from her new album, St. Rosie.
China scholar Frances Hanna shared her research on the modern cultural changes within queer and trans communities in Shanghai.
Travel Portland came to take pictures for an upcoming article about art in Portland.
Pick up any business forecasting magazine today and you’ll read about how the future of business will be defined by collaboration. For our latest podcast episode, I wanted to get beyond that catchphrase and find out what it looks like to professionally collaborate from someone who’s in the trenches.
Natalie Rose Baldwin is a highly-decorated brewer and a multipotentialite with many interests and pursuits. In her teenage years, she trained to become a professional skiier, then she studied biochemistry at the University of Colorado in Denver before beginning a career in beer making in Portland, Oregon, where she’s become one of our brightest and most collaborative beverage industry leaders. Not only that, but she’s a gender-bending queer woman who mentors members of her communities and co-founded the Lady Brewer Girl Gang, a professional association of women helping to shape the future of the brewing industry.
In today’s episode, she talks about some of her favorite collaborations, how to be a good peer to your collaborators, why the communities pubs create are important, and the history of women making beer.
You can hear our whole conversation here.
You can follow Natalie's adventures in brewing on her Instagram, and you can find out where to taste her beer at breakside.com.
Our music for this episode is by Lenore.
I was thinking of home when I first learned about supercities. What feels like home to you? Do you feel a certain civic pride? In this nebulous landscape of ever-shifting political boundaries, is home a state or a nation, or is a racial or a religious pride, or a regional one, based not on the lines we draw but on a shared natural or cultural beauty? Imagine if a group had the power to take your home and redefine it, to give it a new name, assess its worth and potential, and redesign its map, structure, and systems. In the long dance of history, this has happened many, many times, and it's happening again, now, in China.
The Chinese government recently announced their intention to move forward with a long-term urban development strategy they've been considering for years. The plan will foster the rise of enormous economic regions called supercities, anchored around large central urban cores like Hong Kong; Shanghai; or Beijing, and encompassing a number of surrounding, smaller cities. Kind of like a county, but WAY bigger than any county you've ever seen or heard of. By the year 2030, China's nineteen planned supercities will be connected by 26 high-speed train routes. There's a possibility that governance models would shift to mirror the supercities. Many urban planners and economists predict supercities could transform China into the wealthiest, most productive country in the world.
Sounds innovative, right? Kind of. City-states have been around since ancient Greece. Rome, Athens, Carthage, and the Italian city-states of the Renaissance were all pretty comparable to China's planned supercities, but it’s the scale that’s unparalleled. In a way, it's thrilling, because we've never seen urban planning theory implemented at this scale before. The supercity that's planned for the Pearl Delta area will cover 16,000 square miles, that's as big as the Netherlands. Seoul and São Paulo each have ten million people; the Tokyo metro area has 40m; we're talking about supercities with 150m people each.
I admit, I'm a little jealous — the United States is drowning in inefficiency and bureaucracy. We could never pull off a project of this scale; we can barely agree on what to name a post office. The only thing we have that's slightly on par is the Silicon Valley, but that economic region developed relatively organically; China's approach is heavy handed. I love the sheer audacity of someone thinking they have the insight and discernment, not to mention the privilege and power, to sit there diving up the country based on extant and potential resources, giving regions new names, new jobs, and new purposes. It's deliciously grand, and you can see why Chinese millennials are excited, and proud! But it also feels a bit...evil, and the plan will likely result in massive overnight gentrification. Is it the function of government to make spatial planning decisions on behalf of one billion people? Is it ethical to draw an oval on a map and say, "You're the textile district. Everyone here is going to make textiles. You're the rubber district. All of you make rubber." If you read The Hunger Games, this might sound familiar. China's plan hasn't gone quite so far as to designate entire supercities as being responsible for one major industry each, not yet, but some economists have insinuated that degree of a top-down approach might be in the cards, and if it is, it'll be unprecedented. Coming in at the federal level, seizing property left and right by eminent domain, and telling everyone what to be and do? What could possibly go wrong?
To explore the context of a supercity, I interviewed Vivek Shandas, an urban studies and planning professor, fellow of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions; and founder of the Sustainable Urban Places Research Lab.
“If our intent though is to create identities, cultural identities of people who share a common vision and share a common interest in seeing a place thrive in their own way…a supercity may be difficult. What would it mean for a community to maximize for happiness? What would it mean to really authentically think about people's self-identified state of wellbeing? That would include health, how well your physical body is, how well your mental body is, how well your spiritual body is, your community or family or whatever you identify with as your group, your kin — how intact is that? What if we were to think about happiness indexes that were about our human health and wellbeing, in the broad sense, and maximize towards that?
Cities can take so many different forms, and yet, human humans have been roughly doing the same thing in all these places. We have a human capacity to negotiate these landscapes...in the US and the west, in western Europe, parts of Mexico and Latin America, we're trying to create an organized set of physical features on the landscape: a home, a sidewalk, the space between the sidewalk and the street called a median strip, your parking, the use of the street.
The systematic organization that the West has created through this discipline of urban planning is now in a real interesting conundrum of saying, 'Do we impose this upon places as a standard way of organizing space? Do we say your place is a mess and it's chaotic and it's no good? Can we bring our system of organizing spaces in this way to you and make it more 'ordered'?" There is a vocal, well-situated group of intellectuals as well as practitioners and decision makers in what we call the Global South that are really challenging these ideas and saying, 'Actually, you know, these informal settlements that are often referred to as slums or ghettos or favelas have an incredibly robust set of social interactions and social capital, the connection between and among individuals.' That is a very strong indicator of a well functioning society: bonds between and among individuals.
Favelas, informal settlements, slums are highly capable of withstanding some of the most intense shocks to urban systems, whether they're economic shocks, whether they're diseases that come through, whether they're floods, heat waves. These are communities that have organized responses to these intense shocks. They find a way to make it through."
You can hear our full conversation here.
Check out Vivek's work here.
Our second variety show was bigger and (arguably) even better than our first! We kicked off the evening with another great set from musician Maiah Wynne.
Filmmaker Anna Weltner showed a moving new short film about a local textile artist who designs erotic quilts to heal herself from trauma.
Dancer Nicole and her troupe of dancing ladies performed a jazz dance number.
Comedian Laura Anne Whitley gave a set of hilarious jokes that had the audience cracking up.
Healer Clara Parnell gave a lecture on how to care for your spine, and she demonstrated exercises and stretches to do to avoid back pain.
Illustrator Mali Fischer showcased the prints, shirts, stickers, and mugs she's been drawing recently.
Poet Ariel Kusby read a few new poems from her upcoming collection.
Personal trainer Beck Beverage gave a lecture about embodiment, movement, and how to feel at home in your own body.
Eco-friendly living coach Chloe Lepeltier gave a lecture about how to reduce waste in your home, create less trash, and use less plastic.
Chef Margaux Muller did a mini live cooking show where she taught everyone how to make raw vegan desserts for the summer. We ate all of her treats, and they were pretty delicious. We might have squabbled over leftovers.
In this episode, we explore how best to live while in a body. It seems we’ve been living with a mind, body, spirit split for a while now. Assuming we are comprised of these three component parts, it’s in our collective interest to learn more about them and how best to navigate our time here.
Brain mapping and new research into AI neural networks promise to deliver a future where we can shed our bodies like a snake shedding skin and step into a house of our own choosing. I wonder though, how we feel ready to go ‘round inserting our consciousness willy-nilly into any old sheath when we have hardly learned to cope with the everyday burdens of existing in our current flesh.
We are gifted or afflicted with bodies that, more often than not, don’t align quite right with our perception of ourselves. This is troublesome because the body is a form of self-expression, a dynamic manifestation of our attitudes, aspirations, our trials, our tone, our choices. If you've been furnished with a body that reflects your innermost workings, I applaud you, but I know that I for one, the I, the me who names myself, would like to find a way to be happier while existing in a body. How should a person be?
Here to help me examine this question is Beck Beverage, an artist, musician, dancer, and certified personal trainer who owns a gym called Sweet Momentum. Beck has a quiet joy about him that draws clients who’ve struggled with illness, chronic pain, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and many other issues I’ll group under the broad umbrella of “Body Feelings” to seek training with him.
I’ve never met someone who explores movement like Beck, who perches on the tip of a rock to find the stillest stillness, lowers himself off limbs of trees to hang in the breeze, and walks barefoot across the forest floor, attending, listening. Or maybe I’ve met hundreds of people like Beck — children — stainless, fresh humans who move with curiosity and ignorance and are happy to report back to you on every feeling they encounter. Beck shares his personal embodiment journey and offers tips for ours.
You can hear our full conversation here.
Check out Beck's gym here.