Situated Systems


Situated Systems was a project for the inaugural (and possibly final?) project of Autodesk’s Experimental Research Lab, exploring the impacts of military and industrial history on the San Francisco Bay Area landscape and technology industry.

At the invitation of Deb Chachra, who in turn was invited by Autodesk to apply for the fellowship, I was part of the equivalent of a comic book supergroup working with some of the most brilliant people I know–Deb, Georgina Voss, and Sherri Wasserman to be research fellows working on a collaborative project within Autodesk’s ridiculously nice fabrication shop at Pier 9 in San Francisco.

I mostly worked on the project’s website and anything code-related, including the project website (a Jekyll site with its fair share of hacky workarounds), an interactive map of some of the relevant sites documented in the project, and a simple script for pushing referenced materials from a team Slack channel to a Pinboard account, so it could be added into an online bibliography.

The majority of my research went into looking at the history of the semiconductor industry in Santa Clara County and the Superfund sites left behind in what is now known as “Silicon Valley” (and that, for reasons unclear to me, people are now calling “the South Bay”–I grew up in that area, and we always called it “The Peninsula”, pretty sure y’all are posing.)

My outputs in that research mostly ended up going into separate work, including this essay in e-flux Journal. There’s more work to come in this research vein, watch this space.

There were a lot of reasons this project ended up being not a great fit for me (commuting between New York and San Francisco was a bad health choice, four is exactly too many people for a productive collaborative team, working inside giant corporations is Really Weird), but I really needed the money and I was too scared to say no to an opportunity. There’s a lot more thoughts I have on this project that I need to write down somewhere, but again, corporations are Really Weird and I’m not totally sure what’s OK to talk about on like, the internet.

See also: writes, maps, places, politics