Archive for November, 2008

Testing the robot

Friday, November 28th, 2008

The robot, it’s quite a handful. Today we tested getting it to run the tracks we want it to, and it gives me a feel for its quirks. It’s got plenty, I guess; handmade hardware always has. On the other hand this offers the opportunity to have a deeper insight into this ‘black box’ than regular system-on-a-chip technology. I know how things are connected inside it, and I have a feel for the decisions that have been taken in the evolution of the hardware and the software. Very interesting stuff.

Robot en poes

I also created a Twitter account for our trip. When we’re in Nigeria it should be possible to easily update everyone on our adventures by just pointing your browser to

Mail expectations

Friday, November 21st, 2008

I just put five brand new GPS loggers in the mail to somebody who will bring them to Lagos, Nigeria next week. WAMCO Company will organize their being on one of their trucks that will cross 400 km trough Nigeria, from Lagos to Jos. This trip will take 3-4 days. One loggger per day and one spare. They will travel without me now. When we pick them up in January, they will be filled with the GPS data from the truck, and we will be able to make a drawing of it and show to the truck driver.

New team member: Tijmen Schep

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Hi, it’s me, Tijmen. In October I joined Esther on this project to kick the 2008/2009 trip into gear. Right now I’m busy organising the planning, getting all the technical things we need, learning how everything works, who our contacts are, and much more. During the trip I will be a cameraman, blogger and all-round helper. I’m very excited about it, it’s a big adventure, and I love adventure.

Tijmen at the atelier

Fieldwork in Cameroon

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

We just returned from an interesting fieldwork trip in Cameroon. At the invitation of CML Leiden, NL and CEDC Maroua, CAM we participated in the workshop “ People and Pixels” on February 8 in Maroua, Cameroon.

In addition to our presentation we also did a short collaborative project with Bororo (Fulani) nomads in the Waza Logone floodplain, in close collaboration with Haman Unusa who had recorded eight months of GPS data of two Bororo families for his ecological research.

The GPS tracks had been recorded by collaring one of the cows in the herds. So the tracks show both the overall migration pattern of the two families, as well as the daily herding patterns of the cows.

Our first robot drawings in the Waza Logone Floodplain

We brought the prototype of the robot to Cameroon: finally we could try out our concept of drawing GPS tracks on the ground, and thus create an outdoors -intimate setting to discuss the routes with the families. Would it work as expected? Back in Amsterdam we had been going over the data, trying out the routes in the studio, and selected the first four month of the track: the one way route from the north, to the south. From our experience this was the best selection for a clear representation. We uploaded the tracks to the robot and planned to show them to the families concerned.

This was a great opportunity to test what it would mean to these families to actually see their own route, and how the visualization relates to their own memories.

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We traveled to the camp, cleared a small field and on the exiting start moment we launched the robot, in the midst of a group of Fulani that looked at its movements. Haman explained to the families that they were looking at their own collar data: and we waited to see how the reaction of the family members would be.

Haman explains

To our surprise they immediately recognized the route, and named the different locations. Based on the sand track they explained the differences between the rainy season and dry season locations, pointed out places were cows were stolen, calf’s had been eaten by the hyena’s and one of the men’s wife’s, in despair of all the set backs, had run of to her fathers, only to return after a couple of month.

The Famely head of the first group comments on the route

We asked him to draw the route of the wife, and he made a clear drawing of his wife’s route, from her father’s camp, located more eastward, back to his.

robot drawing with the women

We also did the same robot presentation for the women, and they turned out to see the route from a slightly differed perspective.

Haman explaines

They distinguished the different locations based on the possibilities of milk sale, and could explain to us the differences in milk prices, during the changes of seasons and locations.

The Women explain to us the differences in milk prices, during the changes of seasons and location’<p>s.

On our way back to the city Haman Unusa remarked: Esther do you know: this is great. These families collaborated with us, by letting us collar their cows….. But only now we are able to give them really feedback on what we were doing…. so they also now have a clue of what this collar was all about! If we in future want to have ecological positive results, we should be able to explain what we are doing to the people. We will have to collaborate! This is a great tool…


During our fieldwork we recorded a lot of beautiful film footage that we did not manage to edit yet: soon we expect to publish some fragments here!

The fieldwork was executed by Esther Polak, Haman Unusa, (guiding and interpretation) Ab Drent (Camera and interpretation) and Ounuso Kari (field guide)

Thanks to CML and CEDC; Ralph Buij, Hans de Iongh and Haman Unusa for the use of Zebu GPS Data.

NomadicMILK in Genève

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Nomadic MILK takes part in the exhibition Version bêta

Centre pour l’image contemporaine, Genève

31 October – 14 December 2008

NomadicMILK Cameroon Version in Genève

overview of the installation


detail with sandtrack