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Transborder Immigrant Tool

Funded by Arts and Humanities (Transborder Grant 2007-8), UCSD.

Transborder Immigrants Tool:
A Mexico/U.S. Border Disturbance Art Project
By Ricardo Dominguez and Brett Stalbaum (Principal Investigators)
(Electronic Disturbance Theater/b.a.n.g lab)

Lead Researchers: Micha Cardenas and Jason Najarro

The border between the U.S. and Mexico has moved between the virtual and the all too real since before the birth of the two nation-states. This has allowed a deep archive of suspect movement across this border to be traced and tagged – specifically anchored to immigrants bodies moving north, while immigrant bodies moving south much less so. The danger of moving north across this border is not a question of politics, but vertiginous geography. Hundreds of people have died crossing the U.S./Mexico border due to not being able to tell where they are in relation to where they have been and which direction they need to go to reach their destination safely. Now with the rise of multiple distributed geospatial information systems (such as the Goggle Earth Project for example), GPS (Global Positioning System) and the developing Virtual Hiker Algorithm by artist Brett Stalbaum it is now possible to develop a Transborder Tools for Immigrants to be implemented and distributed on cracked Nextel cell phones. This will allow a virtual geography to mark new trails and potentially safer routes across this desert of the real.

The technologies of Spatial Data Systems and GPS (Global Positioning System) have enabled an entirely new relationship with the landscape that takes form in applications for simulation, surveillance, resource allocation, management of cooperative networks and pre-movement pattern modeling (such as the Virtual Hiker Algorithm) an algorithm that maps out a potential or suggested trail for real a hiker/or hikers to follow. The Transborder Immigrant Tool would add a new layer of agency to this emerging virtual geography that would allow segments of global society that are usually outside of this emerging grid of hyper-geo-mapping-power to gain quick and simple access with to GPS system. The Transborder Immigrant Tool would not only offer access to this emerging total map economy – but, would add an intelligent agent algorithm that would parse out the best routes and trails on that day and hour for immigrants to cross this vertiginous landscape as safely as possible.

This art project would be developed in 5 stages:

1)GPS mapping the Mexico/U.S. border on both sides of this border for 3 to 4 weeks, which allow us to find the exact coordinates needed to anchor the triangulations that would frame the start and points for the Transborder Immigrant Tool.

2)3 months to research current and pre-emptive transborder networks and infrastructures, such as, Homeland Security activities, Halliburton border security projects, border patrol and Minutemen activities and water/food anchors established by support communities along the border – with the goal to improve the odds of immigrant safety and determine which of the computationally mediated paths are likely to be currently useful to follow.

3)5 to 6 months to develop the Transborder Immigrant Tool algorithm code and test the GPS coordinates and develop the Spanish and English interface and instructions for use.

4)A 1 week Walkabout Testing of the Transborder Immigrant Tool algorithm by the Principle Investigators and invited artists. We would first walk south into Mexico and then walk back north into the U.S. in the tradition of Richard Long’s walking sculptures, Situationist psychographic gestures and x-border art work of artist Heath Bunting.

5)Passing out the Transborder Immigrant Tool to communities of immigrants on both sides of border for use in developing this project. Each tool would be branded as an art project by Electronic Disturbance Theater and b.a.n.g lab ( – all users would be requested to return the Transborder Immigrant Tool for distribution once they safely reach an end anchor point for upgrades and further distribution.