Mapping Entanglements, Augmented Reality, Augmenting Place

Twisting and Enmeshing

In celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival theme “Entanglements,” this exhibition, “Mapping Entanglements” focuses on five documentary projects and artists/artists’ collectives that explore the augmentation of local places to produce new environmental thinking, experiences, and insights.

These projects explore questions of entanglements, probing how different environments, ideas, imaginaries, places, politics, practices, registers, and species twist into and enmesh with each other.

AR vs VR

These five projects are resolutely place-based and located in the physical world.  Augmentation is typically associated with Augmented Reality (AR) which uses mobile apps, audio, and other devices to intensify and deepen one’s engagement and interaction with a particular place. It conjures layers of history, cultures, struggles, buildings, and people. 

AR’s located-ness stands in contrast to Virtual Reality's (VR) denatured disembodiment and abstractions. If VR fashions new spaces to explore alone with a headset, AR puts the user into place with others, entangling the virtual with the real. Put another way, VR is place-agnostic whereas AR is place-centric.

Questions of place—the regional, local, and hyperlocal—have taken on new significance amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. The invisibility of viral spread and anxieties over contagion, quarantine, and travel limitations intensify relationships with small, accessible places where we live and work.

Augmentation as Community-led Process

Augmentation implies increasing the size of a thing.

In music theory, augmentation refers to lengthening of the time value of a note. In new media, Augmented Reality projects deploy a wide array of strategies of augmentation to generate richer, more complex layers of historical thinking. The political strategy is to think in collaboration rather than to use media to interrupt, intervene, or erase our sense of place.

Augmented projects bring together participants, places, technologies, archives, and histories in a community-led process that is often multi-platformed. These projects propose new ways of doing and enacting cartography as an embodied, living, and iterative practice.

In their 2021 Visible Evidence panel entitled “The Politics of Augmented Places: Hyperlocal Landscapes in Emergent Forms of Documentary,” Liz Miller, Topiary Landberg, and Dorit Naaman argued that augmentation enmeshes bodies, places, and technologies to produce polytemporalities, multiple senses of time and histories. They locate augmented place-based work in the long histories of hiking, land art, biking, walking tours, and radical cartography as a way of thinking with the land.

Microlocal Scale

Focusing on the scale of the microlocal, augmented media projects create pathways for mediated dialogues with the human and the non-human, with nature and the built environment.

These projects all suggest a three-stage process of how to think with place in an environmental way.  First, they engage micro-places that are entangled environmentally. Second, use conceptual thinking, innovative aesthetics, and different media modes to disentangle and understand more deeply. Third, and finally,  these projects entangle once again to produce new formations, new creative interventions, and new maps.

--Dale Hudson, FLEFF New Media Art Curator, and Claudia Costa Pederson, FLEFF New Media Art Associate Curator