Ground Truth:

Grasses and Pastures of Val Taleggio

In June 2019 I was a resident artist/designer in the Nature, Art & Habitat Residency (NAHR) program which takes place in the mountainous Val Taleggio region of northern Italy. 

This project can be observed and experienced at the project specific site:

Ground Truth is an invitation to interface with the Val Taleggio region through an anthropomorphized version of its grasses and pastures. The identity of the valley has been informed through personal documentation of extensive trekking throughout the region. This immersive experiential process of traveling between pastures is a fictional embodiment of transhumance.

The primary outcome of this project is a web based interactive design fiction in the form of a conversational bot. To build this interface, findings were processed and programmed into the natural language understanding artificial intelligence of IBM Watson. This bio-inspired digital story is further supported by a website hosting images, video, and GPS mapping of the field research. This project was made possible through the generous support of the Nature Art & Habitat Residency and Workshops.

In machine learning, a subset of AI, the term "ground truth" refers to the accuracy of the training set's classification for supervised learning techniques. Here the words are also meant as a connection between what the grasses and pastures are saying and our human ability to listen and interpret. Documentation for this project is the result of extensive trekking throughout the region in order to inform the identity of the grasses and valley.

The immersive experiential process of traveling between pastures is a fictional embodiment of transhumance. The project took on a very distinct cadence rotating between field research and technical building. Research consisted of traversing through the grasses and pastures, linking them to different low, mid, high, ranges and how they connect the villages in the valley. I heavily documented these explorations with audio, video, still images, and GPS tracking of routes. Movement is the pulse of the project, such as this still from one of the project videos.

Back in the garage studio I loaded all the data to my computer to catalog and process it for the project. This making involved the technical components of building the chatbot, developing identity content, video editing, and building a website to host everything together as one storytelling experience. The bot textual content was created through a system of feedback loop of language translation with personal intervention. Many different software pieces each doing their part to build out the website prototype.

Realtà di base. Erbe e pascoli della Val Taleggio

Realtà di base è un invito ad interfacciarsi con la Val Taleggio attraverso una versione antropomorfizzata delle sue erbe e dei suoi pascoli. L’identità della valle è stata studiata attraverso lunghe camminate in tutta la regione, che hanno portato ad acquisire competenze personali. Questo viaggio tra i pascoli è un processo esperienziale immersivo, un’incarnazione fittizia della transumanza.

Il progetto è una fiction di design interattivo su piattaforma web, sotto forma di bot di conversazione. L’ interfaccia e’ stato construita usando IBM Watson, sistema di Intelligenza Artificiale che elabora i dati, analizza i contenuti, e permette la visualizzazione dei risultati. Questa narrazione digitale bio-ispirata è ulteriormente supportata da un sito Web che ospita immagini, video e mappe GPS della ricerca fatta sul territorio.

The full project can be experienced at: