Transborder Immigrant Tool Project Description

Mexico / U.S Border Disturbance Art Project

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 anchoredto 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 useful Transborder Tools for Immigrants ? and allow 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.

Understanding the Context of Usage

In order to save lives, the tool must prove operable in hands of users who are inexperienced with mobile devices, in the context of ex- treme weather conditions and a tense social environment. Signifi- cant time was spent researching the context of usage to help guide the design for a cell phone software application.

Here is some of what was learned:
> The non-literacy rate among migrant population is high.
> Not all speak Spanish but also various indigenous languages.
> Device most likely to be used at night.
> Humanitarian groups want to keep their water stations protected.
> Border patrol will arrest those who they suspect of being guides


The goal of the project is to help reduce the number of deaths along the border by developing a common cell phone device into a navigation tool that will help migrants locate life saving resources in the desert such as water caches and safety beacons.

A beta version of the Transborder Immigrant Tool was programmed on the J2ME platform and deployed on a Motorola i455 cell phone.

Motorola i455:
> GPS Enabled
> Inexpensive ($40)
> Supports J2ME Applications
> No service required for GPS functionality

Design Advantages

> Provides user with greater situational awareness.
> Dowsing paradigm better maps to users' precon- ceived notions of how GPS technology functions.
> Depth of menu navigation is reduced, a major benefit for non-literate users.
> While traveling, tactile feedback frees user from phone display interface, allowing user to concen- trate on the surrounding environment.

Design Inspiration

"Dowsing, or water witching, refers to practices which some people claim enables them to detect hidden water, metals, or other objects, usu- ally obstructed by land. The movement or vibrations of the apparatus, such as a Y- shaped twig, are used in the practice."

Dowsing, d=155844709


Transborder Immigrants Tool Poster (by Jason Navarro for CALIT2)