I have been working at the intersection of people, place, and technology for over 20 years. Below is a summary of my journey across cities, and the projects I have been fortunate enough to be a part of.
Since early March, my family and I have been living in Colorado, where I grew up and my parents still live. I have continued working with Sidewalk Labs, advancing more sustainable and affordable urbanism in projects across North America. I hope to be back in NYC in 2021.
I love Toronto. This picture is from my favorite place, a perfect combination of urbanism and nature, time folding upon itself, a beach made of construction debris made smooth by decades of Lake Ontario waves. When Sidewalk Labs began working in the city, I knew I wanted to be a part of the community and shaping the project from the ground.
With an incredible team, I created 307, the project's public workshop and an immersive multimedia model showing a day in the life of the neighborhood; directed ethnographic research with participants often left out of public design processes around what factors contribute to a sense of belonging in public space; collaborated with the Inclusive Design Research Centre on an inclusive design toolkit; researched and wrote about innovation strategies for the public realm and led urban design for the project plan; published the Digital Innovation Appendix, which made clear the project's responsible technology practices and was recognized by GovTech as one the most transparent documents created regarding technology and the city; and spoke frequently with local media (e.g. CTV, Breakfast Television, and others).
We sold GoPop to BuzzFeed (TechCrunch) and moved back to New York. During this time, we gutted a tiny apartment in an amazing community building in the East Village with close friends. Our daughter was born just after we finished the renovation. For two and half years I led BuzzFeed's consumer product team, including a series of new apps. In May, 2017, I joined Sidewalk Labs to lead design.
In 2013, we decided to try translating what we had learned about interactive media and storytelling into a viable startup to support journalists and creative collaboration. Zeega was accepted into the first class of Matter, a mission-driven media accelerator in San Francisco. From there, we invented GoPop, which aimed to create a new visual language for public conversation. We secured a seed round of financing from Lowercase Capital, SV Angel, and others. The app was featured by Apple twice as a "Best New App." During this time, Kara and I also got married in Mendocino.
In 2007, I started a PhD at the Graduate School of Design, completing my dissertation "Mapping the Urban Database Documentary: Authorial Agency in Utopias of Kaleodoscopic Perception and Sensory Estrangement" in 2013. My research was focused upon the history of cities and technology, especially how artists engaged the city to understand its complexity and sensory experience, including case studies in Moscow, Berlin, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Kansas, and New York. While in Cambrdige, I co-founded metaLAB (at) Harvard, a research center for digital arts and humanities in collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. I also served on the faculty, inventing courses such as Media Archaeology of Place and The Mixed-Reality City, and also taught Critical Urban Media Arts at Columbia's GSAPP. As part of this work, I co-directed the montage film and soundscape Media Archaeology of Boston, which premiered at the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts and is distributed by DER.
During this time, I also remained heavily involved in media arts practice. I co-founded Mapping Main Street, a collaborative documentary about the more than 10,466 streets named Main Street across the country. During the summer of 2009, I lived out of my car while traveling over 15,000 miles with co-founders Kara Oehler and James Burns. The project was showcased at the FCC as a leading example of media innovation. Following Mapping Main Street, we co-founded Zeega, an open-source platform that allowed anyone to mix media to tell stories from across the web. Zeega was awarded a Knight News Challenge grant, and showcased at interactive film festivals around the world (iDocs, NiemanLab)
In 2004, I moved back to New York City from Berlin to join my close friends and collaborators Christopher Allen and Brian House in creative adventures. Together, we created Yellow Arrow, which allowed people to share messages about the places they love with stickers and text messaging. The project was adopted around the world, including as part of Copenhagen's maoyral election, and became a landmark in the history of the internet and cities.
In parallel to creating Yellow Arrow, I co-founded UnionDocs, which remains a leading global center for documentary arts over 15 years later. I helped start the Collaborative Studio progrma, and the early productions Living Los Sures and Documenting Mythologies. UnionDocs is also where I met my future collaborator and wife Kara Oehler, during our first public screening, the film Dislocation, which followed the stories of families displaced after the tearing of the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago.
I moved to Berlin in 2002, with a grant to support my photography and design practice. I quickly met Philip Schwarz and Celia Di Pauli, and together we created Stadtblind, a mini urban arts collective focused on breaking through conventional approaches to art and design in Berlin. We opened a gallery in a formerly abandoned storefront space in Wedding, published and exhibited Die Farben Berlins (The Colors of Berlin) at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum (DAZ) in Berlin, the architekturgalerie am weißenhoff in Stuttgart, and New York's Van Alen Institute, and put on the Loving Berlin festival.
I moved to New York City for the first time in 1999 to begin college at Columbia. My father was born in Flushing, and my extended family still lived in Queens, so New York had always been close to my heart. While Colorado was a wonderful place to grow up, I was drawn to urban life. At Columbia, I majored in Urban Studies and Architecture, with a specialization in Comparative Literature and Society. My research projects included the history of Loisaida, the neighborhood where I now live; the political agency of art and urban imaginaries in the context of globalization; and the interplay between history and landscape in Berlin's Mauerpark. I also began my photography practice, including my initial web exhibition Textures of Landscapes, with images that uncovered hideen details in New York, Berlin, Italy, Mexico, San Francisco, Hungary, and Havana."