ences. A compelling way to [push those limits] is to produce decentering work … an uncomfortable art installation or an out-of-body virtual reality experience or immersive engagement with machines can put you in the right space to think about the future.” The member organizations of EMA range from website developers like Mindshare Labs to social media marketing agents like Simply Social Media, art galleries such as Currents 826 and the Thoma Foundation’s Art House, performance-focused nonprofits like Littleglobe, economic drivers like Meow Wolf and Descartes Labs, and schools and research institutions including SITE Santa Fe, the Institute of American Indian Arts, and the Santa Fe Institute. McShea says, “Emerging Media sees the value of something unusual, creative, and futurelooking. It can act as a mouthpiece for those who are utilizing those media to great effect for social change.” Social change is naturally integrated into emerging media forms, allowing backyard conversations like this to happen in Santa Fe and also to be heard by a global community, whether by manipulating technology to create art, conveying ideas and experiences through the Internet, or using science to connect communities. Take EMA member Descartes Labs. Founded in 2014 by a group of Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists,
the lab is a data refinery for geospatial data science, which entails location-focused analysis of maps derived from geographic “footprints,” impact data that is collected and reprocessed across various industries to reveal the effect of humanity on a certain space. The intent is to use this geospatial data to observe footprint patterns and derive possible solutions to a host of environmental problems. Their data archives go back to 1980, and their projects map and model the Earth using this change-over-time data. Some recent projects include the mapping, prevention, and even predictability of wildfires. Though Descartes Labs is science-based, the fragmented data they process and refine culminates in a naturally rendered form of digital art. “When science takes on a more artistic lens, it is better able to convey results,” says Caitlin Kontgis, who is lead in the lab’s Applied Science Division. “People understand it more. Many of these data maps are created in a way that is really very simple, but which conveys a greater story for themselves.” As a pioneering agent of data science, Descartes Labs could easily have headquartered in a place like Silicon Valley, but they believe that Santa Fe’s diverse cultural and artistic heritage inspires them to push the boundaries of their work—and that the spaciousness of the landscape allows their researchers to better connect to the Earth itself. “There’s
Descartes Labs digital imaging data uses algorithms to identify rice paddies in the Mekong Delta.
COURTESY OF DESCARTES LABS
Opposite: Leo Villareal’s Particle Field (Triptych) (2017), generative digital animation at Thoma Foundation’s Art House