Release Notes on Floating Clinic; getting wet feet; tying down and floating off
In retrospect I realize that all testing and sizing of the floating clinic was done with women:. Caroline, my beautiful assistant is over 6 ft. The compact desk and seating accommodated her easily but I had not accounted for the male body mass. The first man to have an appointment on the floating clinic, Christian Croft, was almost catastrophic. Moreover ....
he didn't have the polar bear instinct to distribute his weight when he heard the crackling between the bottles and the surface (an advantage of using 2 liter bottle is that they make a great audible feedback system for stress distribution not dissimilar to ice). His response was to kneel at the desk--although he somehow managed position his knees with one infront of the other rather than across, while the polycarbonate greenhouse glazing has more rigidity across the surface rather than along. Do men not have the polar bear instinct? on hearing the cracks of thin ice to drop onto their bellies and belly crawl to firmer footing. Anyway, Christian ended up kneeling at the desk. He looks reverent, which is misleading, but perhaps a better look then lying prostrate before me.
I need some lateral reinforcement before I can prescribe time on it for others. I concede that finishing the little pontoon will allow people to get on and off more gracefully although having to get ones feet wet means you feel the water temperature. This helps convince you not to fall in nor swim. But that decision is probably influenced by all the flotsam on the water. I also need to use a two-line bow and stern line system. I had expected that we would sit where the tide would take us, but near shore hydrodynamics are more complex than that. The beach/old dock we launched off must be constantly recreated because of reflections and the lower pressure area behind on either side of the old wooden sewerage pipe that is there (there is also a oft used new concrete combined sewerage overflow output there too). Because of this we get to see the old bagels--there was the parts of at least 3 whole bagels (is there a Manhattan tradition of throwing bagels into the east river?)--and all sorts of floating detritus gathering. It made a beautiful and informative display for us, and was like a table set for the birds.
With all our activity, and all the spectators, we dissolved the small flock of 16 or so seagulls usually there. They appeared again every time we pulled the float out of the water. A bold pair of Peace doves kept coming back to reclaim the territory feeding on something delicious--an algae?--growing on the disintegrating pylon and disputing the wisdom of removing the old docks for environmental issues. The highly disputable rule of thumb used in waterfront development to remove and docks to minimize impact and remediate the shoreline--but the doves, the young sturgeon and bass who feed around them, and I seem to agree that this is wrong-headed. A trio of wood duck came later in the day to bob around us, as if inviting me to deploy their robotic counterparts to play and interact with them. They seemed eager to demonstrate how they made sense of the place and how they too enjoyed bobbing in the local conditions.
Office Space Development
Having verified that is a great place for a tinyconference and in particular an invigorating platform for the discussing the local environmental issues, the next development is the renting out the float as a writing studio/workspace and micro-meeting site--when it is not hosting clinic hours. It is particularly great for video conferencing, i.e. if you are not going to be "there" you might as well be "somewhere". For people who want to cut down on plane travel--like me--skype appearances at conferences and presentations need something more compelling in the background than a peek into one's domestic workspace/bedroom.
This float provides a workspace characterized by the presence of the local environment--a presence that will actively participate in anything that goes on there. When the weather is a little warmer it will be even more pleasant, though still, and critically, weather dependent, weather sensitive. The wifi is there, thanks to SolarOne.org, the solar panel Amanda speced worked well for my not very efficient MacBookPro and will still charge the lighting for working deep into the night. It is not only a memorable place to frame time and consideration of environmental issues, but also to consider, design, research, write and pretty much do much of the work one might to in any of the even smaller cubicle work spaces that fill all these buildings. The thing I am interested in is how work or writing done there will be infected by the contingencies of the complex natural urban environment therein. It is a workplace in which urgent environment can push-in, can be insistently present. It is the opposite of a climate-controlled context of most workspaces.
That it works for the clinic suggests that it will work beyond. My intuition is that working on this floating mobile office--be it reviewing a business plan, doing research or journalism, making art, designing products--will produce work in which the relationship of the business plan, questions or story, art or product, to the aquatic ecosystem, waste streams and urban environmental systems, is made explicit. Demonstrating this phenomenon--that working in this place is productive in several ways—will be achieved by collecting pieces of work into a WETER [Where Everyone Thinks Environmental Relationships] studio collection. OK--just a working title--but a real invitation to people who would be interested in this "special" Manhattan office space, and participating in the experiment with their own compelling project, It even has ample parking with no metering.
Buoyancy and Cubicles
The reasons for locking oneself in a climate controlled beige colored fluorescent lit cubicle may still be compelling to some--closed buildings with sealed windows enable centralized control, still reduce the tendency to locally control or vary conditions of annoyingly nonstandard people--and you can get a LEEDS rating to reassure yourself that you are actually doing something to re-imagine and change without really changing. Might LEEDS be counterproductive?: making people feel good about not doing much; breeding complacency without providing an incentive structure to foster radical changes; rewarding without experimenting? Nonetheless, even in platinum buildings, some people have a great view, most don't, dictated by the economy of scale of steel frame fabrication. The clinic posits a different relationship to local climate: it takes advantage that the thermal difference at the shore to ensure a reliable breeze. If it is too breezy you can wear a coat. That is, climate control without burning fossil fuel. And redesigns productivity. If work is energy expended over time, productivity has to do with the effectiveness. To say: "that was productive" means that many things came out of it, not just an increment towards a predefined goal. Productive work in the contemporary environment is less about the hours put in, but the generative relationships. The nonlinear ways that goals keep being redefined and refined, the resolutions that allow for new possibilities. We are not, collectively, going to get to sustainable work-spaces with just LEEDs ratings, platinum or not.
It is an interesting opportunity presented by new work practices. Mobile technologies counter intuitively create an interest in location. So we have the advent of location-based media, neogeography and almost every cell phone call beginning with the question or admission of someone's whereabouts and activity "I am getting out of the taxi, I'll call you back" "I'm at work/in a meeting/on the street/with the kids/on a call". By contrast land-line calls always began with who's who information: "Hello, this is Natalie can I speak to Lori". You know who you are calling on a cell. They are already individuated. This is symptomatic of a cultural shift from who to where; from being defined by credentials to being defined by the place you occupy/ or make. We don't have traveling salesmen, but we do have sales traveling vast distances. Being able to compare prices online while being blind to the distance, distribution costs and, by definition, the externalities—imagine if the price of a good did increment on a per mile basis. What drives the geotag on photos is precisely because you have miniaturized cameras that go anywhere. Everywere and nowhere.
The float is definitely somewhere even though it has no fixed address. It ties us to a set of experiences and interactions, but also disconnects you.
Nonetheless, coverage on the float is great for (unionized) Cingular, T-mobile, and Verizon--and I imagine every other service all the way to Brooklyn. Yet, despite or because of the connectivity of contemporary life many people need to go away to reflect, to work. We still need to stand apart--to limit and arrange and control who we are connected to; not by virtue of who is sitting next to you, but by virtue of being able to curate presence. So the float should not be mistaken for an island--no wo/man is. It is tied in, but only as much as one wants. And as such provides a context of focus to shut out, to immerse, to disconnect.
It is a flexible membrane mechanically, and a sensitive one—every ripple is transmitted—through your feet. A lovely sensation; that is strangely more comforting than a tiltling rigid raft structure.
Beyond the Aeron Chair:
This mobile office is an exploration in what contemporary technologies can do, now, possibilities due to a particular lash-up of technologies that define a contemporary workspace. Right about now that means -- wifi; cell phones; solar powered mobile computing; ineffectual plastics recycling; greenhouse glazing; and a water fountain—in this case distilling from the local water. Moreover It has a great place to lock ones bike on the (only) great biketrack that just about circumnavigates the entire island. Public transit and it even has ample parking Mostly, the idea is floated by a need to turn attention to climate and environmental systems – even when we are not paying attention.
Christian wants to convene over on Newtown Creek—the largest sewerage treatment plant, or, as he said: up the proverbial Shit Creek.
Why Clinic prescribes interspecies interactions.