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An Atlas of Dust

May 22, 2023 – Jun 9, 2023
Across New York City
Research Question
Is it possible to map, document, isolate and visualize in 3D the layers of dust encrusted on building facades? If so, can we recognize discernable patterns of how the dust settled on the facades? What can these dust patterns teach us about the history of the weather and environmental pollution? Can we learn to read buildings as long-term environmental sensors encrypted with valuable material data about pollution?

Methodology and Process
  • Through hands-on training led by Prof. Otero-Pailos in collaboration with the CyArk Foundation, students will learn to 3D scan buildings using laser scanning and photogrammetry. We will 3D scan buildings on the Columbia campus.
  • Students will learn how to process the data into 3D models viewable online.
  • Students will experiment with various digital imaging techniques to isolate the layers of dust on the buildings so they can be visualized independently.
  • Students will learn to analyze and interpret dust patterns by correlating the 3D maps of dust with historical weather and pollution information, including prevailing winds, yearly rainfall, and historical air quality data.
  • Students will learn digital humanities tools for making their analysis and interpretations available to the public through tagging videos and documents to the 3D dust patterns and 3D building scans.
Output and Findings
The workshop will result in interactive 3D scans of buildings that allow the public to visualize the patterns of pollution and understand their meaning and value for understanding climate change.

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