Digital Nomads: Space+Narrative Computing of the village of Al Araqib

Nof Nathansohn
SMArchS Thesis, Computation
Advisors: Larry Sass, Skylar Tibbits
Readers: Sarah Williams, Rafi Segal

For political reasons, the officially unrecognized Bedouin village of Al Araqib in Israeli’s Negev desert is prevented from building permanent structures. While the state of Israel does not issue demolition warrants for new illegal houses, it instead demolishes these houses without a warrant, under the auspices of a law that allows the police to destroy new illegal structures within 30 days of construction.

This situation has encouraged the people of Al Araqib to become familiar with specific useful technologies. They use solar energy to provide electricity to the village, and smartphones to document and report demolitions. As an act of resistance as much as a practical measure, they repeatedly rebuild their houses, appropriating architecture as a political tool. This creates a situation where the Bedouin with their strong nomadic history, uses physical permanent structures--the language and logic used by their oppressors--in the fight  for their ancestral land.

Beyond supporting and recognizing the Bedouin people’s fight for justice, this design thesis asks to harness the conflux of physical architecture and digital technologies in an effort to create innovative modes of communication that speak to the experiences of unrecognized populations, struggling for cultural survival. Specifically, through collaborative work by the people of Al Araqib, this thesis initiates a laboratory of tools and techniques that harness the spatial characteristics of the land and the social narrative of its people. Aiming to strengthen their ability to communicate more widely and more productively, the thesis proposes a platform that includes a set of digital and physical tools, such as digital design and fabrication, hackable devices, internet of things, architectural drawings, videos, sensors, GPS, automatization and GIS. Lastly, this thesis catalogues these diverse tools as part of a content management system and as a ‘cookbook’ composed of spatial information, automated and visualized to create a more persuasive narrative, and of journalistic strategies that introduce knowledge sharing and evidence of the reality of demolition and its impact on human lives.