Hackney Nightsniffing: a walk exploring bats, data and urban change

PLEASE NOTE: This event has been temporarily cancelled in light of the current Covid-19 crisis. eMail info@codedgeometry.net to get an alert when the event has been rescheduled.

Organised by Cliff Hammett

Meet: 7:30pm on the 25th March 2020 at St John at Hackney

This is a bat walk with a difference, a search not just for hidden urban bats, but also data systems that govern and record change in the city. All are welcome!

Bats are common in London, but their presence often goes unnoticed by local people. They roost in attics, trees, between roof tiles, and forage for insects in parks, gardens and waterways. Like the city’s other inhabitants they are vulnerable to the churn of urban development – for bats, this could involve the demolition of buildings they roost in, changes to features they navigate by, or introduction of lighting that they might find deeply unpleasant. Bats are protected by law, and so the presence of bats can in turn affect urban development, though the protection offered is not always adequate.

Just as bats are hidden, the systems, decisions, and underlying forces that reshape our city are rare to see. These benefit some, leading to significant profits for developers and benefits for some communities, whereas for others they could mean the loss of their homes or amenities on which they depend. So as we search for bats, we’ll also start to investigate the systems and processes that affect all the city’s inhabitants, albeit in very different ways.

How will we do this? Together we will explore the local area using a combination of bat detectors and specially designed “datasniffers”. The bat detectors make audible the high frequency calls bats use to echolocate. The datasniffers make audible records from London planning databases, giving us hints of how the city has changed and how it is going to change. By exploring these two different, yet intertwined, phenomena, the hope is to spark conversation about how and why the area is changing, the effects on humans, bats and others, and how we might like things to be different.

About Nightsniffing
Nightsniffing is a creative research project, by Cliff Hammett, that seeks to reimagine urban bat walking as a way to collectively investigate the systems that shape the London and other UK cities. The project combines methods from critical making, mobile sonic art and art/science in order to engage different publics with bats, digital systems and planning procedures in novel ways. It starts from the complex relations that bats have with cities and human society, including how bats’ interests figure in the UK planning system, how bats inhabit and use the built environment and the role of bats in community alliances against development. From there, it opens out onto to consider wider systems of urban decision making, considering how decisions are made and in whose interests. Engaging with the technologies and methods that make bats perceivable, Nightsniffing stages walks and events in London that allow different conversations to emerge regarding who and what are cities are for, and how we might wish for them to function differently.

Practicalities and Accessibility
All are welcome. The walk is relatively short, but as it will have several stops it will last around an hour. Please wear warm clothing. In case of moderate or heavy rain, the event will be rescheduled. Let me know if you have any access needs, and I will adapt things accordingly. If you would like to come, but can’t due to e.g. caring commitments or being unable to afford transportation, please get in touch. I have a small fund available to cover costs, so I may be able to help.