.birches is a new online journal published annually, focused on the aesthetic and cognitive dialogue between rural environments and innovative technologies.
When you watch a bee as it dances around a tumble of lavender and you consider the machine learning considerations within its movements. When you time the frequency with which the paperbark trees glitch in and out of the pastoral landscape. When you stare up at the clouds and see the streaming data form into shapes above that bring on an augmented reality sun-shower. The low-polygon landscapes that you go on nature walks through, feeling the geometric warmth of the pixelated sun. The cryptocurrencies being harvested between the microprocessors and the wind turbines. The Sebaldian lines of code that populate the dusty laneways. An alligator clip and a sundress to compress.
These are the conversations that .birches is engaged in.
Of particular interest to .birches are the points at which these tapestry of dialogues create new ways of understanding how many of the relationships between nature and technology are not either / or, but are rather a new singular consideration. Consider 'Beyond Nature/Writing: Virtual Landscapes Online, in Print, and in 'Real Life' in which H. Lewis Ulman explores the aesthetic pleasure derived from video game landscapes, how this can be explored through modern nature writing, and how it impacts on our experiences in offline, organic natural settings. Consider the Harvest project that Julian Oliver is engaged in, using 700 watt wind turbines and computers in rural fields to mine cryptocurrency in order to fund climate science research.
We have students who take mindful walks through geometric blockscapes within Minecraft, we have farms in the outback where the occupants draw and model the movements of the livestock into virtual renderings of cows and sheep with machine learning architecture within their hearts so these creatures can learn how to be animals in their own time, and we are passionate about connecting with the thoughts, the philosophies, the science, the art and the experiences of others who are similarly fascinated and engaged with this emerging area that fuses nature writing and hacker culture, where psychogeography meets cyberpastoralism.
Technology can often be closely associated with urban environments - when we think of where we can observe the most innovative technologies, or when we want to attend start-up demonstrations or tech conferences, they are often hosted in the biggest and most urban cities. Technological responses to problem solving can be inherently linked with the economic bolster of these big cities - the solutions to transport challenges, food delivery, transitioning to a moneyless society, creating inclusive and accessible spaces. And yet, when we consider where the fuel behind these technologies are sourced - not only the physical component materials, but the server farms in the rural districts beside the icy dams, the solar, wind and hydro settlements - it is the rural environments that generate technological access for hyperurban spaces to flourish.
Borne out of this environmental counterpoint are often questions of harmony between poles of organic, offline, feel the dirt between your toes, fresh air, in the moment phenomenology, and the other end of spectrum, the digital, online, global communications, hacking together transistors and code to allow for both unbridled creative exploration with telescopes firmly aimed towards the future and to also support the robots to work throughout the night in the warehouses in the industrial parts of town. Most every discipline experiences this particular dialectical counterpoint, from early childhood education through engineering and science, from city planning through to psychology and health.
Your submissions to .birches can include:
- short think pieces / blog post style reflections
- works of fiction and poetry
- academic studies and research agendas
- field notes and journal entries
- visual art works, photography and sound art
- links or reviews of associated online projects
Your submissions will be considered for inclusion in the journal. The journal will be freely available on this website as html, through accessible ePub formats and through the iBooks store. Select pieces will be published online across the year alongside blog posts and other material.
There are also plans for podcast conversations and rural workshops and walking tours to further engage the .birches dialogue. The editorial board of .birches is comprised of editor Craig Smith and a small network of authors and reviewers positioned all across the world.
You can contact us via the form at the bottom of this page.
As submissions are accepted for the journal across the year, select pieces will be published and appear here before the full first edition of the journal becomes available online in the future.
At the start of each month a blog post from the editor and invited guests will be posted here, tracking current dialogues in rural hacker innovations, virtual nature writing and related cyberpastoralisms.
External links to projects, talks and research from around the world that speaks to the interest areas of .birches - these links and other resources will also be shared across our social media platforms.
For submissions you can send an e-mail with an attachment or a link of your submission to:
If you would like to send us a note, you can complete the form and we'll get back to you.