The Academy of Electronic Arts
[also known as The Academy of Experimental Arts]

Research & Innovation Ashram #001
Petunia Village || Sattal || Bhimtal || Uttarakhand || INDIA
RIA #001 ~ RIA #002
Original Concept-Paper (page-bottom)
February 07, 2013 || June 23, 2012 || April 13, 2012

February 07, 2013

For various reasons, RIA #001 has been put on a side-burner for the moment, whilst we focus first upon
Research & Innovation Ashram #002, in North-East India.

June 23, 2012

And so, on June 19, we capped the first 'Researcher Hermitage Module' of RIA #001; thankfully beating the arrival of this year's monsoon by just a few days, and also coming in right on time for my son's birthday, the very next day, when I obviously didn't want to be slaving out in the blazing summer sunshine any longer.

In the event, the module was constructed entirely by just Mohan (one of our neighbours in Petunia, whom we have on daily-wages) and myself, from essentially just a single jeepload of materials, over the course of 10 days.

And, even though erratic electricity-supply yielded many long breaks through the period, I can safely say that that may very well have been the most physically strenuous 10-day haul of my entire life: not least because of the bright heat of summer, and also the daily trek back and forth, of course.

But, it has now been about 2 months since my last post here, hasn't it? So, let me fill in a bit of what went on,.. aside from other things I like to do with my life, of course.

Our first target was to put up the tarp-shed (16 x 16'), which was easily done within days; days actually largely taken up by the welder's delays in fabricating the knockdown frame we'd designed for it. Once we had the frame onsite though, the whole thing went up lickety-split. (Should mention here, however, that our vendor in Delhi supplied us lousy tarps).

With that, we had--and have--shelter from sunshine and rain onsite, for ourselves as well as for materials, tools, supplies, a knockdown worktable, and even an occasional lie-down.

The first toilet, which was to possibly come up right after the tarp-shed, now stands scheduled to be probably done next.

And so, what went on after the tarp-shed went up, in regard to this first Hermitage Module, was essentially just a whole lot of research, and endless agonizing over options and possibilities, before we eventually got down to actually making it.

The basic principles / limitations we wanted to abide by were:
    1. minimum incoming materials
    2. minimum incoming labour
    3. minimum time-investment
    4. minimum budget
    5. minimum environmental footprint
    6. maximum outcome (experimental & non-permanent)
The basic options we narrowed down to along these lines were:
    a. earthbag construction, with reciprocating "living" roof
    b. steel + bamboo + fibrecrete
    c. off-the-shelf plyboard, and roofing-tin
Earthbag construction was/is actually the most attractive of the three options to me. But, the local earth in Petunia carries perhaps just 10% sand, which means that extra sand we'd have to transport in would amount to about 60% of an acceptable earth-mix. And, we'd need external labour too, which could easily turn into a huge hassle on an ongoing day-to-day basis, since we are quite a trek away from any other village 'nearby'.

Steel, bamboo, and fibrecrete, was something we looked at really carefully, because it seems to be easy enough to work with, and would also allow us to think of organically sculptural shapes for essentially monolithic 'shells', with all of the structural elements locked within a multi-layered final fibrecrete skin. As it happens, we are still looking at this approach quite seriously, possibly for some of the future modules, but we'll have to first do some proper testing of the paradigm itself.

Accordingly, plyboard and tin it eventually had to be ~ a decision arrived at towards the beginning of June.

Four independent feet of 'sal' wood (which is said to grow sturdier with age, and exposure to earth and water) support two steel angles, to make up the basic foundation of the module. The structure is itself frameless, instead manifesting the structural logic of an irregular box.

The basic materials list is as follows:

1. sal wood feet, 3" x 4" x 3.5' ~ 4 pieces
2. steel angles, 2" x 2" x 11.9' ~ 2 pieces
3. plyboard, 8' x 4' x 0.75" ~ 9 pieces
4. plyboard, 6' x 4' x 0.75" ~ 5 pieces
5. pinewood planks, 8" x 0.75" x 10' ~ 4 pieces
6. corrugated roofing tin, 10' x 6 pieces, 8' x 6 pieces
7. assorted nuts, bolts, nails, screws, wood-glue, etc.
8. door and 2 windows, made elsewhere, by professional carpenter

My guess is that a professional carpenter along with 2 helpers could probably put up the entire structure within 2-3 days, at most.

And, there is absolutely nothing unique about it.

The internal floor is about 7.5' x 9.5', which will be carpeted, with a low bed / mattress laid along the back wall, leaving a nice space between that and the door for 1-2 persons to sit on the floor, lounge, work on laptops, play music, whatever,.. when not outdoors, or in a workzone, which would obviously be preferable to most in the normal course, during waking hours.

The inside peak of the roof is about 7.5' tall.

There is a little sort of verandah at the front, about 7.5' x 2.5', where shoes can be taken off, and left outside.

A half-inch thickness of thermocole insulation, covered with the two huge flex artprints from CeC 2012 (thank you Shazeb, Archan~;o), has been sandwitched inbetween the plyboard and the roofing-tin, on the sides and top.

A modest little square will be cobbled in front of the module, to serve for a sit-out that will be shared with a couple of other nearby modules, in time.

... and so on.

What is important right now though, is that, by having actually made the module myself, along with just Mohan, I do think we have established that small contributions and personal 'kar seva' can really make magic of this mad little RIA #001.

So, jump in if you wish to, anytime, in any way that may serve mutual and general public benefit.

April 13, 2012

Last Sunday, April 8, we finally began work towards evolving the first Research & Innovation Ashram (RIA #001), upon a modest quarter-acre (1,200 sq. yds.) plot of land that my little family and I purchased a year ago, in Petunia village.

The original concept-paper on Research & Innovation Ashrams is
appended below, for your information, and also downloadable as a PDF file, here. Please keep in mind that, whereas a quarter-acre is a lot less than the 2-3 acres we had originally envisaged for this, the broader general vision nonetheless remains essentially about the same. And, if luck attends upon us, we may be able to pick up a bit of adjoining land, in time.

You can join this experimental creative process, if you like, in any of many various ways, such as the following:

    1. 'Kar Seva', or Volunteering. This means you would camp onsite for some meaningful period of time, and directly labour towards a shared dream. At one level, this could perhaps even be seen as an adventuresome and creative 'camping holiday',.. that'll really make you sweat
    2. Donation. This could be in cash or in kind. But, be forewarned that The AeA has never applied for any tax-exemption perks, either for itself or its supporters, and possibly never will
    3. Alliance. This is ideally for institutions and other organizations, from anywhere in the world, that would like to stake involvement in what this could become, and what this should become

As can be seen from the satellite view above, Petunia village lies just over a ridge from Bhimtal, which is a bustling mountain town, that is rapidly now enveloping adjoining villages towards becoming a mountain metropolis, which will extend from Bhowali to Naukuchiatal, and beyond, in coming years.

Petunia village itself, however, altogether occupies just 6 acres of land, surrounded on all sides by notified forest, which is all now being actively regenerated, and protected (notwithstanding periodic forest-fires, as happened last week). The main Sattal Lake is about 300 yards down the slope, to the west. Three modest households presently make up the entire population of the village.

Primary access is a gravel path, now officially notified to become an 8 feet wide concreted road, which leads to the main (dirt) road of the nearby Sattal Christian Ashram, which in turn leads up to the metalled main Sattal road, about a kilometer further. Motorcycles and scooters can already reach the village, with not too much difficulty. A separate walkers-only shortcut, leads straight over the ridge to Bhimtal.

Primary shortcoming of the location is that water supply for everybody in the village is just a single very modest little spring. In case this fails (which it is not known to have done so far, however, even though it obviously does become very thin in summer), water will have to be hauled up from the lake. Into the longer term, it is expected that the government will eventually pipe water in, probably as an extension of a consolidated upgaradation planned for the Bhimtal municipal water supply.

Now, whilst the original RIA concept is reasonably ambitious in regard to basic infrastructure, it must be said that the RIA #001 project itself is quite far from being so, as things stand; for various reasons that I shall not now go into here.

Suffice to say that our plans presently address just an unhurried implementation of:
    1. boundary marking, with wood-posts at every 10-15 ft. (nearly complete, with no wiring intended for now, whether barbed or otherwise)
    2. erect 15' x 15' double-tarp cover on a good-quality steel frame, to be used initially for open store and shelter. But, to be evolved in time into a closed living / studio /workshop unit.
    3. establish standalone first toilet & bath
    4. construct experimental small living / studio unit of local earth
    5. construct experimental small living / studio unit on bamboo frame
    6. equipment installation on an ongoing basis, as becomes possible

Above, rough outline of the plot for RIA #001.

(below: The original concept-paper)
"Research & Innovation Ashram(s)"
A Concept-Paper & Proposal
from: The Academy of Electronic Arts
[working-draft, version July 04, 2007]

Observation 'A': in speaking very broadly, it can safely be said that Indian students and professionals working in countries more advanced than India are generally observed to manifest more —and more exciting— experimentation, innovation, inventiveness and enterprise in their work, than is observable amongst their own counterparts and contemporaries working within India itself

Observation 'B': it can also quite safely be said that a lot of this has to do with a relative deficiency of facilities, resources, support, supply-chains and basic opportunities for students and professionals to engage in such pursuits within India in the normal course,.. as also a historically deficient DIY culture in itself, in comparison to many other communities of the world, which in turn stretches across a millennial *separation of head from hand* by rigorous caste system(s)

Observation 'C': with an immense and burgeoning student-body to be catered to into the new millennium, established institutions are presently being bloated right across the board. And the frenzied rise of a private sector in education is entirely unorganized, entirely commercial,.. and in many parts unfortunate. As such, qualitative advancement in such matters will take some time to be manifested in any meaningful manner and measure within either of these existing sectors in the normal course, even though this shortfall may be clouded from many behind an independent qualitative advancement of the student-body in itself

PROPOSITION: a parallel-track approach to more quickly, evenly and also increasingly, introduce more opportunities for quality experimentation, innovation, inventiveness and enterprise amongst students and professionals within India, would be to evolve an entirely separate and continuously growing grid of small "Research & Innovation Ashrams", to serve different sectors and specializations across the country. These would obviously begin by serving just "the best", but as more and more such "Ashrams" come into existence across a national grid, they will become more and more easily accessible to more and more students and professionals,.. and eventually even to local communities on entirely unilateral local affairs and projects, as desirable and as necessary

Proposer: The Academy of Electronic Arts and its antecedents have to do with networking cutting-edge e-Creative Practitioners and associated individuals and organizations involved with cutting-edge technologies all around the world, for many years. As such, we are continually in rich, long-standing, and also ever-new relationships with outstanding institutions and professionals across all sorts of streams of technology-based creative experimentation, study and practice, globally.

In the case of this proposition, The AeA is most particularly suited to drive an experimental primary initiative because:

    [a] we manifest a collective global imagination and ability to do so, along with our associates, with whom
    [b] we are already virtually networked globally, and
    [c] the primary tools that we all use, define and drive towards the future (computers) touch upon almost all future experimentation, innovation, inventiveness and enterprise, across almost every stream of human endeavour.
For more info:

ACTION POINT: The AeA seeks to legitimately gain a minimum of 2 acres of Good Institutional Land in a Good Place in India, at Good Institutional Rates, or as an Outright Grant in support of its activities and agenda. Ideal location would be within about 100km of a major metropolis, or within about 50km of a smaller centre. It would be advantageous for the local weather to be mild enough so as to also optimize the summer months ~ a time when there is more flexibility in everyone's schedule, almost globally.

PURPOSE: Usage of this site is intended in service of general public benefit, by manifesting and evolving a first "Research & Innovation Ashram" over time, as broadly described in the Proposition above, and in further detail below, to focus upon and empower e-Creativity, by:
    1. establishment of a modest physical campus, intended to evolve into one of the most exciting eCreative Mini-Labs and Networking Centres in the world; in part by evolving and manifesting a format that would be easily replicable, and also worth replicating, in small numbers anywhere and everywhere around the world, to address different communities and streams of creative human endeavour; with dedicated infrastructure for:
      1-a. simple administrative offices
      1-b. digital & electronic media workshop
      1-c. solid media workshop (wood, metal, plastic, electrical, etc.)
      1-d. space for presentations, exhibitions, group-activity & assembly
      1-e. media library/archive and research work-spaces/cubicles
      1-f. some residences and basic amenities, for Resident-Fellows, occasional Professional Visitors and also a few Fulltime Staff

    2. to specifically provide for intensive short-term pursuit of independent small-scale R&D initiatives onsite, by outstanding students, researchers and professionals working upon New Paradigms, New Practices and/or New Products for advancing and refining e- Creative empowerment globally, and/or general technology-based empowerment locally.
    A possible primary focus, at least to begin with, will be the graduation-project opportunity of outstanding students from any potentially-creative stream of undergraduate or post-graduate study or research, such as engineering, design, architecture, film-making, new-media, fine arts, music and so on.
    Part of the rationale being to provide a few special people every year with an 'autonomous and empowered opportunity' to meaningfully exercise the creative freedoms and privileges of an independent developer/researcher, perhaps for the first and last time in many cases, before moving on to, or even on sabbatical from, a regular career.
    An extra credit of up to a maximum of 25% to be given in the selection process to project-proposals with local developmental value/relevance.
    Provision to all such Fellows of:
      2-a. empowered workspace & residence for fixed duration of 4-6 months, for a fixed ceiling of not more than 5-7 Fellows at any given time. Duration(s) extendible on a case-by-case basis, in increments of not more than 4-6 months at a time. In the case of special projects, a maximum of 2-3 practicing professionals may be hosted at any given time in the same manner
      2-b. global & national networking and tie-ins with specialist guide(s), other researchers and students. Some specialist and general support internally, and possibly also from supporting/associated organizations
      2-c. modest monthly honorarium, on a case-by-case basis
      2-d. modest project-budget, on a case-by-case basis
      2-e. assistance in sourcing project materials
      2-f. Fellowship certification upon project-completion, as appropriate

    3. individual corporations, institutions and governments to be invited to establish and/or support:
      3-a. initial site identification and acquisition
      3-b. individual infrastructure and/or technology items and heads
      3-c. individual projects and/or project-streams
      3-d. mainstream operational budget
      3-e. occasional public presentations, events and the like
      3-f. networking of individual Fellows with professionals and teams within their own organizations, as necessary and as appropriate

    4. possible supplementary incomes in support of primary activities and project-streams to be generated by:
      4-a. providing specialized fee-based services to businesses, institutions and governments
      4-b. selectively hiring out possible spare time and capacity on individual infrastructure and/or technology items, on a case-by-case basis
      4-c. fee-based hosting of tenant-Fellows & Researchers affiliated elsewhere, on a case-by-case basis

    5. knowledge products of supported projects to be placed in the public domain in the normal course, for general free-usage governed by appropriate liscencing with regard to possible commercialization

    6. some products, soft or hard, may be productionized internally, or by association with others, on a case-by-case basis, with partnerships and potential profit-share allocated as appropriate to all concerned

[end draft-in-progress]

Shankar Barua
Managing Trustee
The Academy of Electronic Arts
B-5&6/4563, Vasant Kunj
New Delhi – 110 070 (INDIA)
vox & fax: (91-11) 26899930
email: shankarb.geo[at]

Note: The AeA recommends use of the term "e-Creative" with regard to its broadly inclusive and continually evolving focii, because it is our view that the Creative Empowerment of Individuals being wrought by the development and spread of technology is burgeoning across all streams of human endeavour, and at the same time introducing ever-new interstices between different streams that were never before possible, on the basis of the increasing usage of common toolsets. For example, the development and application of gestural controllers and wearable sensor-systems ranges through music, dance, micro-surgery, therapeutic devices, robotics, interactive arts, industrial controls, motion-capture for animation, ergonomics, sportsmedicine, and so on.

As such, the “e” in e-Creative stands for “Empowered” or “Empowering”.

mail address: B-5&6/4563 Vasant Kunj,. New Delhi - 110 070 (INDIA)