Solar Media Collective


“Engaging Solarity” – PedalBox & Solar Media Events

a simple drawing of a wheel

PedalBox Gallery is a co-machine that brings arts-based programming to the public. It’s an open vessel for collaboration, community engagement and data collection. Towed by bicycle, this trailer disrupts public space to collectively speculate on a politics of care. PedalBox brings renewable energy supply to the people – be it through the force of human pedal power, or photovoltaic panels. It was created and is run by Christine White and Mohammad Abdalreza Zadeh.

As part of an event series organized in collaboration with the Solar Media Collective, PedalBox made a public appearance in downtown Montreal on September 21, 2022.

We presented our newly developed game, “Life of a solar panel” that is hosted on our solar-powered server in a local network configuration. By inviting passers-by to connect their own mobile devices to the server and play the game, we engaged in conversations about renewable energy futures, protocols and standards for low-carbon computing, and what kinds of solar-based communities and collective living we can imagine.

Later in the afternoon, members of the Solar Media Collective and the After Oil Collective discussed After Oil’s recently published book, “Solarities: Seeking Energy Justice“. The audience participated in the conversation about energy futures and explored Solar Media’s new game on the solar-powered server.

“Engaging Solarities” with undergraduate students in Communication Studies

In the latest installment of our “Engaging Solarities” workshop and public engagement series, we hosted Concordia students from an undergraduate course, “Media and Environment”, at the Milieux Makerspace to showcase our work and stimulate discussions pertaining to their class focus on ‘Energy and/as Media’. 

After presenting our Collective’s work and getting to know each other’s backgrounds and interests, we engaged in a fascinating discussion on different aspects of solar potential and the renewable energy transition. Among other things, we discussed the potentials, limitations, environmental harms, and political-economy of hydro-electric power in Quebec – something often touted as a ‘clean’ energy source yet subject to many thought-provoking critiques (for an extremely insightful look into the history and politics of Hydro Quebec, we recommend checking out Christine Beaulieu’s J’aime Hydro, or Caroline Desbiens’ book Power from the North). 

Topics discussed also included sections of the After Oil Collective’s recent book, Solarities: Seeking Energy Justice, which the students had read as part of their coursework, and a discussion of the difficulties of undertaking research-creation and learning-by-doing with solar panels and electrical hardware when coming from non-technical backgrounds. This conversation reaffirmed the importance and need for community (and university) makerspaces, repair centres, and mentorship opportunities more generally.   

We concluded the event with some hands-on workshops showcasing our solar-powered web server along with an updated version of the ‘Life of a Solar Panel’ game hosted on it. Students had the opportunity to interact with some basic solar circuits to better understand the materiality (and simplicity) of the electrical components that are so often rendered opaque within more ‘high-tech’ or proprietary tech and engineering designs. 

The workshop was a great success and has inspired us to engage with other classes at Concordia and beyond going forward. If you’re teaching a course and would be interested in collaborating on an interactive workshop with the Solar Media Collective, don’t hesitate to get in touch! 

Solar Media at the Open Hardware Summit

In April 2023, Collective members Janna and Lee presented the local network setup of the server at the Open Hardware Summit in New York City. As a “demo table”, our display was located in a room along with many other open hardware projects that participants could explore. We had many interesting conversations about scenarios for local solar-powered networks, the learning-by-doing approach to electronics, and the role of open source and salvaging of used equipment for assembling technical components.

Two people standing next to a table with a solar panel on it, smiling into the camera.
Components of a local solar-powered networks on a table: solar panel, battery, charge controller, router, and a Raspberry Pi computer.

The “Engaging Solarity: Taking Solar Media Mobile” event series is supported through a Living Labs grant by Concordia University’s Sustainability Action Fund.

A light bulb with a plant growing inside it accompanied by text that reads, "Sustainability Action Fund"