Alright, so its about time that I officially post my proposal. I’ll admit that things have changed between now and last month. However, as I look back, I notice that things have not changed that much. and they’ve changed for the better.

Expect posts about recent and future changes to appear in the coming weeks.


Shortly after deciding to study carrier pigeons, references to the seemingly dead medium flew at me from all directions in the media scape. It became apparent that my assumptions (and probably yours too) about carrier (homing) pigeons are false. I told Barry Salmon about this project. His response will serve as an epitaph for this project, “We don’t map carrier pigeons, they map us.”
My initial thesis—the title of this project—will also be the title of the map or map layer-cake (?) that I create. It corresponds with my findings during the pre-research stage of this project. Carrier pigeons never stopped being used as a form of media. Rather their form as a medium has evolved. [[futher research shown me that yes, they have evolved, just not in the way that I originally thought.]]

For instance, the classical scenario of the carrier pigeon goes as follows: bring a pigeon to someone you hope to receive a message from (a lover perhaps?) when the time is right that person will attach a message to the pigeon and send the pigeon flying home. Pigeons do not fly back and forth between two or more points like a telephone or telegraph. They can only find their way back home and must be delivered to a potential sender physically in a cage, by hand, or in a paper box. Hence the name “homing” pigeon.

This narrative of a pigeons role as a media character has ancient roots. Stories about this practice date back to the Greeks who sent the results of the Olympics out via carrier pigeon. The ancient Egyptians are also rumored to have used carrier pigeons. Legions of pigeons followed this script as they delivered stock quotes from the Paris Exchanges to John Reuter, and as they brought clandestine communicates from soldiers on the battlefield during World War I and World War II.

As advances in telephony progressed, the carrier pigeon’s traditional media role began to change. Their role branched in two different directions.

First, (1) carrier/homing pigeons became racing pigeons. Small communities and associations arose as a hobby for those who might have grown up with carrier pigeons. Today, people breed and race pigeons all around the world. They still value the genetic properties possessed by a traditional carrier pigeon, such as speed, endurance, agility, and focus. However, these clubs do not use pigeons to send urgent messages. Rather they come together to appreciate the birds, share stories from their past, and reminisce about the good old days–much like audiophiles who swear by analog. This can be framed through Benjamin’s “exhibition value” concept [[Actually, poeple have been racing pigeons since the beginning of time too]]

Second, (2) the second branch of this division is the new role of Carrier Pigeon as measuring device. There have recently been two experiments that exemplify this new definition of pigeon. One in South Africa where a carrier pigeon was put in competition with Broadband internet. Just as the birdie was released with 4GB harddrive from point A, a person at point B started downloading the same amount of information from the internet. When the pigeon arrived, the internet had delivered only 4% of the data. A similar experiment also took place in England with similar results. In this case the pigeon has become a marker–a gold standard on which to base the so-called “progress” of other communications technologies. In this sense pigeons have become the message instead of the medium. They have gained semantic meaning that can be used as a hyperbole when someone says that pigeons are “faster than the internet.” They are an actual unit of measure when someone demonstrates this. They transform into a ceremonial symbol when released during a wedding, and a platonic ideal when a company uses them as a brand. [[I’ve veered away from some of these stories…]]

Pigeons are currently undergoing a resurgence in the collective consciousness (look up you will see them) on tv, in film, at the museum, in newspapers, and in books. Therefore, critical and scholarly mapping and analysis of their past and present will interest the public/scholars/artists.

This project will create a series of map layers each corresponding to a different role that carriers have taken today and in the past. The traditional role will be mapped using resources from the Ft. Monmouth Historical Office–the U.S. Army’s Carrier Pigeon Division of CECOM was located at this base in New Jersey. [[probably still true]] The role of pigeon as community focal point will be explored by mapping the results of a local association’s Pigeon race. [[Found some stories from the past, not of pigeon racing union, but of neighborhood pigeon racing teens]] Then, the role of pigeons as a measuring device or semantic unit will be mapped through the results of one of those experiments pitting the internet against a carrier pigeon armed with a flash drive. [[i don’t think i can make this happen]]

Each of these maps will be accompanied by a short audio documentary that revolves around the topic being mapped. Such as a military vet’s memories of fighting with carrier pigeons, voices from the world of racing, and a play-by-play of a racer’s race against the internet.