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I worked and traveled extensively throughout the lower Mekong region and from 1995 through 2002 was based in Vientiane, Laos as a freelancer. In partnership with archaeologist/art historian Catherine Raymond, I founded the Digital Conservation Facility Laos (DCFL), devoted both to environmental and cultural conservation; examining ways in which the loss of cultural assets parallels the loss of ecological assets, and developing products and methodologies towards braking that process.

Multimedia projects include application of the “emerging visualization toolbox” to support ecological characterizations of the Nam Ngum and Xe Set river basins; the Interactive Taxonomic Atlas of Mekong Fishes; and the trilingual e-book version of the Lao Ramayana, illustrated by Thit Panh’s wonderful naïve frescoes at Vat Oup Mong (VOM), which were extensively archived before their demolition in 2000, and in 2010, faithfully replicated in the replacement main image hall at VOM, using a unique digital projection methodology devised by the DCFL.

About

Alan Potkin —trained originally as limnologist specializing in tropical rivers— holds a doctorate in environmental planning (Ph. D., 1989) from U.C. Berkeley. His focus has always been on media applications in cultural and ecological conservation, and on the evolving interactive visualization toolbox for strengthening impact assessment, public participation, and post-facto evaluation. A combat veteran of the Second Indochina War  —where from emerged a not-so-hidden agenda towards personally undoing some part of the damage— he was based in Vientiane from 1995 through 2002.  While there he founded the Digital Conservation Facility, Laos (DCFL): affiliated since 2003 with both the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois U. (NIU) and the NIU Center for Burma Studies. Dr. Potkin’s  recent research has been on the aesthetics of waterfalls hydropower in Sri Lanka; on the 12,000 MW Myitsone cascade project on the Ayeyarwadi headwaters in Myanmar’s troubled Kachin State; on museums as essential to pharaonic projects; and on downstream learning —broadly defined— from Mekong Basin actual outcomes.

Digital Media

Vat Taleo Kao: a semi-abandoned, “destroyed” Buddhist temple, in Savannakhet Province, Lao PDRTaleo Kao
An Interactive Visualization Archive of Vat Taleo Kao: a semi-abandoned, “destroyed” Buddhist temple, in Savannakhet Province, Lao PDR.

 

Visualization in Waterfalls Hydropower AestheticsWaterfalls Hydropower Development
Visualization in Waterfalls Hydropower Aesthetics: Impact Assessment, Mitigation, and Post-facto Evaluation.

 

urbanization of the Lao P.D.R.’s capitalTransformation and Reclamation of Vientiane’s Mekong Waterfront
An interactive archive of the urbanization of the Lao P.D.R.’s capital: 1898 (population ~5,000) through 2012 (population ~650,000).

 

Pak Mun/Mekong OrwellPak Mun/Mekong Orwell hydroelectric dam
Arguably —in weighing the trivial power produced against the phenomenal downside— the worst hydroelectric dam ever built, anywhere.

 

Mekong Memory Hole VideoMekong Memory Hole

 

 

 

 Mekong Basin hydropower developmentTVA on the Mekong: the semi-abandoned American visionary roots of Mekong Basin hydropower development.

 

 

Boeung KakReclaiming' Boeung Kak for high-end development
“Reclaiming” Boeung Kak for high-end development took evicting 2,000 former shoreline households and 4,000,000 cubic meters of pumped landfill.

 

Wat Jong Klong original reverse glass paintingsWat Jong Klong
The 2004 earthquake damaged or destroyed many of the original reverse glass paintings, of which there was then no hi-rez archive.

 

 

Wat Jong Klong VideoWat Jong Klong - Burmese Reverse Glass Paintings at Wat Chong Klan, Lan Na (Thailand)
Burmese Reverse Glass Paintings at Wat Chong Klan, Lan Na (Thailand).

 

 

Phrakeo Morakot
The Phrakeo Morakot and the assassinations in Nong Khai of the pretenders to the Lao Lanexang throne: A hypothetical linkage.

 

Phrakeo Morakot Videoassassinations in Nong Khai of the pretenders of the Lao throne

 

 

 

Digital Mekong Planning/NT2
Before Nam Theun 2, outsiders were welcomed to harvest small catfishes (Mystus spp.) migrating up the Nam Pheet to enter the flooded forest.

 

Atlas of Mekong Fishes
Some sixty million people inhabiting the Mekong basin have as their primary protein source fishes harvested from its waterways.

 

 

Mekong Actual Outcomes
Poster-manifesto for the regrettably cancelled Mekong Actual Outcomes Conference: a career-killer for international development insiders candidly critiquing failed projects?

 

Khone Phapeng Aesthetics
Before the Don Sahong hydroelectric project in Siphandone (Lao PDR), Khone Falls, “the Niagara of Asia” —unlike Niagara itself— had never been industrialized.

 

Ubon Wax
For Asala Puja, many Ubon temples provide workshops for devotées to construct elaborate mobile juggernauts in Buddhist and Brahmanic styles.

 

Escaping Foreign Donor Nature Worship
IUCN’s 1995 survey of Nong Chanh marsh in Vientiane showed its annual productivity —fish, wildlife, plants and “ecological services”— worth USD $1 million.

 

Ramayana Interior Murals Replication
At the full moon of the 2543 winter solstice, the people of Ban Oup Mong gathered for the festive demolition of their old image hall (vihaan).

 

 

Mong Ton/Tasang hydropower: (7,000 MW!)
Following an armed uprising in Myanmar’s Shan State, the Project has not yet been implemented: even performing the EIA is now impossible.

 

Myitsone
Facilitating Sino-Myanmar hydroelectric development cooperation.

 

 

Watering the Bangladeshi Sundarbans, redux
Blaming up-basin freshwater diversions, in 2016, UNESCO presented an extremely critical report on the worsening mismanagement of the world’s largest estuarine mangrove forest.

 

Interbasin transfers within Thailand 
There presently exist neither basinwide agreements nor bilateral treaties regarding project impacts —including water diversions— between the Salween/Thanlwin’s co-riparians: China, Burma/Myanmar, and Thailand.

 

Visualizing Giants Tank through eighteenth-century Dutch sources
Originally impounded twenty centuries ago —although mostly in ruins since the early modern era— its rehabilitation would irrigate ~25,000 hectares of under-producing rainfed paddy.

 

Keohintang Menhirs, Houaphanh Province Laos
At least 1,500 years ago, people of whose origins and fate we know almost nothing, erected hundreds of standing stone monuments atop wilderness ridgelines.

 

Lao Buddhas in Four Thai Wats
Following wars between the Kingdoms of Siam and Lao Lanxang during the 18th-19th centuries CE, particularly-venerated Buddha images are in temples now in Bangkok and Isaan.

 

World Heritage Class 1998, bilingue
Ten and eleven year olds from Ecole Hoffet and the Vientiane International School spent one week together documenting their experiences of Luang Prabang’s geography, architecture, history and mythology.

 

Before the Internet was really practicable
there, the World Bank loaned $25M to the Lao PDR to rehabilitate 23 lapsed irrigation schemes; bringing forth unorthodox “Safeguard” technologies for overcoming problems, visualizing sites, and documenting success or failure.

 

converted_forest_disbeneficiariesHuman rights components of an eBook portfolio:
a contribution to the Pacific Neighborhood Consortium’s 2018 conference, themed “human rights in cyberspace”; presenting here contrarian perspectives on the globalized conventional wisdom and its enemies

 

Thanlwin/Salween dams driving a Shan armed uprising long predating the energy-starved Union of Myanmar’s forced embrace.