Flora Electronica: A Media Performance Space Across the Physical and Virtual Worlds

Symposium:


Session Title:

  • Ecological Mediations

Presentation Title:

  • Flora Electronica: A Media Performance Space Across the Physical and Virtual Worlds

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Abstract:

  • Virtual spaces have long been projected though, evoked by and intertwined throughout our physical environment. Wall paintings provide windows onto alternate realities; statues capture imaginary scenes at particular moments in time; theatrical plays recreate fictional scenes on constructed sets. Cyberspace is a newer kind of virtual world, where human imagination can exercise its creative and artistic capabilities. And while digital interactions today remain dominated by a limited set of interaction portals (desktop PCs, mobile devices), emerging sensor technologies integrated into physical spaces/artifacts provide opportunities for our physical lives to feed into computationally-mediated virtual worlds, which in turn can feed back into our surrounding environment.

    This paper presents a collaborative artwork, Flora Electronica, created by artists and researchers during a course in tangible media arts. This playful artificial/computational garden is a stage where spontaneous media performances unfold, manifested across both the physical and virtual worlds. The emotional tone of the space is set by the real-time perceptions/interactions of a participating audience, both local and remote.

    The inhabitants of the artificial garden are reactive plants equipped with sensors and actuators, which invite visitor interaction and enact captivating robo-media performances. The plants are clustered into three groups with different personalities: sociable, shy and curious. They respond to visitors through light, sound and movement, influencing the overall emotional tone of the space. Through data capture, the garden maintains an online presence in applet-based web interfaces. In addition to providing a virtual representation of the activity in the garden, these connected spaces allow remote visitors to influence the physical garden from afar. When visitors (both local and remote) coordinate their interactions with the plants, the responses of the individual clusters intensify, ultimately resulting in a synergy of movement, sound and light that is displayed both physically and virtually.

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