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machine_ecology_notes

Machine Ecology Notes

Meeting June 15th

We started off with talking about the symposium:
The idea is to have a selected group of people from connected fields, who each get a short time to introduce themselves and what they can see coming up in the near future of their work area. We'll have keynote speakers too and in the afternoon we'd have parallel sessions for Ivan, Judith and Daan to get feedback on their research topics (workshop ideas).


Ivan: proposed to also invite investors, and we explored who that might actually be, Judith mentioned drones are starting to be used to monitor for organic certification, Theun sees tech companies shifting towards animal-robotics as a means of showing their advanced systems.

Judith: we need a defined topic for inviting people, the professors I had listed also may not want to invest a whole day. They may just want to give a talk.

Daan: pollicimakers and landscape planners should be included to discuss what happens when autonomous robotics is entering public space, how our landscape may change when robots enable ways of farming and landscape management; Europe could become a forest again, and what does that mean culturally.

Then we did a round of updates on our research topics / workshop ideas:

Judith: work with the University of Urbino on the overlap of sonotopes (birds) and smell-scapes (herbs). The research would investigate if hyperspectral imaging could be a way of mapping scent-clouds. She would like to prototype small 'experiential pods'; immersive spaces for 'Forest Bathing'. Form: bring one to Amsterdam as a way of experiencing the smell-scapes from her area of Italy.

Ivan: a brainstorm on renewable sources of energy and parts of the body to 'harvest' it: skin, stomach, bones.. The relationship between the inner and outer world of a symbiotic machine. Form: five sessions once a week like a lab, week 1 brainstorm | week 2 deeper brainstorm | week 3 hands-on experiment | week 4 hands-on experiment | week 5 round-up

Daan: look at the impact of robotics on landscaping (as described in his comment above). Form: have his workshop session within the context of a different symposium or event.

Planning events

We concluded by looking at the agenda for the year and availability of people.

Ivan: Oct to Dec

Daan: Oct to Feb

Judith: March / April

Meeting June 3rd

We started with the central aims of the project, what was the motivation to set it up;

  • To explore if through designing a mechanical organism as an active participant in a habitat, you could study natural systems.
  • To see if artists and designers can contribute to a shift in the framewhorks within which our technologies are designed.
  • To explore how technological systems could interact with the subleties and grace of biological systems.


We looked at the ambitions and targets in our proposal. The workshops mentioned in it were described briefly and each participant gave an update on their current ideas about their research subject.

Judith described how she's interested in smells and sound in the landscape. She mentioned work by Bernie Krause on how animals occupy different frequencies and form a densely rich mosaic of sounds. She is interested to learn whether this applies to smells too, and could you map phenomenon like these to form a better understanding of natural signalling and the semiosphere. Could a better understanding help us design our technologies to be more tuned to natural signalling. She described also the idea of 'Forest Bathing' creating a portable space to experience the semiosphere of a forest and mentioned the idea of creating a sensing 'pod' that a person could travel in, and which would sense the environment, like a super enhancer or extender of human sense perception. Do we actually know what is out there, in the middle of nowhere? None of us lives there? Can we use technology to meet nature halfway? If we know our space better we can design our things better. Could we map strange feedback systems that are appearing in our world like ice melting on one side and desalination of sea water on the other. Mapping the landscape of the anthropocene, could be a workshop with students?

Theun sees prototyping robotics as a way of learning about natural systems and landscapes. Even for the most common creatures we may know very little about what feedbackloops and flows they depend. If you design a creature it will interact with all of that. Also: what potential is there for robotics in ecology, can we create machines that actively promote biodiversity? How does our technology relate to the subtlety and grace of biological systems. How does such a machine change our perspectives on technology? We are essentially proposing a new research field; that of hybrid ecology, where machines are integral parts of landscapes.
Ivan is interested to explore ideas about how to build connections between technology and natural systems with experts; How can we find a balance between technology and nature at the level of energy? The mechanisms we are looking for often aren't possible yet, but prototyping them shows an ambition. The focus is on sharing ideas / brainstorm to bring about a change of perspective. The thought is more important than the technique. Every life form is part of an ongoing experiment called life and all biological and technological creatures share these tiny electrical signals travelling inside them.

Judith: The organisational principle of nature is flow. That is the flow of energy or spirit.

Daan is interested in physical experiments. His Giraffa experiment looked at the potential for robotics in sustainable agriculture: specifically in Food Forests. It would work as a harvester, which is very labour intensive in a food forest, and it would map microclimates. So through it we would learn about the forest. This approach would focus on trying things out; what parameters do we give the robot or how little? He gave the example of a little robot experiment in the TV series StarTrek, where a strange creature on board the starship turned out to be a small robot experiment escaped from the lab. He also addressed social dimensions: What happens if a robot is in a forest; with a tractor or with a dog we know it's behaviour, but not for a robot. The huge potential of these technologies to transform our agricultural landscapes make this a political discussion, to be joined in with landscape planners and politicians.

From this we entered the topic of audience participation: how can we include others (builders) in our experiments?

  • You cannot make anything advanced in a 1 day workshop
  • it has to have focus, something to which people can contribute
  • not too general that is too open, not too strict that interests few people


Alice: The question of how to develop collaborative design can be a focus within our program.

Daan: Maybe we could do Fast Prototyping; sketching out robotics with natural materials?
Ivan: Maybe look at species and natural forms in the park as design inspirations? Or map the potential of the park for robotic interactions?
Theun: Would be great to combine with all age groups. Maybe we could work with Maria Blaisse on natural materials, and with Kenzo Kusuda on the way animals move? We could invite people like from Wageningen robotics or Robird.
Ivan: Spela Petrich is working on plant communities and sensing.
Judith: Can we look at different scales? Could we look at microscopic robotics or something so large that we would ride along in it, like we would live in its gut?
Theun: Different scales are very inspiring. And your image of people being part of the gut of a larger system is certainly very humbling. I think we should look very broadly.

Daan: How do things get focussed? We need some focus or it will go all over the place.
Theun: we have central aims; Machine Wilderness is about interacting with natural systems through technology and specifically robotics, so technology that is a unit like an organism is a unit. In my view we'll be experimenting with something animal-sized or prototyping parts and system for that.
Ivan: We can have an expert meeting and with them get more focus on what we want to experiment with.
Alice/Theun: That is how we want to design the symposium;

  • bring in experts for a discussion → shift perspectives
  • build networks and look for opportunities for collaboration
  • to focus and get feedback or our ideas, we can centre on key questions related to our ideas for research: energy, senses, collaborative prototyping? for instance..


Ivan: we could each propose 3 experts for next meeting.
Alice: We also should already look for a venue, because we want this to be in september, so it would be good to have something before the summer holidays, Artis?

machine_ecology_notes.txt · Last modified: 2015/06/19 07:59 by theunkarelse