Practical component: Methodology
After exploring and describing the theoretical botany knowledge for Human Plant Interfaces in chapter 2, the chapter 3 has investigated contemporary Human Plant Interfaces in interactive art, media art and human computer interaction. This section explores new applications for interacting with or through plants in urban or interior environments. The methodology of the practical works is based on the research outcomes of chapter 2 and 3.
The practical methodology is characterized by a defensive strategy of interventions on an environment. The objective of this strategy is to create an improvement for humans without negative impacts on its environment. Particular, the new function should enhance interactions between humans and humans as well as between humans and their environment.
From a human centered design perspective it means establishing interfaces with a positive impact on human well-being or a none existing negative impact at least. Furthermore, the interface must provide an added value for humans in a spatial location. This improvement can be an information or a task oriented interaction. An information oriented interaction is about consuming digital data, which is in the most cases a one way directed interaction. The task oriented interaction is about executing an action on a certain object or in an habitat.
The interface is not allowed to cause any destruction or damage to its environment. For instance, common public screens in an urban landscape light up unnaturally its environment. Moreover its big plane shape causes a distorted visual appearance to its location. For this reason, the defensive strategy suggests that interfaces have to be harmonically and carefully integrated in the environments [ICC2007, page 17]. Only a harmonically integrated interface establishes the possibilities of new interactions without any negative impacts on an ecosystem (see chapter “2.2. Plant Ecology”) [Kob2010].
Development of the practical works
In the scope of this thesis four art projects were created. All of them follow the above mentioned requirements of a defensive approach. The features of the developed artworks are based on the findings of chapter 3. All projects, except the ”Charisma Garden”, were performed in public spaces of urban environments. Moreover, the projects are presented in a chronicle order. This chronicle order also reveals the progression of my produced Human Plant Interfaces. The involvement of digital communication technology is increasing with each new project.
The first project “Season Patterns” (2011-2012) is focused on the human perception of plants in an urban environment. The applied abstract photography method documented the visual changes of plant based settings in urban landscapes during all seasons. Furthermore, human behaviours in relation to plants were simultaneously observed while the photos were taken.
Based on the exploration of the human nature, Juliane Springsguth and me developed the “Travelling Plants” (2013) concept. This project was the first active intervention in a public space. Our intention were to explore people’s reaction on plants, where they do not expect them. In addition to that, we wanted to figure out if plants can be used as a connector or impulse for human to human interactions. In a minimalistic technical implementation each physical “Travelling Plants” unit referenced to an e-mail address, which also established a connection to a digital communication technology.
The positive feedback of the “Travelling Plants” proved my assumption that plants are an appropriated tool for encouraging interactions between humans as well as between physical objects and humans. For this reason the third project “Dead Tree Drop” (2013) explored the opportunity of embedding location-based data into tree stumps. The purpose was to strengthen the identity of a local area in social aspects with the help of a Human Plant Interface. An additional goal was to develop an eco-friendly solution for exchanging digital information for local communities.
The last project “Charisma Garden” (2013-2014) examined the opportunities of embedding digital data to a plant’s lifecycle. Moreover, it synchronised the communication behaviour of an individual on Facebook with the plant’s life rhythm. The motivation for this project was to investigate how strong an emotional connection between a human and a plant can become. Furthermore, it questions the visualization of personal charisma through a plant display.
My developed Human Plant Interfaces does not use any direct interaction with plants as it is described in the chapter “3.2 Biosensing for Human Computer Interaction”. Taking into account that this field is already very well researched, there was no urgent need for further explorations. For this reason the practical work of this thesis focused more on Human Plant Interfaces in public environments and its social aspects.
[ICC2007] NTT InterCommunication Center (2007). Silent Dialogue. ICC, 2007.
[Kob2010] Hiroki Kobayashi (2010). Basic Research in Human-Computer-Biosphere Interaction. PhD Thesis, The University of Tokyo, Japan.