Jeremy PetersonMFA Design + TechnologySuperFlockART/SCI5570B Applied ResearchProf. Victoria VesnaParsons/New School11/1/2011
Abstract“Emergence refers to revealing, appearing, or ‘making vis- My question: What are the emergent 3 dimensionalible’ an event, object, or the outcome of a process. In an forms created by the outer boundaries of the swarmart context, emergence also encompasses novelty, sur- shape; and how can we use the behavior of flocking toprise, spontaneity, agency, even creativity itself.” generate these forms and create these responsive and dynamic forms?Design is always in search of new visual forms and inter-actions that science and technology enable us to see. Theimpetus for this project comes from a desire to explorethe creation of emergent forms and gain a deeper under-standing of systems based on natural phenomena. Hu-mans tend to fear what they don’t understand and it is therole of the designer and artist to rationalise and recontex-tualize these moments.I’m interested in large flocks of animals where the result-ing swarm can resemble one emergent but solid shapeshifting entity that can be described as a superorganism.This form is constantly in a state of flux and it is not pos-sible to grasp its dimensions with the naked eye. Nowthat we can simulate flocking behavior with some accuracyusing computers it becomes possible to model and studythe emergent behaviors that occur in this system. Theability to quantify the data that results in swarms enablesartists to work with flocking behavior as a generative pro-cess that creates emergent forms.
Concept / TopicThe collective behavior of the swarm creates what is The plan on how to engage with this idea comes in threecalled a superorganism, which is an organism consisting phases. The first to develop a system to map the forms;of many organisms. My concept is to model the exterior this will be done in Processing or OpenFrameworks whereforms that swarms create and put a ‘skin’ around it in behavioral libraries already exist that can be leveraged.order to make a superorganism that is visible and to give The second phase is to iterate and create a comparativethe user an opportunity to view and interact with it. study of forms by playing with the rules that create each emergent form. Flocks can be programmed to exhibit be-3 main rules inform all of the outcomes in flocking behav- haviors tied to resource gathering, predator avoidance, orior and they are: species specific flocking behavior. The final step is to cre- ate an interactive product that reacts dynamically to userSeparation stimulus. This will be the most challenging, but ultimatelyAlignment the most rewarding phase.Cohesion“You need to move with the same speed and direction asyour neighbors, you need to avoid hitting them and youneed to stay close,” Sabine Hauert, MITFlocking behavior is also interesting because of it’s highrate of adaptability to it’s environment. The simple rulesthat it follows allow for a cohesive form to be retainedeven when individual agents are interrupted. This resultsin a very solid, yet totally dynamic emergent superorgan-ism.
Context & Precedence screenshot from ‘Boids’ - Craig Reynolds (1986)“Generative art usually involves poeisis, which suggests ics, VR, Games, Robotics, Aerospace, Education, AI, Art,that it should reveal the world in ways that nature can’t – Biology, Physics, Emergent behavior, search optimizationhence technology seems a possible, but not necessarily & visualization techniques.unique, vehicle to achieve this aim.” The most recent and relevant example to this project IArt, Emergence, and the Computational Sublime found is from 2010 where Corrie Van Sice at NYU createdJon McCormack and Alan Dorin a 3D printed sculpture by simulating the movement of a flock over time in a digital environment. Her impetus forAny computer modeling done in this project will have a the project is: “I am interested in using the algorithm asshared lineage with Craig Reynolds original brilliant pro- a tool for generating form, as if it were a brush or bladegram entitled ‘Boids’ In 1986 Reynolds devised the boids- leaving traces of itself on an object”algorithm, based on a model of the interactions in flocks,herds or schools of animals. The magic of the boids algo- There is a long history of art and science collaboratingrithm is that complex overall patterns emerge from simple to create new forms enabled by new technology. A great Ernst Haeckel (1860’s)rules describing their interactions. example is biologist/artist Ernst Haeckel in the 1800’s; who’s study of microscopic radiolarian forms was used asThere have been many other computational models of inspiration and sometimes almost exact reproduction bygroup motion/ swarm behavior created since 1986, and the designer Rene Binet who developed these forms intoas Reynolds himself lists on his website, they’ve been designs who’s application ranged from patterns to archi-used in Computer Animation, Robotics, Interactive Graph- tecture. Corrie Van Sice (2010)
Project Proposal ( Phase I ) example sketch from video source:Begin by figuring out the basic modeling of the superorganism’s form in Processing or OpenFrameworks.This is a technical exercise and is done to understand what kind of parameters to take into consideration when moving forward with creating additional forms.Alternately the data could also be captured using a 3D scanning camera and a live swarm. ( this might be possible to do using fish or possibly insects )
Project Proposal ( Phase II )- Create a study of comparative forms in superorganisms formed by flocking behavior.- Create and iterate the resulting forms by working with the parameters of each and altering their behavior to specific species of animals.- Iterate on the forms further by introducing new variables such as predators & food sources behavior to achieve a wide variety of results.
Project Proposal ( Phase III ) Dynamic and reactive form that is constantly animated while retaining cohesion.Find a way to model the behavior in real time for an audience to interact with.This might start out as an interactive installation. (screen/projector based installation with the audience interacting with a projected image )The ultimate goal would be to create a reactive physical object for an installation.
ConclusionCreating a superorganism from the swarm and animating By modeling these forms we can understand them. Byit will create a memorable but perplexing experience for making them interactive we can take even more of thethe viewer and allow them to see and understand a little mystery from them and create emergent interactive art.bit about the world as seen through an unexpected lens. This project helps make the unknowable and invisible into something that can be seen and understood.The audience is invited to experience this new form inorder to better understand the phenomena of flocking be-havior. This also introduces people to the ideas of swarmintelligence, super organisms, and emergence. The super-organism is not controlled by one entity but by the collec-tive ‘intelligence’ of the entire swarm. It is a form createdby reaction. This intelligence is visible, it reacts to stimu-lus and can problem solve to find resources and avoiddanger. The viewer is confronted with a paradox of an or-ganism who’s intelligence is clearly visible but not central-ized and who’s form is never static or exactly repeating.
R EF ERE N C E SCorrie Van Sicehttp://itp.nyu.edu/~cvs245/Blog/?p=456Craig Reynolds & Boidshttp://www.red3d.com/cwr/boids/Rene Binethttp://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/2010/09/18/esquisses-decoratives-by-rene-binet/Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckelhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_HaeckelArt, Emergence, and the Computational SublimeJon McCormack and Alan Dorinhttp://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.16.6640Superorganismhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superorganism