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Technobiophilia: soothing our connected minds and easing our wired lives, Biophilic Cities [May 2015]

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Published on 20 May 2015
Technobiophilia: soothing our connected minds and easing our wired lives

In her 2013 book Technobiophilia: Nature and Cyberspace, Sue Thomas interrogates the prevalence online of nature-derived metaphors, and comes to a surprising conclusion. The root of this trend, she believes, lies in biophilia, defined by E.O. Wilson as ‘the innate attraction to life and lifelike processes’. Working from the strong thread of biophilia which runs through our online lives, she expands Wilson’s definition to the ‘innate attraction to life and lifelike processes *as they appear in technology*’, a phenomenon she calls ‘technobiophilia’. Attention to technobiophilia and its application to urban design offers a way to make our digital lives integrated, healthy, and mindful. In this talk she outlines the key elements of the concept and shows how, even in an intensely digital culture, the restorative qualities of biophilia can alleviate mental fatigue and enhance our capacity for directed attention, thus soothing our connected minds and easing our wired lives.

Sue's website: https://suethomasnet.wordpress.com
YouTube video of this talk: https://youtu.be/yOrt8zINrnE

Published in: Environment
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Technobiophilia: soothing our connected minds and easing our wired lives, Biophilic Cities [May 2015]

  1. 1. Technobiophilia: soothing our connected minds and easing our wired lives Dr Sue Thomas Visiting Fellow, Bournemouth University www.suethomas.net @suethomas #technobiophilia
  2. 2. Part of the Biophilic Cities webinar series ‘Fostering Connections with the Natural World’ Organised by Prof Tim Beatley and his team at the School of Architecture, University of Virginia http://biophiliccities.org/
  3. 3. Do you worry about the digital world?
  4. 4. The talk will cover: ● My background ● My research ● Technobiophilia ● What might a technobiophilic city look like? ● Technobiophilic design ● Conclusion
  5. 5. My Background
  6. 6. Professor of New Media, De Montfort University, 2005-2014 Books include: ● ‘Correspondence’ 1992 ● ‘Hello World: travels in virtuality’ 2004 ● ‘Technobiophilia: nature and cyberspace’ 2013 Image: Sue Thomas in Chakryn Forest, Second Life
  7. 7. My Research
  8. 8. Metaphor The essence of metaphor lies in understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another. (Lakoff & Johnson) Nearby Nature Small suggestions of the natural world which, although seemingly insignificant and often out of physical reach, can play a powerful role in human well- being. (R.&S. Kaplan)
  9. 9. Cyberspace: a new world without names The Computer Insectiary: A Field Guide to Viruses, Bugs, Worms, Trojan Horses, and Other Stuff That Will Eat Your Programs and Rot Your Brain (Roger Ebert & John Kratz, 1994)
  10. 10. Researchers at Zynga, the company that makes the Facebook game Farmville, have seen many technobiophilic responses amongst their players.
  11. 11. Restorative effects can be produced via windows, photographs, videos, even paintings, of nature. So why not screens?
  12. 12. The animated live wallpaper on my mobile phone screen.
  13. 13. Immersion in the computer -generated virtual reality nature space prompted ‘an increase in positive affect (happiness, friendliness, affection and playfulness) and a decrease in negative affect (fear, anger and sadness). There were also significant decreases in levels of both perceived and physiological stress’. ‘It is virtual nature that is responsible for the observed restoration and not virtual reality itself’. Deltcho Valtchanov, PhD Thesis, 2010. Urban Realities Laboratory, University of Waterloo. https: //uwaterloo.ca/urban-realities- laboratory/about/facilities
  14. 14. “Because our society has become more urbanized and it is increasingly difficult for people to get access to nature, people will tend to experience simulated nature experiences through their exposure to virtual nature in the media. To the extent that this captures their experience of nature, it is meeting the human desire to experience nature and gain psychological benefits” 2008 study of Spanish energy consumers by Patrick Hartmann and Vanessa Apaolaza-Ibáñez "Haliaeetus leucogaster -Bundala National Park, Sri Lanka -flying-8" by Thimindu Goonatillake from Colombo, Sri Lanka - Soaring HighUploaded by snowmanradio. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: Haliaeetus_leucogaster_-Bundala_National_Park, _Sri_Lanka_-flying-8.jpg#/media/File: Haliaeetus_leucogaster_-Bundala_National_Park, _Sri_Lanka_-flying-8.jpg
  15. 15. A video of a waterfall in Ireland that went viral on YouTube is helping millions of people who suffer from insomnia. The eight-hour footage has been viewed over six million times, and is now being used as part of medical research for several London hospitals. Artist Johnnie Lawson uploaded the footage of the wooden bridge on the River Bonet in County Leitrim five years ago, and was surprised when it attracted a very specific fan base. http://www.independent.co. uk/news/science/waterfall-video-uploaded-to- youtube-helps-people-with-insomnia-10224414. html
  16. 16. Definition of Technobiophilia ‘The innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes as they appear in technology’. Key Elements Technobiophilia can be found in practices and artefacts which: ● connect our lives in nature with our lives in the digital ● contribute to well-being via a tech- nature balance ● support future biodiversity as technology and nature move closer together
  17. 17. Technobiophilia
  18. 18. ‘A Room with a View’: live video feed of Areas of Outstanding Beauty for leukaemia patients confined to an isolation ward at Dorset County Hospital, UK. http://dorse-48577-001.dvs.demon.net/about/arts- projects/arts-roomwithaview.html The Dorset Hospital Biophilia Channel was developed from that first idea and now offers more content including direct feeds from nature and landscape works commissioned from artists. http://www.dorsetaonb.org.uk/news/1035-free- public-event-to-launch-biophilia-dorset-aonb- health-channel-27th-january
  19. 19. PIP uses images of landscape to create biofeedback which helps users measure, understand and manage their stress levels. https://thepip.com/en-gb/ Changing a landscape with the power of your mind is hugely relaxing. (Sue Thomas, The Conversation, https://theconversation. com/changing-a-landscape-with-the-power-of- your-mind-is-hugely-relaxing-31156)
  20. 20. Great Chapparal by Adam Thwaites, in Grand Theft Auto (GTA) http://www.flickr. com/groups/landscapesoflossantos/pool/ “GTA V is a truly living and breathing world, created with so much depth and attention to detail, that it now even enables this kind of virtual landscape photography. I love how a game based on crime can, on the other hand, offer an opportunity for creativity and the appreciation of natural beauty. Nothing beats actually going up into the mountains and breathing the air up there and I’d never want to replace that with technology, but games like this need to be appreciated for what they can offer in their own way too.” (Adam Thwaites)
  21. 21. What might a technobiophilic city look like?
  22. 22. Biophilic Cities “Cities of abundant nature in close proximity to large numbers of urbanites; biophilic cities are biodiverse cities, that value, protect, and actively restore this biodiversity; biophilic cities are green and growing cities, organic and natureful’. (Tim Beatley) Gardens by the Bay Image: www.natureinspireddesign.com
  23. 23. Technobiophilic city? Escale Numérique (Digital Break), Paris, France, offers a wifi refuge designed like a park. The idea came from the network of public water fountains built in Paris in the 19th century. http://www.mathieulehanneur.fr/projet.php? projet=174
  24. 24. Bioluminescent trees Designer Audrey Richard-Laurent proposes combining trees and streetlights into bioluminescent trees. In urban areas, one usually sees a row of trees parallel to streetlights. Why not hybridize them? Some organisms such as jellyfish, fireflies and mushrooms, can emit light. Genetic engineers have transferred genes responsible for these luciferin and luciferase proteins into a tobacco plant. These firefly proteins were then manufactured by the plant, causing it to glow and emit light. What if this technology could be extended further to say, a maple tree or a juniper bush? http://www.nextnature. net/2009/07/bioluminescent-trees-will-replace- streetlights/
  25. 25. Cyberparks Fostering knowledge about the relationship between Information and Communication Technologies and Public Spaces supported by strategies to improve their use and attractiveness. (26 EU countries, 4 year project) Working definition A cyberpark is a new type of urban landscape where nature and cybertechnologies blend together to generate hybrid experiences and enhance quality of life. Photo: EvaM. Lisbon, 2014. EU Cooperation in Science & Technology, Transport & Urban Development Action TU1306 http://www.cost. eu/COST_Actions/tud/Actions/TU1306
  26. 26. Technobiophilic Design
  27. 27. Biophilic design applies biophilic concepts to architecture and design in such a way that it “connects buildings to the natural world, buildings where people feel and perform better” (Stephen Kellert) Technobiophilic design connects our digital lives to the natural world so we can feel and perform better. https://suethomasnet.wordpress. com/technobiophilic-design/ Image: Carolyn Black
  28. 28. Technobiophilic design challenges for developers ● Apps and wearables ● Hardware and software https://suethomasnet.wordpress. com/technobiophilic-design/designchallenges/ Symbio Designed at the Nucleus of Art and New Organisms, a trans-disciplinary hothouse of artistic and engineering talent in Rio de Janeiro where they research and develop technological, organic, and sensorial hybrid systems https://theconversation.com/talking-to- houseplants-might-make-them-happy-but-one- app-calls-for-a-deeper-connection-28027
  29. 29. Conclusion
  30. 30. Definition of Technobiophilia ‘The innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes as they appear in technology’. Key Elements Technobiophilia can be found in practices and artefacts which: ● connect our lives in nature with our lives in the digital ● contribute to well-being via a tech- nature balance ● support future biodiversity as technology and nature move closer together
  31. 31. The Technobiophilic City - the creativity and innovation of the urban - the restorative stability of the natural world - the global connectedness of the digital. “Bringing together what is actual with what is dreamed” (Barry Lopez) Daan Roosegaarde, Van Gogh Bike Path, The Netherlands. Inspired by Van Gogh’s painting ‘Starry Night’. The 1km bike path is illuminated by thousands of twinkling stones that feature glow-in- the-dark technology and solar-powered LED lights http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/14/travel/starry- night-bike-path/
  32. 32. Thank you Sue Thomas www.suethomas.net #technobiophilia @suethomas

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