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Technobiophilia:
soothing our connected minds
and easing our wired lives
Dr Sue Thomas
Visiting Fellow, Bournemouth University
www.suethomas.net
@suethomas #technobiophilia
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/
Do you worry about the digital world?
The talk will cover:
● My background
● My research
● Technobiophilia
● What might a technobiophilic city
look like?
● Technobiophilic design
● Conclusion
My Background
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
My Research
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)
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)
Researchers at Zynga, the company
that makes the Facebook game
Farmville, have seen many
technobiophilic responses amongst
their players.
Restorative effects can be produced
via windows, photographs, videos,
even paintings, of nature. So why not
screens?
The animated live wallpaper on my
mobile phone screen.
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
“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
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
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
Technobiophilia
‘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
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)
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)
What might a
technobiophilic city
look like?
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
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
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/
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
Technobiophilic
Design
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
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
Conclusion
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
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/
Thank you
Sue Thomas
www.suethomas.net
#technobiophilia
@suethomas

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

  • 1. Technobiophilia: soothing our connected minds and easing our wired lives Dr Sue Thomas Visiting Fellow, Bournemouth University www.suethomas.net @suethomas #technobiophilia
  • 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. Do you worry about the digital world?
  • 4. The talk will cover: ● My background ● My research ● Technobiophilia ● What might a technobiophilic city look like? ● Technobiophilic design ● Conclusion
  • 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
  • 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. 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. Researchers at Zynga, the company that makes the Facebook game Farmville, have seen many technobiophilic responses amongst their players.
  • 11. Restorative effects can be produced via windows, photographs, videos, even paintings, of nature. So why not screens?
  • 12. The animated live wallpaper on my mobile phone screen.
  • 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. “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. 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. 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
  • 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. 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. 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. What might a technobiophilic city look like?
  • 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. 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. 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. 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
  • 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. 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
  • 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. 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/