While most of us are still stacked next to each other in rectangles on our computer screens during the Coronavirus pandemic, the work Umwelten asks us to reconsider the futures that we had planned for. Umwelten invites a human, a machine learning algorithm, and a plant to meet once again to question and reformulate our relationships with one another through an exchange – a sensory exchange where our “Umwelts ” entangle, overlap, and are morphed with one another.
The concept of “Umwelt ” (translated as “environment” in English) was proposed by the German biologist Jacob Johann Von Uexküll. Uexküll believed that one should not perceive an animal as an objective entity (a physio-chemical being) but rather as a being that can be discerned based on their behavior in the environments they inhabit. Therefore, according to Uexküll, an animal together with its environment form a whole system that he called – an “Umwelt ”.
For this DEMO, Puneet Jain presents his research creation project Umwelten, which invites a human, a Mimosa Pudica (or touch-me-not) plant, and an ML (machine learning) algorithm to interface with one another in the same physical space (but with different “Umwelts “). As the human types on the screen, the typography (color, font size, and spacing between the letters) dynamically evolves based on the typing speed of the human. Meanwhile, a camera pointing to the plant captures images of the plant frame by frame, sending it to an ML model trained on the image data set of the plant – classifying the plant into two categories (closed or open) with respective probabilities. While the leaves of the plant are susceptible to close or open depending on an external stimuli (sunlight or human touch), the probabilities of the classification algorithm again influence the typography on the screen thus generating a confusing typography acting as an interplay between human and more than human sentience – depicting the overlapping, entanglement, and morphing of umwelts of the human, the ML algorithm, and the plant — pulling ourselves back to the ontological question of being V. becoming.
This video was part of the Hexagram garden “Emergence/y” for the ARS ELECTRONICA 2021 festival
Puneet Jain is currently pursuing his PhD at Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture, and Technology at Concordia University, Canada. Puneet’s research investigates new forms of interfaces to initiate dialogues between the human and the non-human in a digital space – questioning how sensory perceptions are morphed, enhanced, and augmented in such an entangled digital space. Before pursuing his doctorate studies, Puneet spent some time at Interaction Design Lab, IISc, India where he designed assistive technologies for people with speech and motor impairment. Puneet is also a Mechanical Engineer and has worked at SAP Labs, India as a data scientist from 2016-2018.
You can contact Puneet at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org