The Symbiants

Exploring symbiotic relationships between objects, people and the environments they live in.

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Mutualism in biology is a way of symbiotic existence where two organisms of different species biologically interact in a relationship in which each individual derives a benefit.

This is a speculative project which began with experiments to explore mutualistic relationships between electronic objects and Human beings and which then progressed to a fictional narrative speculating on relationships built with objects (imbued with agency & that could network) and the possible directions these relationships could take.

The Experiments:

The T1, T2 and the T3 are 3 species of symbiotic fish feeding robots, who are in a mutualistic relationship with their muse (the fish) and the human being (the caregiver) they live with.

They are techno-social organisms with personas that exist both in the physical and digital worlds. In the physical they have behaviour to evoke responses, such as movement, vibrations etc. In the digital they occupy personas in social media platforms through which they talk to their owners/caregiver. These personas had a language which could range from simple interjections (ooh, ash, uh-uh etc) to more evolved responses through poetry (it could channel William Blake to speak back to you) for example , which is based on its caregiver’s interests.

What keeps them alive and gives them purpose is the movement of the fish, with which they play probabilistic games. They also require attention and care from their human owners (through messages written to it’s digital persona) without which they programmatically die, which ultimately means they stop feeding the fish.

In order to test whether these behaviour could elicit emotional responses, these fish feeders were made to live with people who were told about its needs and the responses were mapped over time and through multiple experiments.

These observations further led to the creation of the narrative.

The Fictional Narrative:

The story revolves around the day in the life of a researcher at the SRC (Symbiant Research Center). His job consists of fixing broken relationships with people and their symbiants. In this case he gets a call of help from a person whose T2 fish feeder has been maligning him on social media for reasons unknown.

Through the course of the story the researcher finds the answers to this case and it ends with suitable therapy for the bot.

To find out more about how this case was solved , to see more of what Mutualism is about and what the experiments looked like please visit :

Personal Website : http://wormholevision.com/#1955058/THE-SYMBIANTS
Process blog: http://thekuriouskat.wordpress.com/tag/ciid-final-project/
The Symbiant Reseach Center : http://wormholevision.com/#2536974/The-Symbiant-Research-Center

STUDENTS