jan torpus

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"Con-vironments. Media Ecological Infrastructures for Biodiversity"

The increase in the world population and global industrialization processes are leading to a loss of species and habitats. Human settlement areas can now offer wild animals more attractive livelihoods than the agrarian deserts of industrial agriculture, which leads to conflicts. Up to now, green spaces in settlement design have been oriented towards humans, while humans have been excluded from nature conservation biology. The supposed contradiction between nature and technology must be transformed into a constructive interaction so that the preservation of biodiversity can succeed. The aim of this research project is to use the means of an interdisciplinary design research, extended from a cultural and media science perspective, to contribute to the promotion of biodiversity in urban as well as rural settlement and recreational areas. The central premise of media ecology, the abolition of the dichotomy of nature and culture including the technological field, guides the project in transcending the anthropocentric perspective. The integration of different dimensions of this research area forms the theoretical framework of the project in the research of media technological infrastructures as 'media for ecology'.

How can media design interventions based on the Internet of Things contribute ecologically and culturally to the promotion of biodiversity in local ecosystems?

To answer this central question, media technology infrastructures are designed and installed as research facilities in three case studies in human-environment negotiation processes: in the cultural landscape of the Merian Gärten near Basel, in a former port area of the city of Basel and in a nature reserve in the Basel conurbation. They explore the heuristic media theoretical concepts of 'ontodiversity', 'interspecies platforms' and 'media of conviviality'. Methods of design research (represented by Jan Torpus) integrate methods of cultural and media studies (Felix Gerloff), biology (Dr. Daniel Küry), computer science (Prof. Thomas Amberg) and settlement ecology and open space planning (Prof. Christoph Küffer). The design interventions aim to give plants and animals a voice, to expand ecological knowledge and experience, to design new forms of inter-species coexistence and thus to cultivate ecological values and behavior.
Specifically, an 'Internet of Things (IoT) Toolkit' will be developed, which consists of a network of sensors, actuators and processors. It will be set up in the field as part of the design interventions and will then function as (their) media technology infrastructure. However, the use of technology is critically differentiated from the commercial and technophile 'smart' paradigm. Sensors are used to monitor the local living environment, analyze it using media presentation formats and condense its topology in an interactive, multimedia atlas. Actuators transfer the evaluated measured values dynamically and regulatively back into the physical environment and thus contribute to the design of adaptive installations with multifunctional interspecies furniture and relational formats such as automated live streams. An app enables the mediation of current information, the location-sensitive recreation of natural events as well as the participation in scientific processes and the maintenance of public spaces. These interventions create a 'Response-able Environment' (instead of 'smart' or 'responsive') with enhanced communication skills and power to act. Their effects are examined by interdisciplinary evaluations and findings are compiled in 'multimodal dense descriptions'. They result in a replicable IoT toolkit, exemplary drafts and packages of measures for open space design as well as derived design principles. The theory formation is advanced by the empirical foundation of media-ecological approaches. The project will be documented on a multimedia platform, which, together with a book publication, will communicate its research results.