Imagine a garden of dream flowers, powered by duracell, made of abandoned Starbucks coffee cups, styrofoam cubes cut from the latest iMac packing materials, a brain made in Italy, a blossom made by 1/2 Tod 1/2 Bot. The flowers glow with an eerie pulsating glow, sending secret missives across a darkened room. Some flowers horde their individuality, resisting attempts to transform, to change. Others broadcast their distinctive natures broadly, encouraging nearby flowers to go with them, to be like them. Still others promiscuously adopt the patterns of others, reproducing, syncing, connecting. They live, they die. The garden flourishes, it declines.
Web 2.0 technologies offer us enhanced ways to interact and share information, to collate and collect perspectives, and to
receive feedback on ideas and creative work. The expectations associated with these socio-technical networks are vast but there are potential issues as well. The plan for the ‘flwr pwr’ workshop was to create a series of shared construction exercises that could facilitate and inform discussions around ‘walled gardens’ and provide some common ground for thinking through the social issues involved. We call this technique ‘critical making’ as a way of drawing connections between thinking and conceptualization on critical social issues and shared practices of material construction.
The ‘flwr pwr’ critical making scenario involved the construction of a physical type of cellular automata. Using pre-assembled and coded components, workshop participants constructed simple electronic agents called ‘flwrs’ that ‘talk’ to one another
using infrared light patterns. They can be programmed in various ways – to be more open or more closed, more aggressive
or more sharing. These behaviors effect each agent’s individual survival as well as the survival of the network as a whole.
Here is an chapter titled FLWR PWR: Tending Walled Garden, written by Dr. Matt Ratto and Dr.Stephen Hockema. It was originally published in Walled Garden, part of the E-culture book series in 2009. It is a publication by Virtueel Platform.
This has been converted to PDF and has a separate page containing the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 license.