Observation Films

Jessica Field

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Observational Studies of a Robot Ecosystem, 2008

Observational Studies of a robot Ecosystem from Jessica Field on Vimeo.

This installation is comprised of 4 robot actors that all think for themselves and contribute their own part in the creation of a potential ecosystem. There is a Line Drawing robot who is oblivious to everything but light and the wireless frequency of the Light Seeking robot. The Light Seeking robot is self-absorbed with its preoccupation in finding the highest concentration of light as often as possible. When it does so, it has done its duty and sends a wireless announcement. Upon hearing the announcement, the Drawing robot takes the cue to draw a line. The Line Reading robot is self absorbed in finding as many lines as often as possible and, when it has successfully found a line, it sends a wireless signal announcing its success that only the Light Emitting robot can hear. The Light Emitting robot is oblivious to anything but the Reader's wireless signal and any passing audio sounds.

The piece looks at the social implications of having two self-absorbed robots working with two oblivious robots to create a self perpetuating ecosystem. None of the robots have any concept of cooperation or know that the others even exist and thus, the result is a dysfunctional ecosystem. The oblivious robots let their environment guide them, leaving all their responses to chance. The self-absorbed robots internalize all information to such a degree that they can't function in their real environment. They look so hard for their goals and desire success to such a degree that they miss what they are looking for.
The drama of the work is in the question that, despite all the robot's handicaps, will they ever seem to cooperate enough so they are able to do their jobs at once and, for a short time, be satisfied? Or are they condemned by their programmed flaws to participate in an ecosystem that is always failing?