Transmitting Nature

Sean T Ross
︎ Sean_T_Ross
︎ London, UK
We live in a world dominated by digital technology but so few of us understand how it all works. With this ignorance comes a disassociation with the materiality of these technologies. The way in which we mine technology minerals is devastating to both people and our planet.

The resources are mined globally, sold to countries like China, transmuted into digital devices and then distributed world-wide. How can I, using my agency as a designer, intervene in such an entrenched system? My approach was to create a counterfactual history that makes use of our contemporary knowledge to explore the possibility of re-engineering the hardware behind digital technology, thus maintaining greater sympathy for, and working in collaboration with, nature. To achieve this, I built a biocomputer.

The two biological mechanisms, the microbial fuel cells (powered by the bacteria Geobacter) and the electrical signals in plants, work in tandem to create binary code. That code is then transmitted through the radio antenna. The receiver records this binary to create a manuscript which is then searched for the 8-digit binary codes that represent letters. These letters then become the Earth’s first words.

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