Video Field Guide to Algorithmic Gardening (2020)

Video Field Guide to Algorithmic Gardening (2020)

In a not too distant future in which gardens and fields will be increasingly cared for by sensitive machines, what ideas of nature will these robots handle? This video field guide examines the challenges of moving between the cultural and the procedural. Translating the ambiguous concept of weeds into machine code offers a provocative speculative case study. The video shows a small, dexterous robot, commonly used in telesurgery and road-bomb diffusion, executing instructions developed by an artist to collect weeds in mobile micro-gardens. The video's soundtrack, a conversation between human and non-human voices, draws attention to the computer program running internally in the robot. As an artistic experiment based on existing technologies, this prose and visual algorithmic narrative asks viewers to think about how culture and politics are encoded in algorithms, and how those algorithms may manifest in future environmental and agricultural realities. (138)


Acknowledgments and credits 

Technical advice: Prof. Dr. Juan Wachs, Purdue Laboratory of Intelligent Systems and Support Technologies 

Programming and operation of the Taurus robot: Glebys T. González, Arjun Narang 

Voice Readers: Elizabeth Heaney, Bryan Montemayor, Skyler Tipton