Embodied Ecology; visualizing biological data with dance and technology

Koryn Ann Wicks and Piper Wallingford

Embodied Ecology; visualizing biological data with dance and technology

interactive environment in which dance manipulates visual representations of biological data in real time to depict the effects of climate change. This project combines Koryn Ann Wicks’ research in dance and augmented performance with research by Piper Wallingford from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “Embodied Ecology,” fosters education about climate change by appealing to both logic and emotion through an interdisciplinary project.

Piper Wallingford’s research deals with predator-prey relationships in tidal ecosystems along the West Coast. Wallingford’s preliminary data predict a spatial mismatch of predator and prey distributions due to the increasing thermal stress predicted over the next century.i Data from her upcoming research on environmental gradients will illustrate how predator-prey interactions may change as a result of climate change.

Embodied Ecology utilizes an interactive video system that allows dancers to manipulate visual representations of Ms. Wallingford’s data through movement. The video system combines Microsoft Kinect technology, Max visual programming language, and Active Space intermedia system for live performance. The system is projected into the performance space and responds to the dancers in real time. To convey the scope of human impacts, the data is interpreted choreographically by manipulating distribution patterns using spatial relationships between dancers representing different species.


Lauren Sarah Hayes


Hybrid analogue/digital live electronic improvisation

Shimmera was formed out of a playful exploration of my most recent hybrid analogue/digital performance system. An excessive number of components mutually affect each other through an ecological network of sound analysis and DSP. Engaging with different parts of the instrument through tangible and haptic controllers, I bring a sense of immediacy into my hands: the slightest movement may trigger a mechanical relay bank, which in turn may active digital processes. The idea of sound sculpting (Emmerson 2011) suggests an active process of deliberately shaping sonic material through tangible interactions. As a performer, not only do I want to be able to manipulate the material that I create, but I want to be able to feel this sense of the malleability of sound through my audio-tactile interactions, and to be able to sense that I am approaching the thresholds of my electronic processes both with my hands, as well as my ears.

The resistances in my performance environments lie within the extreme potential for activity through interconnections within the audio signal path. Yet, a joystick-centred controller is so easy to move, that musicality comes from resisting this: a movement of even one millimetre can drastically alter the sound.

Furthermore, in this piece I develop the notion of live performance as perceptually guided action. Digital audio has no real-world physical source, compared to, for example, the resonating body of a piano. As such the performer senses this loss of vibrational feedback. I employ vibrotactile feedback, sent directly to my skin through a custom wireless haptic device, in order to reintroduce this physical sensation and enhance my engagement in the shared participatory space between performer and instrument.

Evening Plenary Session

Keynote Speaker: Erik Myin, Professor of Philosophy and Head of the Centre for Philosophical Psychology at the University of Antwerp.


There are different ways in which theorists have promoted the idea that cognition is embodied. Many of these still agree with core tenets of the so-called cognitive revolution. They still adhere to the assumption that there exists a natural phenomenon properly called cognition, to be explained by “cognitive processes”, which in principle can be distinct from what organisms do in their environments and involve some kind of descriptive abstraction from the particular worldly offerings interacted with—even if action-oriented rather than mirroring the world. Radical embodied approaches, on the other hand, focus on action of organisms in environments as their subject matter. These actions are to be explained not by behind-the-scenes “cognitive” processes, but by providing a natural history of how they gradually emerged out of a history of organism-environment interactions. Intelligence is flexible, adaptive embodied action, even when it does not, or hardly, involve overt movement, as in visual imagery or mental arithmetic. Organisms change the ways they interact with their environments, but not by acquiring abstracting descriptions of it, or by forming rules which steer their behaviors. Once action and its historically driven dynamics are seen as the core of intelligence, or what has been termed “cognition”, distinctions between so called “intellectual” and “artistic” activities can be seen as artificial products of the age-old disembodied traditions of thinking about thinking.