Public workshop at SPACE



QUEER ECOLOGIES ϟ DIGITAL PLANES workshop convened by Millicent Hawk + Catherine Chapman, Feb 2018

Supported by SPACE Art+Technology

Can non-binary be programmed in binary code? As a group we will consider rules from John Conway’s autonomous digital ecology, ‘Game of Life’, and look at distinctive non-human ecologies. The group will follow with an open discussion of their potential to help us navigate the intersections of sexuality and terrain – whether analogue or digital, organic or machinic. 

Three non-binary aquatic life forms – a ‘pond scum’ with up to seven sexes (Tetrahymena thermophila), a transgender algae (Volvox), and the immortal jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrnii) – offer alternative ecological perspectives to human kind. Might such non-human ecologies help us to think about forms of regenerative simulations and narratives to position us in relation to technology and non-human entities with which we are interdependent? Can aspects of non-human ecologies combine with digital systems to shift thinking beyond binary bias? 

And, rather than a distancing effect – where being digitally ‘connected’ can counter-intuitively have the opposite outcome – could programming intimacy and interconnection in code narrow the distance between analogue worlds and digital planes?

Interview with SPACE Art + Technology artist in residence Millicent Hawk >>> Here

P L A N E S is a sensory digital ecology - an autonomous simulation of non-binary organisms from a fluid world, which is receptive in real-time. Fluid and flickering, the organisms are a computational form of two-dimensional life on an infinite plane, influenced and shaped by each interaction.


▽ Below >>> R+D webpage for P L A N E S presented by Millicent Hawk at QUEER ECOLOGIES ϟ DIGITAL PLANES







It is only our dominant worldview and the education systems and cultures we have created in accordance that make us live within an illusory projected reality of separation — between nature and culture, self and world, mind and matter. Daniel Christian Wahl


A swarm of microscopic larval sea urchins.gif

The phone you mostly play casual games on and keep dropping in the toilet at bars is more powerful than all the computing we used to go to space for decades. O

Speed and Politics | Paul Varilio, Introduction: Logistics of Habitable Circulation

Speed and Politics | Paul Varilio, Introduction: Logistics of Habitable Circulation






   If equality is not the goal, the goal is supremacy. /// O

Dolphins illuminated by glowing plankton

Dolphins illuminated by glowing plankton


The universe of the Game of Life is an infinite two-dimensional orthogonal grid of square cells, each of which is in one of two possible states, alive or dead, or "populated" or "unpopulated". Every cell interacts with its eight neighbours, which are the cells that are horizontally, vertically, or diagonally adjacent. At each step in time, the following transitions occur:


1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbours dies, as if caused by underpopulation.

2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbours lives on to the next generation.

3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbours dies, as if by overpopulation.

4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbours becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.




'We can describe life as the sum total of trillions of ‘individuals’ of a breathtaking diversity of species, and it is equally valid to understand life as the transformative process that weaves all of these temporary manifestations of being alive through and in relationships into an underlying unity. Focusing on separation reveals competition, while focusing on interbeing reveals collaboration as the basis of all life.'  Daniel Christian Wahl, Ecologist, Designing Regenerative Futures





flagellar motion

Cilia are used effectively in a wide variety of biological systems from fluid transport to thrust generation.

Cilia are used effectively in a wide variety of biological systems from fluid transport to thrust generation.







  ~~~~~~~~~ marine diatom

The sphere is one surface, no corners, infinitely symmetrical, of all the shapes a bubble could be the sphere is the one with the smallest surface area, which makes it the most efficient shape possible.  And it is because nature loves to use her resources effectively that we can see spheres everywhere we look.  The earth is round because gravity pulls the planets bulk into a ball around its core.  Water forms into spherical droplets - the shape minimizes the amount of surface tension needed to hold the droplet together.  And a spherical shape gives simple life forms, like volvox plankton, optimal contact with their surrounding environment.  BBC The Code 

Organismes microscopiques du plancton

Organismes microscopiques du plancton





Derivative from old English ‘gelang’, ‘belong’ meant at hand, together with.  Perhaps by considering where and how we belong we might question ownership, to be held by - to belong to - and instead look to inclusion, to belong with →← The 'long' in belong is duration through time.


In mathematics, a plane is a flat, two-dimensional surface that extends infinitely far.






Volvox plankton | transgender algae

Volvox plankton | transgender algae

je t'aime.gif

… I became committed to notions of how categories of gender, race and class, and their associated social and economic functions, were not essential or natural, but were products of historical and material arrangements and power/knowledge formations... If things were socially constructed, they could be re-constructed: social change was possible..  

Zoe Sofoulis  'Social Construction for the Twenty-first Century: A Co-Evolutionary Makeover'

Tetrahymena thermopila | Conjugation

Tetrahymena thermopila | Conjugation


Mathematical thinking lies not in brute force calculation, but in shifting representations and finding connections. /// Junaid Mubeen O


‘Nothing comes without its world.’ Donna Haraway

Marine Diatom | phytoplankton

Marine Diatom | phytoplankton


'Some of the most basic lessons we can learn from ecosystems everywhere are that almost all energy that drives ecological cycles flows from the sun. Even the kinetic energy of wind, waves and marine currents ultimately derives from the sun’s energy reaching the Earth. Our industrial civilization, on the other hand, is driven by fossil fuel reserves in the form of coal, gas and oil, along with some other non-renewable sources like nuclear energy.

Fossil fuels are nothing but ancient sunlight (Hartman, 1999) stored in the Earth’s crust. These energy carriers are the compressed and transformed remains of plants and animals that populated Earth millions of years ago. The amount of fossil fuel humanity is currently using in a single year took approximately 1 million years to build up in the Earth’s crust (Fischer, 2012: 36).' Hence, ‘non-renewable’. /// Daniel Christian Wahl O


Le Plancton


Phytoplankton are the base for the largest food web in the world.  Theyare the autotrophic (capable of synthesising own food from inorganic substances using light or chemical energy) components of the plankton community and a key part of oceans, seas and freshwater basin ecosystems. The name comes from the Greek words φυτόν, meaning "plant", and πλαγκτός, meaning "wanderer" or "drifter".  They obtain energy through the process of photosynthesis and must therefore live in the well-lit surface layer of an ocean, sea, lake, or other body of water.

'Planktonic organisms play important roles in human life.  Many microscopic species get their energy from photosynthesis.

They absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.  Thus, they constantly renew the air we breathe.'

Plankton also play an important role in the global carbon cycle. This cycle captures the Sun’s energy and the atmosphere’s CO2 at the surface of the ocean and releases it to other organisms and other areas of the ocean.


Cténophores - Orgie de couleurs


A very fragile democratic experiment predicated on the dispossession of the lands of indigenous peoples and the enslavement of African peoples and the subjugation of women and marginalisation of gays and lesbians. Cornel West


Macroplancton gélatineux


'The dangers that threaten life on Earth do not come from evil deities or extraterrestrial powers, the weapons are mano-maya, mind-made.  They arise from our own choices and relationships..'  The Shambhala Warrior — a Tibetan Legend as told by Joanna Macy




'We have imagined that we are a unit of survival and we have to see to our own survival, and we imagine that the unit of survival is the separate individual or a separate species, whereas in reality, through the history of evolution it is the individual plus the environment, the species plus the environment, for they are essentially symbiotic.'  Gregory Bateson from Joanna Macy. He was an anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician, and cyberneticist whose work intersected many other fields.


Turritopsis dornhii jellyfish can return to a state of sexual immaturity after reaching sexual maturity. Whenever the jellyfish is exposed to stress or physical attack, it returns to asexual stage polyp, through the cell development process called transdifferentiation, which alters the different stages of the cells transforming them into new cell types. This makes the potentially immortal jellyfish biologically, if it is not the victim of disease or predators. 

Immortal jellyfish are best known for their ability to avoid death from old age or severe wounds, by reverting back into a polyp form from being an adult jellyfish, by altering their cells – a process called ‘transdifferentiation’.

As a result of reversions, immortal jellyfish can create numerous exact duplicates of themselves, as one polyp can release a number of medusae (jellyfish).

Triggers that can cause immortal jellyfish to revert to polyps include old age, stress, illness, injuries and feeling threatened


'...The possibility opens up for weaving something other than a shroud for the day after the apocalypse that so prophetically ends salvation history.'  Donna Harraway


Immortal Jellyfish

Immortal Jellyfish


‘We are all made of star dust.’  Max Tegmark


Eruption and stasis, at once.

Everything inside heats and solidifies~

And for a moment when we hold near,

time floats~~


'Echo is a model about the evolution of fitness, adapted from John Holland's book Hidden Order (1995). It can be used to facilitate experiments in a variety of domains where an agent's fitness varies with its context. This particular adaptation of Echo has a biological flavor and refers to the agents as "creatures", and groups of agents with identical mating preferences as "species."

With Echo, Holland attempted to codify intuitions about complex adaptive systems into a more rigorous and abstract model. Holland was inspired by notions from ecological systems research, especially with regards to the dynamics of niches. How does a change in the population dynamics of an ecosystem create new niches and destroy old ones? Echo was an attempt to create an abstract model that could facilitate understanding of the interplay of evolutionary and ecological processes. In Echo, different niches are created where creatures can consume, transform, and exchange resources, but this model is not necessarily just a biological model --- it can also be viewed as a model of other phenomena like the emergence of new markets.' >>> link

Echo is a model about the evolution of fitness

Echo is a model about the evolution of fitness


A bit - short for binary digit - is the smallest unit of data in a computer. A bit has a single binary value, either 0 or 1.  Computers use binary arithmetic, since electrical circuits can “easily” distinguish two logical values (true/false, yes/no), algebraic signs (+/−), activation states (on/off - as with Conway's Game of Life), or any other two-valued attribute (male/female).


Rabbits Grass Weeds

Rabbits Grass Weeds



DNA Molecule Necklace | Etsy.jpg

In the DNA molecule most of the information is stored as a sequence of base pairs. There are only two types of base pair, AT or CG, so each 'rung' on the DNA ladder might act exactly as a computer bit. However, the cell reads the DNA in one direction along one “strand” where it may find any one of the four molecules: A, T, C or G. Therefore each base pair represents one of four values as the cell reads through the DNA; twice as many values as one computer bit.

Plankton make up 98 percent of the oceans’ biomass

Plankton make up 98 percent of the oceans’ biomass


...the cultural technique of flattening out, but as soon as the interface happens, the depth reappears.

Sybille Kramer~~~  


The Schelling Model - An Agent Based Model

'...In this interpretation, from contexts of US racism and the colonial domination of lands conceived of as “empty,” including informal urban areas, those managed by indigenous communities, and/or those that consist primarily of habitats for non-human animals and plants.  Given the interest among critical social theorists for researching how historical legacies are perpetuated, Schelling’s model and other ABMs are particularly interesting because their outcomes depend in large part upon the initial conditions—in this case, the original setup of the board. In the Schelling model, the initial setup of the board is most often egalitarian, meaning that it is random. These issues are all the more pressing given the unequal historical legacies of most, if not all, cities in terms of both racism and class legacies like the ways that family wealth, including real estate, is passed down through generations. 

...Sometimes the narrow social focus of models is justified with claims that society is too complex to develop critical models. In contrast, what these examples show is that there is no barrier, in terms of complexity, for providing reflection informed by social theory in the explanations derived from ABMs and other complex models. Indeed, as a type of elaborate thought experiment, models of society need not be overly complicated in order to be complex, or overly complex in order to be critically relevant.'

Architecture and Representation - Jess Bier - The Simple Societies of Complex Models


The bobtail squid and bioluminscent bacteria are just one of hundreds of examples of mutualism

The bobtail squid and bioluminscent bacteria are just one of hundreds of examples of mutualism

Thinking about symbiotic relationships ~~~ MUTUALISM (not parasitism or amensalism)

2-way / multi-way / nice interconnections 




Need to think about the type of visualisation that will unfold in 2D,  how the option to interact is put across and how implementation of a non-binary method for abstraction physically manifests.  The digital evolution in itself,  unfolds via time between interactions.  How the digital organisms will self-organise, interact, adapt and mutually co-evolve with the habitat.  The adaptations as well as the successional development of ecosystems - the relations of organisms to one another and to their surroundings without additional input.




  • What's the most natural, or perhaps rewarding, mode of interaction with the ecology? Sensory reception? Heat? Movement?


  • How do people normally interact with objects. If by touch, how might you know to pick it up, to interact with it? Round like a paperweight? Feeling of a pebble? Smooth? Cold/warm? Light/heavy?


  • How would the interaction show visually in the ecology? What could be the ways that feedback from a sensory receptor might influence the ecology? Colour - bioluminescence? Increased reproduction (from increased proximity)? or perhaps interacting with the environment? Sound? What else? Digital organisms might be produced as an effect of random circumstances that might include, for example, temperature, duration of closeness, and time lapse of touch, for example, these are all qualities of input to the way in which the digital world could be altered.


  • How could the evidence of non-binary be evidenced in the digital space without it being scripted? While everything will be written in non-binary, how does the user know this when they interact with the piece?


Key to discussion and experimentation will be the idea for engaging methods of art as ‘soft politics’ - where the practice, work, and systems as (hyper)object occur as a technology in shaping.  Thinking about aesthetic and art not as finished, finite objects, but as a process unfolding, drifting, interconnectedness - a form of ecology and malleable, symbiotic system.







Les manguers invisible sont basés sur (the invisible eaters are based upon) Tetrahymena Thermophila and Volvox plancton.  Les organisms circulaire avoir 7 sexes, le septième of which a la capacité to transform sex ~ transgenres.


Les manguers invisible’s durée de vie c’est dependant on an infinitely stable birth ~ décès ratio; after deux couplages each explose into les pixel pièces et grave mort, disparaît, invisible.


There are 7 variants, where 1 and 1 touch and repel, but 1 and 2-7 touch and attract and so on.  7s are the only variant that on meeting a number 7 flips one to change (if they are not already binary).


Set theory begins with a fundamental binary relation between an object o and a set L. If o is a member (or element) of L, the notation o ∈ L is used.


In -PLANES-, 1-7 are o (organisms) and are a set in L (life), the notation o ∈ L.


1 attracts 2,3,4,5,6,7 repels 1


2 attracts 1,3,4,5,6,7 repels 2


3 attracts 1,2,4,5,6,7 repels 3


4 attracts 1,2,3,5,6,7 repels 4


5 attracts 1,2,3,4,6,7 repels 5


6 attracts 1,2,3,4,5,7 repels 6


7 are transgender and on meeting a 7, if they are not already binary, have the ability to change after rotation.

Angle of contact between organisms


The organisms (o) are divided unevenly into two perimeter charges, i.e. + & - (front & back); the plus is a small section of the circumference.

If two ‘plus’ sided conjugable organisms are within a distance they charge with attraction together forming a heart shape and create twins - both parents explode.

If two negative conjugable organisms are within a closely proximate distance they fumble together, rotating in opposition until the attraction together and create twins - both parents explode




Based on Turritopsis dohrnii, these drift entirely randomly, with expansion and contraction - as our inhalation / exhalation, and they live as immortals amongst the perishable, mortal organisms that share their world.  These are F (immortal) and are a set in L (life), the notation o ∈ L.


The organisms divert a path around the jellies.





o and F (Forever) are binary, in that o is mortal and F is immortal.






Jellies attracted to heat move towards the view.


Organisms start to bioluminesce


Speed of organism and jellies movement changes