Natalie Jeremijenko

OOZ: For the Birds

OOZ is ZOO backwards. Unlike the traditional zoo, the distributed interfaces of OOZ are sited where ani m als themselves decide to inhabit, i.e., they are there by choice . Like a traditional zoo, OOZ is a place where ani m als and hu m ans interact. However, the interactions around the OOZ differ substantially from those in a zoo. For the Birds is part of the OOZ interface between people and birds, and consists of a series of perches equipped with sensors for birds to land on. Birds can use this interface to trigger sounds, lights, dispense food, squirt water, or shoot at other birds. The perches emit an audio file that translates bird concerns into human dialect for communicating directly with their human neighbours. The birds explain the complex ways in which people enjoy the environmental services birds provide.

Through day-to-day use birds learn to use the perches to rudimentarily communicate with visitors. The OOZ bird-operatable communication technology resembles experiments in operant conditioning, a technique that works equally as well on humans as it does on animal m odels. “This is not a new concept for the birds”, Jeremijenko says. “Urban birds use human technology for their own purposes, from electricity infrastructure to signage systems which provide shelter. However, it’s a new concept for humans – that we share our technology and urban systems with non-humans.”

Named one of the inaugural top young innovators by the MIT Technology Review, design engineer and technoartist Natalie Jeremijenko is a Professor of Art, Computer Science and Environmental Studies at New York University where she is the director of the xdesign Environmental Health Clinic. She is also a visiting professor at the Royal College of Art/London.