Raised On YouTube: Cultural Data Materialization Using Plants






  • Raised on YouTube is an installation and game that grows plants using only the light of projected video and makes ecology legible as a multiplayer game. The challenge of finding the most nurturing video is crowdsourced online. As players watch a webcam feed of the plants surrounded by two-way mirrors, their computer power is diverted to photosynthetic video analysis. The system calculates the photosynthetic score for each video using a basic botanical model. The resulting shape and density of the plant grow bed serves as a data visualization of the energy patterns in the cultural stream. The system provides opportunities to reflect on the effects of long-term exposure to contemporary media and to imagine ecological possibilities of participatory culture.


  • 1. A.W.D. Larkum, S.E. Douglas, and J.A. Raven, eds., Photosynthesis in Algae (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003), 120.

    2. L. Baessler, “Red Light vs. Blue Light: Which Light Color Is Better For Plant Growth,” Gardening Know How (2015), <www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/info/red-light-vs-blue-light.htm>. Accessed June 3, 2015.

    3. S.D. Jackson, “Plant Responses to Photoperiod,” New Phytologist Vol. 181, No. 3, 517 (2009).

    4. R.A. Nelson, “Chapter 5: Electro-Culture,” Hemp Husbandry, internet edition (2000), <www.rexresearch.com/hhusb/hh5elc.htm>. Accessed January 11, 2014.

    5. D. Augaitis and D. Lander, eds., Radio Rethink: Art, Sound and Transmission (Banff: Banff Centre Press, 1994), 72.

    6. G. Hertz, TV + Beans (1995), <http://www.conceptlab.com/tvbeans/index.html>. Accessed March 19, 2016.

    7. E. Kac, Teleporting an Unknown State (1994), <www.ekac.org/teleporting.html>. Accessed January 15, 2015.

    8. M.R. Robertson, “300+ Hours of Video Uploaded to YouTube Every Minute,” Reelseo (2014), <www.reelseo.com/youtube-300-hours/>. Accessed December 10, 2015.

    9. Cisco, “The Zettabyte Era: Trends and Analysis” (May 2015), <www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/visual-networking-index-vni/VNI_Hyperconnectivity_WP.pdf>. Accessed July 24, 2015.

    10. M. Rabinovich and Y. Girdhar, “Gaining Insight Into Films Via Topic Modeling & Visualization,” Parsons Journal of Information Mapping Vol. 7, No. 1, 3–5 (Spring 2015).

    11. G. Gessert, “Notes on Genetic Art,” Leonardo Vol. 26, No. 3, 205 (1993).

    12. B. Zics, “Toward an Affective Aesthetics: Cognitive-Driven Interaction in the Affective Environment of the Mind Cupola,” Leonardo Vol. 44, No. 1, 31–37 (2011).

    13. A. Ramírez Gaviria, “When Is Information Visualization Art?: Determining the Critical Criteria,” Leonardo Vol. 41, No. 5, 479–482 (2008).

    14. C. Voon, “Growing a Garden According to the Economics of Philanthropic Crowdfunding,” Hyperallergic (2016), <hyperallergic.com/261458/growing-a-garden-according-to-the-economics-of-philanthropic-crowdfunding>. Accessed January 12, 2016.

    15. W. van Eck and M.H. Lamers, “Hybrid Biological-Digital Systems in Artistic and Entertainment Computing,” Leonardo Vol. 46, No. 2, 154 (2013)

    16. K. Anderson, “Object Intermediaries: How New Media Artists Translate the Language of Things,” Leonardo Vol. 47, No. 4, 357 (2014).

    17. Ibid., 356.

    18. A. Ramírez Gaviria, “When Is Information Visualization Art?: Determining the Critical Criteria,” Leonardo Vol. 41, No. 5, 482 (2008).

    19. J. Parikka, The Anthrobscene (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), 35.

    20. D. Wilkes, “Thriving Since 1960, my Garden in a Bottle: Seedling Sealed in its Own Ecosystem and Watered Just Once in 53 Years,” The Daily Mail (January 24, 2013), <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2267504/The-sealed-bottle-garden-thriving-40-years-fresh-air-water.html>. Accessed April 13, 2016.

    21. K. Goldberg, ed., The Robot in the Garden: Telerobotics and Telepistemology in the Age of the Internet (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), 182.

    22. L. Paraguai Donati and G. Prado, “Artistic Environments of Telepresence on the World Wide Web,” Leonardo Vol. 34, No. 5, 438 (2001).

    23. V. Chivukula and S. Ramaswamy, “Effect of Different Types of Music on Rosa Chinensis Plants,” International Journal of Environmental Science and Development Vol. 5, No. 5, 431–434 (2014).

    24. M.E. Collins and J.E.K. Foreman, “The Effect of Sound on the Growth of Plants,” Canadian Acoustics Vol. 29, No. 2, 1–8 (2001).