Digital Entanglements

This page supports my application for ACE funding a project that responds to the earth crisis by using visual digital art to explore our connections to nature. I am part of the Biophilic City Network, Birmingham is the UK’s only bibliophile city:

The main obstacle for people accessing Augmented Reality work is the type of access platform. I have found that many people do not to want to download a new app on their smart deveice to access AR artworks. It can be difficult with restricted WiFi coverage, fear of viruses and memory space, or their smart device may not run NFC Near Field Communication (used for contactless payment). For this project I will research and develop several different platforms for people to engage with the artwork including NFC, Meta Spark – accessed through people’s existing facebook accounts and Adobe AIR, (AIR is a runtime environment that allows Adobe Animate content). As well as providing preloaded hardware on site for people who experience digital poverty.

‘There is a sea of connection that floats between us: a place where speech is touch and the welcoming hand restores its silence: an ocean warmed by dark suns.’ *

work in progress, untitled watercolor on kandi paper, photography and AI Machine Learning

Digital Entanglements will use Augmented Reality to integrate (biophilic- love of nature) digital art with the natural environment in real time, giving people an experience a real-world nature environment with generated perceptual information overlaid and hidden in it. The project implies that being tangled in the natural world is our mindful state of being: which has been hidden by western civilization’s autonomy of the individual leading to ‘the West’s un-paralleled waterfall of destruction of a diversity of human cultures; plant species; animal species; of the richness of the biosphere and the millions of years of organic evolution that have gone into it’ ** . It will enable participants and audiences to enter the liminal membrane between the digital and the unarticulated expanse of nature, inner and outer.

We have a choice can either use the digital to reinforce the dualism of the material ego, or we can challenge it explore our lines of entanglement, ‘a hidden source of underground to the irrational depths of mind, whose kinship is primitive society, ancient nature religions, perhaps even the primordial beginnings of human life itself. This is part of self that had become alienated from other mental functions in modern life: its absence in thought was part of the sickness of contemporary culture.’ ***

*Clayton Eshleman Poems From Floating The World

**Gary Snyder The Practice of the Wild: Essays

***Paul Christensen Minding The Underworld

Examples of digital work by Jaime Jackson:

Jaime Jackson’s ACE funded commission Mechanical Pollinators for the We Foragers Unquiet program 2023, Photography and AI Machine Learning generated moving image
Jaime Jackson, ‘Woke from uneasy Dreams’, motion capture 3D modelling, moving image installation, Manchester Contemporary 2019 
Ward end LiDAR Laser mapped point cloud fly-through moving image work 2022

The three sites for the project below, linking parks in Cannock Chase Staffordshire, Ward End East Birmingham and Queenswood Herefordshire.

Partners in Cannock Chase – The Great Imagining

The brain boost from being in nature goes beyond getting answers right in a test, according to Prof Kathryn Williams, an environmental psychologist at the University of Melbourne. “Research has consistently demonstrated enhanced creativity after immersion in natural environments,” she says. One study found that a four-day hike (with no access to phones or other technology) increased participants’ creativity by 50%. (If you’re wondering how you can put a number on creativity, that study used the Remote Associates Test, widely used as a measure of creative thinking, insight and problem-solving. Subjects are given three words and have to come up with a word that links them. For example, Big, Cottage, Cake = Cheese.)

What might be going on here? According to the biophilia hypothesis popularised by the American sociobiologist EO Wilson, humans function better in natural environments because our brains and bodies evolved in, and with, nature. “Biophilia makes a lot of sense,” says Dr David Strayer, a cognitive neuroscientist who heads the Applied Cognition Laboratory at the University of Utah. “As hunter-gatherers, those who were most attuned to the natural environment were the most likely to survive. But then we built all this infrastructure. We are trying to use the hunter-gatherer brain to live in the highly stressful and demanding modern world.”

It’s not that life as a hunter-gatherer was easy, of course. But, says Strayer, the fight-or-flight response that we evolved to deal with it is ill-suited to the way we live now. “Most of the stress we encounter today does not require a physical response, but still evokes the same physiological reaction – raised cortisol levels, increased heart rate and alertness – which can impact immune and cardiovascular function, as well as memory, mood and attention.”

Above project partners Dolphin Womens centre in Ward End Park and Norton Hall Family Centre, East Birmingham. Below Queenswood Country Park Herefordshire

Exposure to nature activates the parasympathetic nervous system – the branch of the nervous system related to a “resting” state.

One recent theory proposes that oxytocin (the “bonding” hormone) may be behind the phenomenon, exerting its powerful antistress and restorative effects when we are in natural settings that we perceive as safe, pleasing, calm and familiar.

But if its capacity to make us “feel better” were the sole pathway through which nature affected the brain, it would only work if you regard being in nature as a positive experience. Those siding with Woody Allen when he said “I love nature; I just don’t want to get any of it on me” would not experience a brain boost. However, research by Berman and others suggests that improvements in cognitive function are not linked to improved mood.

Berman got his subjects to walk at different times of the year. “Even in January, when it was zero degrees outside and people didn’t enjoy the nature walk, they still experienced performance improvements in the test,” he says. “They didn’t need to ‘like’ the nature exposure to reap the cognitive benefits.”

Another explanation for the nature boost is something known as attention restoration theory (ART). Psychologists call the capacity to sustain focus on a specific mental task, ignoring external distractions (such as your phone) and internal ones (such as your rumbling belly), “directed attention”. And according to ART, it is a finite resource.