Designing playful engagements with animals to find, imagine, or emphasize non-speciesist practices
During our first-year thesis project at Malmö University, one of my classmates, Inge van Hoppe, explored the possibilities of playful digitally mediated interactions for her parrot Mango. Her project, called Interactive Playground for Parrots, is based on the need for environment enrichment of parrots that live in captivity. She made use of a touchscreen as technological input and developed different prototypes that were tested with Mango on a voluntary basis.
One of the first technologically mediated interactions for animals started in the 1930s, when B.F. Skinner conducted experiments using operant conditioning methodologies, among which the training of pigeons to peck at a target inside the nose of a missile in order to steer it in the desired direction. Since then, bird were mostly included in technology that helps us to understand their behaviour (such as migration tracking, or life streams for bird watching).
Next to Joshua Klein’s vending machine for crows, Inge’s project is one of the first technically mediated research projects that includes the animal in the interactions. Next to this, she included the animal in the design process and aimed to explore digital technology that increases the life quality of an animal in captivity. More information about her project can be found on her website.