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Green Screens

A student project exploring the trade off between technology and nature

Concept Statement: This is a month-long discursive design project [Tharp & Tharp 2011], completed for Major Studio 1 class, consisting of series of terrariums for an audience of young, ambitious, overworked, urban students and professionals. This group spends most of its time indoors (Segran 2015), despite being likely to utilize parks and natural urban spaces. I am creating this series to provide my audience with much-needed exposure to natural elements (Vincent et al. 2010), while also promoting discourse about their personal relationship with nature, and simulating nature indoors. The project is meant to evoke feelings of a pleasant connectedness with nature, and a potentially unpleasant integration with mobile and digital devices. It is also meant to evoke thoughts about the negative impacts of a society driven by work in the context of an increasingly urban environment (Lee et al. 2015). There will be two types of terrariums in different media: (1) closed terrariums constructed within 3D printed acrylic cases modeled after iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches, and (2) open terrariums planted in the remnants of used, defunct laptops.

The discourse I am hoping to promote is about the way the users get pleasure out of these products: I am packaging nature so that my users don’t have to sacrifice their careers for their sanity. However, based on the research I’ve done, I think this sacrifice deserves a closer look. Because we have blindly accepted that we should be constantly working towards higher power, and more desirable salary, we’ve ended up burned out, chasing unattainable competitive standards, and concluding in general discontent. Devoting all our time to work, we’ve left little to no time to connect to nature, reinforcing this negative feedback loop, and producing a generation of bad environmentalists (Joye 2011).

Whenever one does take a break from work, it’s soon followed by guilt, knowing that there’s always someone else working harder. Vacations and days off are often peppered with conference calls, email replies, and “quick check-in[s] with work.” Especially with difficulties in the economy, young people cannot afford to take the breaks that they need for mental and physical restoration, for fear of falling behind. The results are stress-related mental and physiological health issues that only get worse as we age in these environments without changing behavior (Lee et al. 2015). This is the conversation I want to spark among my audience. We know we’re not willing to sacrifice career stability for nature, but how much nature are we willing to sacrifice for our work?

The project is asking the user to consider his or her relationship to nature: is it a relationship in which he or she extracts what they need from nature – emotionally, physically, energetically – but doesn’t give back? Do we do all we can to protect the environment? Would we prefer an increasingly urban future in which this is the only form of interaction with nature?


Here is the progress blog linking to previous iterations and ideas of the project, as well as research and bibliography.