March 31, 2016

Project Overview

“Oceanic Scales” was developed by Gene A. Felice II & Jennifer Parker
with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and support from the OpenLab Research Center at UCSC and the Coaction Lab at the University of Maine.
Download the full overview in PDF format here:  oceanic-scales-overview

Oceanic Scales is a place to learn and collaborate.

It is a lens focused on phytoplankton, the first link in the oceanic food chain.      

It explores biomimicry as a root of inspiration.

It breathes and glows with a pulse.

It is a barometer of local ocean health and stability.

It explores the tipping point between humanities desires and the oceans needs.

It illustrates the role of phytoplankton as an essential, interconnected part of our planetary ecosystem.

It allures with the promise of new understanding and empathy.

Visitors to Oceanic Scales will explore their role in maintaining a stable ocean ecology through a multi-sensory, interactive art and science puzzle inspired by the microorganisms of the sea. The hope is to encourage change toward sustainable living practices by engaging the public to reflect on and perhaps better understand how humans impact the environment at local and global scales. Light, scent, sound and touch inspire new ways of thinking about ocean health. Oceanic Scales explores the visualization and contextualization of ocean sensor data into a creative digital output, streamed from the MBARI Elkhorn Slough sensor array API located in the Monterey bay on the California central coast. This exhibit gives visitors the ability to experience the work either passively or actively. They can absorb its multi-sensory interpretation of ocean data as complex patterns of light and sound, or they can decide to become an active agent of change, trying out various trial and error scenarios by adjusting temperature, PH and nitrogen levels within the automated gaming system. Instability may lead to a system crash; harmony and grace can be achieved through perceived stability, patience and new understanding. The physical structure is ecologically minded, built with local bamboo plywood and pine resin, corn plastic 3D printed forms, recycled cardboard, natural latex rubber, solar power and a living component of native plant species.

An interdisciplinary team of faculty and students from Digital Arts & New Media, Film & Digital Media, Marine Biology, Ecology, Computer Science and Engineering at UCSC came together to make this idea possible. Gene Felice, Jennifer Parker and the Openlab research group and the Coaction Lab have given their creativity, time and effort to see this project through to completion. Students received access to equipment, experience, training and new inspiration as well as greater understanding of the natural systems that we have a responsibility to maintain.