Inspired by the fairytale of The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Save the Rose depicts The Little Prince’s rose left on his planet. It is now your duty, as a human, to take care of the rose and make sure that it will not die out. Tweet #ShineOnTheRose or #WaterTheRose to keep the rose alive and watch its development on a live webcam.
‘SaveTheRose’ is a critical design installation developed by three BSc students at the IT-
University of Copenhagen. The installation is an interactive telerobotic system which allows internet users to view and interact with a living rose on a webpage. The users can water and give it light by tweeting with specific hashtags, and monitor the health of the rose via a running live stream and a status bar showing the soil moisture level. The installation was exhibited online on a webpage for one month, and by sharing the project on the Internet and social media, it attracted over 21.000 viewers, of which 843 interacted with the installation. The installation was developed to investigate, how the Internet can be used as a medium for creating a sense of collectiveness around a critical design installation. A collectiveness motivated by curiosity, empathy, and reflection. Using various qualitative methods, we have explored the qualities of the critical design installation and further discussed to what degree the installation fostered reflection.
Furthermore, the installation was exhibited at the Danish tech festival/conference called Trailerpark I/O in 2016.
The look of the prototype
A GIF showing the grow light turn on and off
A GIF showing the water and shine at the same time
With ‘SaveTheRose’ we wanted to explore how the Internet can be used as a medium for exhibiting and fostering interaction with a critical design installation, and whether or not it is possible to foster both individual and collective reflection and make people gain an empathic connection to a plant on the Internet. To discuss this research problem, we designed and constructed a telerobotic system, in which a living rose can be watered and given light with the use of tweets.
With the design installation as the subject for our research, we will through collected data and qualitative methods investigate the participants’ emotions and motivation for interaction. We will further discuss to what degree the installation created reflection and curiosity, what types of reflection it created, and whether or not we have been successful at creating a critical design for reflection. To investigate the research problem, we divided it into four research questions:
In the beginning, we did a thorough brainstorm on how to express values about the planet and climate change (see figure 4). Initial ideas centered around caring for living things, keeping something alive and protecting something. Our first, more substantial ideas, involved a digital being that had to be kept alive by the Internet.
Beginning the sketching phase, we thought in the lines of an ecosystem or some sort of terrarium with a living thing inside. The first sketches were low-fidelity and done on paper and were made in a rapid sketching phase, where we sketched the ideas as they came to us. The sketches were of small terrarium-based ecosystems that would water and shine on the plants and feed the small animals, see figure 5. These paper sketches were transformed into high-fidelity 3D-sketches to get an initial idea of the construction the system and the magnitude of the work behind. Sketching in 3D made it possible to easily move things around, change the light and color and simulate different camera angles, see figure 6.
‘SaveTheRose’ was developed as a part of my bachelor project in 2016 with my fellow students Jonas Haugesen and Rune Viuff Petersen in the spring semester 2016 of my third year at ITU.
With these sketches and thus more concrete ideas at hand, we realized that the idea of keeping an ecosystem running just seemed a bit too pragmatic and practical and we found it hard to pinpoint the critical part of the design. At this point, we had not discussed the concept of ‘caring for someone or something’ in detail and it seemed to be the recurring center of the discussion. We discussed what it means to care for something and feel empathy for something. People should relate to it in a way and feel the need to protect it, while still getting the message behind. This discussion led to a decision about having a red rose to protect, because it is the sign of beauty and love, and thus could represent the beauty of Earth.
With this point in mind, we decided to move on with the inspiration from the story of The Little Prince. This inspiration also determined the art direction of the project and finally led to the fact that we wanted the rose to be put under a glass dome and for it to “grow” on a planet resembling the planet in The Little Prince. This led to several low-fidelity paper sketches and also high-fidelity 3D sketches exploring the thematic and spatial possibilities of the installation, see figure 7 and 8. After this process, we ended up with an idea of what the installation should look like and how the system should be built.
After the sketching phase, we moved on to the construction of the installation and the webpage for it to be displayed on. For the computing part of the installation, we wanted to explore the way that the microcontroller and computer worked, as well as how the actuators and sensors worked, and how we could network them to the internet. An overview of this can be seen on figure 9. For the physical form, we wanted to explore how to set up all the different elements, and for the user interface, we went through an iterative process of designing the different elements on the webpage.