Signs of Water

Signs of Water series

Stream: A playful interaction with nature

Tank: A dynamic water display

Plate: An immersive tea experience

“Extinction of Experience” , presented by ecologist Dr. Masashi Soga[1], highlights the detrimental consequences of lacking human-nature interactions in daily life. Nature HCI researchers[2] aim to renew this relationship through technological mediation. However, when designing with digital technology, challenges include distractions from real nature, indirect digital interactions, exclusion of non-human entities in design, lack of in-situ engagement, and brevity of interactions.

Addressing these challenges presents an opportunity to craft immersive experiences involving more-than-human beings, fostering serenity, immediacy, in-situ presence, and temporal depth. Importantly, these experiences should seamlessly integrate natural materials or phenomena to enhance authenticity and deepen connections to the natural world.

‘Signs of Water’ utilizes water, a material essential for life and nature, to explore the integration of its materiality with computer-controlled expression. Ultrasonic vibrations applied from beneath the plate’s bottom surface create swells on the water. These elevations are dynamically and sensitively controlled by computational programming, forming a variety of movements on the water’s surface. Despite being under digital manipulation, the water retains its inherent properties through reflections and ripples, reverting quickly to its natural state after the swells subside.

This piece raises a question: how can media technology be used to create (or recreate) a rich interplay or relationship between nature and humans? Can we provide moments for encountering enchantment—a delightful interplay among humans, machines, and environments, evoking the fuzzy and ambiguous instinctive moments of our childhood memories: those intuitive, profound, and fulfilling experiences that bind us to each other and to our natural world.

1. Soga, Masashi, and Kevin J. Gaston. 2016. “Extinction of experience: the loss of human–nature interactions.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14.2 (2016): 94-101.</sup>

2. Sarah Webber, Ryan M. Kelly, Greg Wadley, and Wally Smith. 2023. Engaging with Nature through Technology: A Scoping Review of HCI Research. In Proceedings of the 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ‘23). </sup>


Artists: Kuan-Ju Wu, Yasuaki Kakehi Technical and Fabrication

Support: Hiroki Kaimoto, Haruma Tasaki, Shun Kainuma, Junwei Ao, Hiroaki Takahashi, Kanon Aoyama, Takafumi Morita, Tomomi Imamura, Risa Nagata, Rei Sakura, Harpreet Sareen Video and Photography: Ziyuan Jiang Logistic Support: Hideka Hatoh

Support received from

University of Tokyo International Graduate Program of Innovation for Intelligent World

University of Tokyo Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies

NTCRI National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute

Ichikawa Art Festival




Date: Dec, 2023

Author: Kuan-Ju Wu, Yasuaki kakehi"

Copyright © 2015-2020 Kuan-Ju Wu