A few weeks before this Wiretap, the new TechnoSphere site from London opened on the World Wide Web. The site represents a unique exploration of the interactive potentials of electronic networks, of practical aspects of user interaction, and of the formation of virtual communities. It offers the visitors access to a three-dimensional virtual landscape which forms the 'natural' habitat of TechnoSphere's artificial creatures. The users design these artificial life forms by choosing component body parts and by selecting from a range of behavioural characteristics.
After a 'creature' has been released into the TechnoSphere, it begins to 'live' there and to interact with the 'creatures' that have been designed by other users. The whole system is self-organising according to the laws that have been set by the team of developers. The 'creatures' have to find food - they can be carnivores or herbivores -, they join up with others in couples or groups, they procreate, eat each other - all depending on their given properties and needs. From time to time, the 'creature' will send its parent / designer an e-mail message with a report about its current location, and about significant events in its evolution like having created a tenth generation, or about its death. The users can also request an image of the 'creature' in its environment. Already a lively exchange is developing between the the TechnoSphere team and users who request new possibilities for interacting with their 'creations'.
The project raises important questions about the development of artificial life in electronic networks, and about the relation between art and technology. It tackles the wide-spread cultural unease about computer simulations of nature and makes a statement about possible future developments on the Internet. It is 'a celebration of reproduction' - of artificial creatures as well as of software, designs, and of artistic creativity.
Heath Bunting is a London-based media artist interested in the contents and the mobility of information in public spaces who preferably uses easy-tech solutions for his projects. For his Cybercafe@KingsX he gave his friends the numbers of public telephones at Kings Cross railway station who called these numbers at a fixed time and involved accidental passers-by in lively online-discussions right in the station hall. On the Internet Bunting has pioneered the development of wandering websites that have no fixed server. He also created a global telephone directory of public phonebooths, a project through which he wanted to encourage the creation of new public cultural areas around these booths.