The Language of Trees

How can interactions with natural objects and interactive infographics help to understand complex topics?

Trees do not have a consciousness like we humans do. Therefore complex exchange processes in the forest between trees and other living beings are difficult to imagine.

Natural objects become interactive elements through different sensors and an Arduino. Infographics show internal chemical processes, while interactions represent external influences on trees.

Two processes take place in the forest. Nutrient exchange between trees and fungi and warning signal transmission between trees.

1. Nutrient exchange

Sunlight shines on the largest and oldest trees in the forest. They produce a lot of sugar through photosynthesis, which they do not need entirely for themselves. The trees pass the excess sugar on to fungi. The fungi absorb various nutrients from the soil via their mycelium. In return for the sugar, they deliver the tree's nutrients and an exchange network with other trees.

2. Warning signal transmission

If insects attack a tree, it produces stress hormones. These are dispersed through the air and trigger tannin production in other trees. That makes the leaves inedible for the insects and protects the rest of the forest from them.

The model consists of two hand-sized boxes. Each circular cut-out shows a natural material. When one covers the leaves by hand, no light falls on the light sensor. Hence, the glucose production in the infographic stops. When tapping the bark, the visualization shows the release of stress hormones.

The installation could be used in a setting of an exhibition.

That’s how natural objects control interactive infographics to make complex connections understandable and tangible.