For a while now, I’ve been part of a research project at the Utrecht School of the Arts, called Playing with Pigs. Up till now, I’ve referred to it as project Buta on this blog. We’re researching the weird relationship humans have with domesticated pigs. You know, pigs that are farmed for meat. The way we are researching this relationship is by designing a game. It is called Pig Chase.
Today I’m excited to be able to share the video sketch we made as a first step towards this game.
We’re making a game for several reasons. On the one hand, it allows you to experience questions related to the subject of pig farming first hand. Questions such as: are pigs intelligent animals? Is farming pigs for meat cruel? And so on. The other thing a game can do is transform how you relate to pigs. We’re exploring a new relationship, one that takes elements from how we deal with animals in the farm, the circus and the home.
The video sketch of Pig Chase is our way of putting the design of the game out there, to see how the world at large responds to it.
The choice for light as a medium is the result of a systematic exploration of what kinds of stimuli pigs respond to. We were aware of some evidence indicating pigs enjoy light. But when we saw how they reacted to a laser pointer, we knew we were on to something.
In case you’re wondering: yes, the plan is to actually build this thing. That’s the next step.
I’m looking forward to exploring the forms of play this system affords. I’m also keen on experimenting more with the idea of a symmetrical play space, and forms of play that are actually cognitively challenging to pigs. On the human side I am mostly fascinated by intimacy with an animal that is actually quite remote.
For more details, including full credits of everyone involved, refer to the official Playing with Pigs project website. There’s also a press release available, and a set of high resolution images.
Finally, I’d like to highlight the amazing work done by my collaborators: Irene van Peer, who has been my sounding board on interaction design from the start, and whose expertise on everything ranging from participatory design methods to materials and construction has been indispensable. And Hein Lagerweij, whose broad range of video production and motion graphics skills have made this whole thing come to life in an amazing way. I’d also like to thank Clemens Driessen for his perspective on the ethics around technology and livestock farming, and Marinka Copier for her trust and vision.