Bots, Cells, and Humans Watching

A speculative ecosystem where inorganic life forms and single-cell organisms come together in symbiosis. Humans are invited along, but only as observers.

Part digital, part physical, fully alive. The piece can be accessed though the estuary website Here, the digital Internet meets the physical world, connecting servers to a bioreactor growing living cells. This clash creates an environment subject to both physical and digital influences, creating a peculiar habitat capable of supporting new forms of life and symbiotic relationships.

As inorganic living organism (crawlers, fetchers, scraper, spammers, hacking tools, etc.), bots for short, visit the server, their presence is recorded and their behavior studied. What were they looking for? What were they trying to do? The information is then used to turn the server into a more alluring honeypot, designed to attract bots, and if possible, keep them coming back.

As bots move through the estuary, going through links and filling out forms, their movement releases food into the paramecia bioreactor. Paramecia are single-cell eukaryotic organisms belonging to the kingdom of Protista. They are neither plants, nor animal, nor fungi. As the Paramecia population changes, it begins to modify the server, altering what types of bots to attract or push away.

Last come the Humans Watching. When humans visit, they are presented with a live video stream of the paramecium through a microscope, they can telepresently control the microscope and explore different parts of the environment. Humans can also see a live log of recent bots in the server, observe their behavior and intentions. Humans do not have direct access to influence the system.

Fetured Images

Microscope with controls and live camera
Website and Human Visualization
(The servers are not shown in the image)



Photo: Tiri Kananuruk

Screen Capture
Human accessible part of

On the left is a live feed of the microscope, on the right a live feed of bots as they visit the server.

Every time the number on the top right reaches 100%, a dose of food is released into the bioreactor. The number increases as bots arrive to the server.

Paramecia eating
This video was recorded a week after the water sample was collected






Migration Patterns
Over the curse of 2 months that the project was live, information such as IP address was collected to be later analyzed.

Bots could be classified into different types, all showing different behaviors and migration routes. 

The bioreactor is capable of providing food to the cells, oxygenating the water, as well as controlling fluid levels inside the reactor.

Future iterations will control light composition and temperature.

Photo: Tiri Kananuruk

Microscope Control
The human control over the system is limited to movement of the microscope slide and scrolling though the server logs.


Humans are invited along, but only as observers. 


Video Presentation



Thank you:
Kat Sullivan
PhD Carlo Quiñonez
PhD Elizabeth Henaff
Jannae Jacks
Yen Chen
Tom Igoe
Shawn Van Every

Special thanks to:
Tiri Kananuruk
Aaron Montoya
Yuli Cai