Between the years of 1995 and 2004 the University of South Carolina, and subsequently the Ars Electronica Centre in Austria, were home to an innovative project called “The Telegarden”. This garden featured an area of dirt and plants inside a planter, which also held an industrial robot arm, which could be controlled through the internet.
How the garden worked, was that people from all over the world were able to observe the garden through a camera in the robot arm, but also, have the power to water and tend to the plants. If there was a free space the robot arm even allowed an individual, through the internet, the ability to plant a seed and take care of it.
Professor Ken Goldberg explained that the decision to use a garden for this interactive project was that it is “very human, very immediate, very tactile”, a stark contrast to the idea of the internet and anything associated with it as complex, mathematical and machine-like. The internet is fast-paced, connecting us to other people and information in milliseconds, but the garden cannot be rushed, it must be cared for carefully,
As Randall Packer states:
“The Telegarden creates a physical garden as an environment to stage social interaction and community in virtual space. The Telegarden is a metaphor for the care and feeding of the delicate social ecology of the net.” – San Jose Museum of Art, April 1998.