Interspecies Interactions Mediated by Technology: An Avian Case Study at the Zoo

Rebecca Kleinberger

Kleinberger, Rébecca, et al. "Interspecies Interactions Mediated by Technology: An Avian Case Study at the Zoo." ACM CHI 2020 Conference (April 2020).


Enrichment is a methodology for caregivers to offer zoo an- imals improved psychological and physiological well-being. Although many species rely on auditory senses, sonic enrich- ment is rarely implemented. Zoo soundscapes are dominated by human-generated noises and do not respond meaningfully to animals’ behavior. Designing interactive sonic enrichment systems for animals presents unique ergonomic, ethical, and agency-related challenges. We present a case study of such design. We deployed two novel interventions at the San Diego Zoo to allow Sampson, a music-savvy hyacinth macaw, to gain control over his sonic environment. Our results suggest that (1) the bird uses, understands, and benefits from the system, and (2) visitors play a major role in Sampson’s engagement with this technology. With his new agency, the bird seem- ingly gains more control over his interactions with the public, creating an interspecies experience mediated by technology. The resulting animal-human-computer interaction may inform mediated interspecies experiences in the future. 

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