PTown Constellations, 2011

create a dynamic portrait of a theoretical world, like our own, facing a shortage of usable phosphorus. This compound, essential to agriculture, food production, and the fabrication of many materials, lies at the center of a growing debate about sustainable practices versus economic and political priorities. These constellations allow users to rank phosphorus conservation methods and see how resulting consequences compare to each other. Through interaction, they learn about phosphorus conservation issues and how their personal, political and economic choices affect others.

Users rank conservation methods using a physical game board, and see choices represented in an LCD projection of a "constellation." This constellation, inspired by the PlanPHX visioning process, takes the form of the human/ phosphorus cycle, from extraction to production (and, possibly, recycling). Based on ranking, cubes representing conservation schemes appear to grow closer or recede. Similarly, icons representing consequences grow or shrink in accordance with their potential intensity given the ranking scheme.

Each conservation method and consequence is indicated with an icon. These icons, "sampled" from ancient Celtic artifacts and "hacked" using contemporary photo doctoring techniques, incorporate a design aesthetic that emphasizes interconnectedness. Mirroring the complexity of the human/ phosphorus cycle, Celtic knots connect in unexpected ways, requiring close inspection to perceive their true path. These images, which reference human and animal forms, also recall patterns attributed to clusters of stars.

Whereas our ancestors saw figures emerge from points in the night sky, we see them arise from our complex resource extraction and allocation systems. Do these figures appear as angels or monsters? The PTown Constellations let the viewer decide.