KS Edouard Song designs and builds technologies as creative expressions of potential futures.

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Phototaxon

2019–present

A photography exercise in creativity.

#Motivation

Most video games take place in a fictional world, governed by imagined laws, where abilities, achievements, and points are often disconnected from the players reality.

This is especially an issue when these games and other gamified apps are available right from our omnipresent smartphones, where they have the opportunity to pollute our free time and disrupt our attention at will. More than a passing disturbance, this influence gradually blurs the boundary between virtual and physical worlds with use, until the fictional achievements and arbitrary numbers take priority over our individual aspirations and needs.

    Phototaxon is a stubborn camera application. It challenges players to capture photos that satisfy a given set of requirements, rejecting any other attempt. This game will unsettle even the most seasoned photographers by issuing more and more demanding specifications: from preferring a simple hue, to requesting a complex colour palette within a certain shape taken at a specific time of the day…

      Fig 1

      From one basic level to an exacting one

      To capture a photo and thus solve the puzzle, players have to move around, explore the world, examine their surroundings, use their knowledge of the environment as well as their ingenuity to find views that would be accepted by the machine. There is no alternative: this camera is as basic as it is uncompromising, it has no filter, no zoom, no flash, nothing, only the ability to take a picture or say no.

        Fig 2

        Find the right spot and the camera will give in

        When a photo is successfully captured, it is compared with solutions from other players, resulting in a numeric score corresponding to its originality. The goal of the game is therefore not only to capture valid photos, but to capture original ones. More, photos are not just a reflection of one’s resourcefulness, they become an expression of one’s originality and inventiveness, a story worthy enough to be shared and told.

          Fig 3

          An original photo and its high score

            Phototaxon is not a game played with the head facing the smartphone screen. On the contrary, it is one of those rare games that can be played with the application closed: once the specifications are known, players hardly need to point their phone to guess the outcome. Phototaxon encourages players to move around freely, have their heads high up, far from the device screen, observing and appreciating the intricacies of the real world, on the look for opportunities that might satisfy the unflinching camera.

            Phototaxon is not a prescriptive game. While some levels may hint towards an obvious solution, the real challenge is to seek out the original and the unexpected. Phototaxon motivates players to make personal choices based on their own experience and judgement to find an answer, not to follow instructions of a scripted story.

            More than the capture of photos, or the pleasure of presenting one’s achievements, Phototaxon gives players an incentive to look at their environment from a different perspective: seek the original in the monotony of life and value the present time and reality, instead of fantasising about an imaginary future.

              Phototaxon is a free-to-play game available right now on the App Store, and is described further on its minisite.

                Selected projects

                • Phototaxon2019–present

                  A photography exercise in creativity.
                • Vocaboscope2015–present

                  A vocabulary trainer directed by the learner’s own reading wishes.
                • Reflecting pool2014

                  A learning method for university courses powered by students’ critical thinking.
                • Koala hoop2013

                  A portable basketball hoop mountable on existing street furniture.
                • Timelines2013

                  A bus stop which empowers travellers in making informed routing decisions.