Every time you establish a secure web connection your device and the computer it’s communicating with exchange a pair of numbers. These are used to create a temporary encryption key. The described process is a cryptography technique that relies on a chain of random numbers in order to keep your information safe.
There are two types of random numbers: true and pseudo. Unless it is by chance, a true random number is a sequence of numbers or symbols that cannot be predicted. Pseudo-random number behaviour, on the other hand, can be predicted if the generation method is known.
To ensure the safety of online communications we need true random numbers. Such sequences can be found when a machine works with physical phenomena. Currently there are some true random number generators (RNGs) which use white noise, radioactive decay or even lava lamps as their source.
With 4.57 billion of us actively using the internet and the growing threat of cyber security, further exploration is needed of new and reliable sources of entropy for true random number generators.
Presented here is a two part project. Firstly, a proof of concept for Bacteria as a Digital Mediator RNG, which resulted from collaboration with software programmers and Open Cell. And secondly, a proposal for an interactive installation that brings to life the worlds of microbiology and cryptography and invites the audience to play with these apparently abstract but critical topics.
Playful curiosity is the catalyst for my research-led design practice that draws from social and cognitive sciences and maker culture. I create process-based immersive installations that invite the audience to rediscover their own childlike wonder and natural ability to create rich alternative narratives and new ways of seeing and knowing.
My background in museum education provides a rich foundation for this collaborative approach that negotiates the intersection between product interface and interaction design.
Installation (gallery view)
Installation (close up)
To start a conversation and take the project further, the proposed installation would invite the audience to engage with this topic. Through the interaction, human hand bacteria can be collected in order to further the research. Both as a speculative provocation in an education and cultural context, Bacteria as a Digital Mediator RNG could have applications in technology, science and art industry.
This installation, consisting of capsules that hold petri dishes, computers and flip counter is an illustration of how one's hand microbiome can become a random number. By opening the capsule and leaving hand print on the petri dish, the flip counter is activated and the sequence changes from predictable to random. The imprint left on the petri dish can be sent to the lab where cultivating bacteria and hashing can be carried out.