Living Systems Collaboratory

In the 2020-21 Living Systems Art + Design Collaboratory, a group of 26 emerging artists and designers developed creative projects to aid people in perceiving the biological, social, ecological, philosophical, spiritual, mathematical, political and technological dimensions of life as a unified whole, inspired by living systems, and considering both nonlinear and linear relationships. The program culminated in a series of online presentation where the participants presented and discussed their work.

Watch the Presentations

2020-21 Collaboratory Participants


About the Collaboratory

UC Irvine's Embodied Media Research Group (EMRG) partnered with the Design Science Studio (DSS), a program of the Buckminster Fuller Institute and habRitual, to operate the Living Systems Art + Design Collaboratory* from November 2020 through March 2021. The program was structured in three phases as outlined below. During each phase, creators received financial support linked to their progress.


In the Incubator phase, creators developed their initial proposal into a proof-of-concept prototype, Working within an iterative design framework facilitated by DSS and EMRG. Creators received a start-up financial award upon acceptance.


In the Development phase, selected Incubator projects were supported for further exploration and development into fully-realized form, again mentored by DSS and EMRG. Creators selected for this phase received an additional financial award.


In the Presentation phase, completed projects from the Development phase were polished for online exhibition. Creators selected for this phase received an additional financial award linked to the public presentation of their project.

Living Systems Philosophy

Participants responded to the theme: "everything is a system."

Humans occupy a self-organizing living system (our planet) with an inherent capability to sustain life. Living systems are cognitive entities with an inherent tendency to structure themselves in nonlinear network patterns capable of performing highly complex functions with minimum effort. The nonlinear nature of the digital era is an indication of the emergence of our planet's ongoing processes of self-organizing and self-awareness. For humanity to synchronize with this process we can look to systems theory and network theory (which provide the essential and universal behavioral patterns of living systems) as guidelines for harmonious and creative participation with our planet. There is a deeper simplicity within the living world. Human beings are an interconnected and inseparable part of this nonlinear living system, but too often we employ linear thinking strategies that risk making the human network unsustainable.


As Buckminster Fuller reminded us, we live in an “eternally regenerative Universe.” Living systems are regenerative by nature. A design scientist taps into the regenerative capability of ecosystems to discover elegant solutions. Regenerative design offers a framework in which humans are part of a larger, living whole. Regenerative development is a process that focuses on the ability of human beings to co-evolve with nature so that our planetary home continues to express its potential for diversity, complexity and creativity. When we understand the principles of regeneration, we celebrate life.