This project is a collaboration between Kevin Slavin, Director of the Playful Systems Group at the MIT Media Lab, his research assistant Miguel Perez, Dr. Elizabeth Henaff and Dr. Chris Mason from the Mason Lab at Weil Cornel, Devora Najjar from The Cooper Union, Chris Woebken from the Extrapolation Factory, Regina Flores Mir from Parsons School of Design, local beekeepers in Brooklyn and Queens, and it was made possible by the generous support of the Mori Building Corporation, Tokyo. It is at once a scientific research endeavor and an art and design proposition for bringing the microbial world to life.   






A holobiont is a biomolecular network composed of the host plus its associated microbes, e.g., humans, animals, or plants. As such, their collective genomes form a “hologenome.” 




Refers to both the material aspects of urban living and the cultural aspects of city life.


Holobiont Urbanism is a research endeavor that sets out to study, map, and visualize the microbiome of New York City, inviting participants to reimagine the city they live in as more than a vast metropolis, but rather as a complex and adaptive biological superstructure. Quantitative and artistic methods are used to produce data visualizations that are the basis for a data art installation created by using thermal imaging to capture a live video stream of streets in New York, web-based 3D technologies to artistically render the video, and a design aesthetic crafted from a scientific framework. The project seeks to distort the participant’s perception of the known reality so as to see the city through the lens of the microbial world. Once aware of the companion species that live among us, on us, and in us, participants may begin to review what it means to be human and their relationship to their bodies and to their urban environments.

MFA Thesis Paper is published here: