Dan Macnish

Art. Design. Engineering.

Live Data


What if a plant could play the role of a billboard, conveying information to us about the health of the cities we live in?


Live Data uses a living organism to display traffic congestion data. A basil plant responds to the daily ebb and flow of Melbourne traffic, wilting when roads are congested, and flourishing when traffic flows freely. Developed over a two month stint at Space Tank Studio, the project harnesses live data from the VicRoads open data platform to control water and nutrient delivery to the plant. In an age where people are increasingly isolated from natural processes, Live Data imparts digital information through a living interface.

The project uses a raspberry pi to read traffic data at fifteen minute intervals from the Vic Roads open data platform. The health of the plant is controlled via closed loop proportional control, with feedback from a soil moisture sensor. Every fifteen minutes, water and nutrients are delivered to the plant. The volume of nutrient solution depends on the traffic.

I exhibited Live Data as part of Media Lab Melbourne’s Urban Reneural exhibition. The exhibition featured work from four different artists responding to the prompt ‘How can we rewire the city through technology, data, and artistic processes?’

Live Data is a further exploration of my work with organic indicators. You can find the (quite messy) source code for the project on my github.

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