Belonging to Soil is an organically-emerging, collaborative virtual reality project. It is based on an important part of our reality, but one we barely perceive. Mostly it is hiding beyond our perceptual capabilities. 
  • We get whiffs of it when we notice the scent after it rains.
  • We might glimpse an earthworm, or centipede, traveling above ground.
  • If we look very closely at moist soil we might see a mite or a springtail. 
But we don’t experience the vastness or complexity of the soil ecosystem. In every handful of soil there are trillions of  living creatures whose activities create the conditions and nutrients required for plants to grow. In turn, they make life possible for animals like us, who lack the ability to convert sunlight into food.
springtail with friends and enemies interactions

Springtail with friends, enemies, and known interactions

Belonging to Soil is being designed and created by a team of artists, designers and computer scientists. Shadrick Addy, Mayen McClain, Luke Stephens, JT Thrash, and Amy Youngs. We are simulating an underground soil world inhabited by creatures that can be “played” by people, offering us an embodied experience. What happens underground is hidden from our eyes, so we rarely appreciate the complex interactions between microfauna such as fungi and bacteria, mesofauna such as springtails and mites, megafauna, such as earthworms and ants, and how these interactions affect plants and our atmosphere, which are required for human life.
  • Our goal is to create a playful, open-ended, underground soil world able to be experienced in VR by multiple players.
  • We hope learn from – and empathize with – soil ecosystems by simulating and embodying them.
  • Our motivation is to increase appreciation and care for soil; a living, non-renewable resource that human life depends upon. 
Soil is a critically important part of our earthly commons, yet it is being depleted with widespread industrial agricultural practices. We hope to learn from the soil simulations and avatar interactions and hope to foster better soil citizenship, which will benefit the flourishing of biodiversity for all.  

Screen capture of the first scene of Belonging to Soil. You’ll start above ground, then navigate through a tunnel to an underground chamber. Click image to see more.