The All River Species Act 2021

A collaborative world and policy building project.

This is an ongoing collaborative project exploring the possibilities that legal frameworks, artificial intelligence and indigenous philosophies offer to build better relationships with non-human life.

Launched in the frame of FIBER festivals Reassemble Lab: ‘Weaving With Worlds’, this project takes as its starting point the granting of legal personhood to the Whanganui River on the North Island of New Zealand.  In 2017 the river became the world’s second natural environment (after Te Urewera also in New Zealand in 2014) to be given its own legal identity, with the rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person. By combining storytelling and natural language processing we consider the potential of world-building tools to give imagination to much needed socio-ecological transformations in light of these developments in environmental law.

Our process began by trying to find a voice or voices for the river. We explored the inadequacies of legal frameworks and, by extension, the abilities and constraints of language to accurately capture and define a river ecosystem in all its facets. We pondered where a river begins and ends: exploring the perspectives, experiences and happenings in the lives of non-human dwellers. We explored Indigenous ways of being with rivers, interweaving rituals and stories. We try to capture the songs, spirits and the many voices that co-exist in simultaneity within river worlds. We are exploring ways of decentering ourselves as the creators by collaborating with GPT2 generated text, sound collaborations with AI and 3D imagery.  Through these questions and processes we have created two river spirits and explored a virtual rivers world in Unreal engine for these spirits to inhabit. We have created our own serious yet playful legal river policy framework and processes for engaging with rivers in their totality. And we have developed and presented a workshop and a river field trip audio guide.

This is an ongoing research and art project that has space for many new pathways to open out.  We are currently gathering feedback from our latest outputs and looking towards an installation that will allow us to integrate many aspects of our creative process into a cohesive audience experience.


Current project outcomes

The All Rivers Species Act 2021 policy document. 

Working with GPT2 we trained two new models and had access to a third to generate text in response to carefully posed questions and prompts. With three gpt2 models, we had three different ways of answering, giving us a plurality of voices to work with. These responses were then curated, edited and structured by our human team members, into a cohesive policy document.  This document is now being sent to selected legal and environmental experts for feedback and further development.

An audio-visual response

Combining our river spirits, selected GPT2 generated text and river audio collected in collaboration with algorithms and manipulated by our team we created an audio-visual response.  You can view the video below.

A workshop

‘The Rivers Journey: a guided river interaction’ which was held at FIBER Festival 28 + 30 October 2021.  This is a collaborative river understanding workshop. Semi fictional, half reality.  We, the All River Species Act Organisation, take you on a journey through legal frameworks, AI and indigenous philosophies to recognize and relate to non-human life, in order to better know the river.  This is a workshop in three parts; Part 1 is a presentation of ideas, Part 2 is an individual river ‘field trip’ using our River Interaction audio guide, Part 3 is a collaborative exchange of river experiences.

A guided river field trip kit.

Build a better relationship and connect with your local river.  Download the field trip kit here.

Project Team

  • Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti,
  • Jenny Hadley,
  • Lily McCraith,
  • Cristina Napoleone,
  • Nayeli Vega,
  • Jemma Woolmore
  • and GPT2.