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Flocking Bow Valley


  1. Watch the simulation to see how non-normative (pink) boids are affected by crossing paths with normative (white) boids and institutions and non-normative boids and institutions.
  2. Turn on/off the ‘Show Interactions’ button to show effects of harm (red lines) and support (turquoise lines).
  3. Click on a non-normative (pink) boid to hear a real-life story about gender or sexuality-based marginalization and resilience.

Flocking Bow Valley models the emergent behaviour of societal gender and sexuality-based marginalization (harm) and resilience (support). Emergent behaviors are new behaviors (or patterns in a simulation) that are not planned but rather arise from a simple set of rules. What can you see as the kinds of emergent behaviours arising from the simple interactions of harm and support that non-normative (pink) boids experience? What impact do many small harmful interactions have over time? What does harm and support from people and instititutions look like for people of all genders and sexualities?

The stories in the simulation have been collected from people with various gender and sexual identities, including cisgender and transgender, and queer (LGBQ+) and heterosexual people.

Reflection Questions Download

For an extended list of reflection questions to guide interaction with the simulation, download the Flocking QT Stories Reflection Questions PDF

Rules of the Simulation

In the simulation, there are four types of computational agents: normative and non-normative boids or bird-droids (a term coined by Craig Reynolds), and two types of institutions: normative and non-normative. Proximity to normative boids and institutions "drains" energy from the non-normative boids, and proximity to other non-normative boids and institutions increases their energy. Each non-normative boid "carries" and audio story - a first person account of gender and/or sexuality-based marginalization and resilience.

All of the boids move according to Craig Reynolds' (1987) flocking algorithm. In Reynolds' algorithm, the rules obeyed by each boid are alignment, separation, and cohesion. Alignment means that a boid tends to turn so that it is moving in the same direction that nearby boids are moving. Separation means that a boid will turn to avoid another boid which gets too close. Cohesion means that a boid will move towards other nearby boids (unless another boid is too close).

In addition to these forces that are always in play, when a non-normative boid's story is activated, all the non-normative boids' movements are also affected in part by the frequences of the audio file which is broadcasted to all non-normative boids in the simulation. Higher-frequency sounds affect the cohesive motion, lower-frequency sounds affect the separation, and medium-frequency sounds align their directions with neighbouring boids. The overall effect is that the movement pattern of the non-normative boids is visually distinct from the normative boids while a story is being played. The non-normative boids vibrate synchronously while also flocking.

Description and History

Flocking Bow Valley is an extension of the original Flocking QT Stories installation, with all new stories collected from Bow Valley LGBTQ2S+ community members and a redesign of the simulation. Flocking Bow Valley is an interactive simulation of gender and sexuality-based marginalization and resilience. Through art, code, and community stories, Flocking Bow Valley aims to share the diversity of sexuality and gender experiences and how marginalization and resilience show up in our everyday lives. Many local community members have contributed their personal stories to this art-meets-tech installation. This simulation was made possible through the support of artsPlace Canmore and Canmore Pride. Flocking Bow Valley made its debut at artsPlace Canmore during their Festival of Art and Creativity and during the first Canmore Pride Festival.

The Flocking Queer/Trans Simulations are part of Dylan Paré’s dissertation in the Learning Sciences in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary, Canada, where they are researching how people learn, with others and alongside the simulation, about gender and sexuality as complex, emergent phenomena.

The simulation was initially developed during a Paul D. Fleck artist residency in the Leighton Studios at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in April 2019 using Processing 3.5.4. Then in May 2020, it was re-written in Javascript for display on the internet using GitHub and GitHub Pages in order to share the simulation with a larger audience. The simulation has exhibited at artsPlace Canmore, Canmore Pride, the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, TELUS Spark Science Centre, and at DigiPlay, a public exhibit space at the University of Calgary Werklund School of Education.


Research with Flocking QT Stories / Flocking Bow Valley is ongoing as part of Dylan Paré's dissertation research.

  • Paré, D., Shanahan, M-C. & Sengupta, P. (2020). Queering Complexity Using Multi-Agent Simulations. In M. Gresalfi & L. Horn (Eds.), Interdisciplinarity in the Learning Sciences, 14th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS), (pp. 1397-1404). London: International Society of the Learning Sciences. Queering Complexity Using Multi-Agent Simulations.
    • Nominated for Best Student Paper at the 2020 International Conference of the Learning Sciences.

Funding Sources

Funding from artsPlace Canmore, the Elizabeth Cannon Graduate Scholarship in Entrepreneurial Thinking, the US National Science Foundation, the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and Alberta Innovates are gratefully acknowledged. The findings and products of the research are not endorsed by any of the funding agencies.

Authors and Acknowledgements

Bow Valley Flocking was designed by Dylan Paré, and developed by the Queer Code Collective, including Dylan Paré, John Craig, and Scout Windsor. Thank you to the people who shared their personal stories for the purposes of this project.


©The Flocking Bow Valley audio files are the property of the speakers/authors and were shared with the creators of the simulation only for the purposes of their online webpage and public installations. You may not copy, share, re-mix, or otherwise use the audio stories outside of the context of the online webpage. Any derivitaves of the simulation made by anyone other than the Queer Code Collective may not copy, share, re-mix, or otherwise use the audio stories.

©The Flocking Bow Valley code by Dylan Paré is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The Processing implementation of the standard (non-frequency based) flocking algorithm was created by Daniel Shiffman based upon Craig Reynold's Boids program.

Creative Commons License