Delighted that we’ve been successful in our bid for £2500 of public engagement funds for our interactive permaculture garden exhibit at this years Gardening Scotland festival at the Royal Highland Centre in June.
This will enable us to: employ an intern for a two months; get some technological kit; and of course purchase the necessary plants to convey the layers of permaculture in a novel user-experience.
On Thursday March 2nd I attended the SICSA Future Cities: The Economy of Collaboration workshop at The University of Dundee organised by Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design’s Mel Woods, Nick Taylor and Drew Hemment.
The workshop was well-attended and included the following presentations:
Dr Mara Balestrini – Citizen Sensing – Making Sense H2020. IAAC, Barcelona and Ideas for Change.
Dr Drew Hemment – City Verve – Bottom up and collaborative approaches in the UK’s most recent Smart City IoT Demonstrator in Manchester.
Dr Nick Taylor – Grassroots Innovation around Community Technologies in Ardler, Dundee. ESPRC Hacking for Situated Civic Engagement.
Dr Katarzyna Sila-Nowicka – Smart Data Collection by Citizens. Understanding of the data, related privacy issues and possible applications. Urban Data Centre, University of Glasgow.
Ingi Helgason – The MAZI project: developing a Do-It-Yourself toolkit for creating local community wireless networks. Centre for Interaction Design, Edinburgh Napier University.
Cat Magill – Mediating a collaborative design process in the Engergy for All Project. Research Associate at University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Living Lab.
Alan Dobson and Andrew Kesterton – Smart City notes from a Small City, Dundee City Council.
Some interesting points from the talks include:
the shift from data to the use-case
cities cover three per cent of the earth’s land but output 70 per cent of the pollution
In the afternoon we broke into groups and looked at critical challenges. Our group tackled collaboration and co-design and how art & design may contribute to acceptance of ‘smart behaviours’ (a term no-one was comfortable with). We thought a lot of the problems stemmed from: the cognitive complexity of the technologies; the perceived value of the outcomes; the often top-down methods used; and the dynamics of particular communities.
Following the workshop the organisers were kind enough to give me one of the Grow Observatory ‘Parrot Flower Power Bluetooth wireless plant monitor’ sensors to test (see image). They’ve apparently bought thousands of them for their project. So in the coming weeks I’ll be helping them calibrate the sensor and also personally be critiquing it.
On the weekend of 25th-26th February I and a group of ten other ‘agents of change’ got stuck into PDC 2 at Graham and Nancy Bells’ Garden Cottage in Coldstream, Scottish Borders. Garden Cottage is the oldest food forest garden in the UK (26 years mature).
An early start on Saturday, picking up ride-shares at Barnton and IKEA, for kick off at 09:30. The journey takes about an hour.
On Saturday we focused on capturing and storing energy – potential, kinetic, entropic. We perused yields (true yield = outputs minus inputs). We looked at reduce, reuse, repair, recycle and the need to produce fertility in the soil. We talked about; choices; Earthships; biological, mechanical and chemical solutions; Diggers and Dreamers, grafting apple trees onto hawthorn hedges, William Lindsay Renwick, the Jean Pain Way, and patterns.
Lunch was a delicious curried combination of produce from the garden, after-which Nancy and Graham’s son Sandy (a trustee of the Permaculture Association) took us walkabout – noting inputs and outputs. The day ended with Graham asking us a couple of questions to muse:
Lunch was a fabulous mix of veg from the garden (with a meat option for the non-veggies) with lots of baby/micro leaves on the side, kimchi and a selection of seeded breads, followed by an apple, marzipan and nutmeg tart. Yum.
The weekend drew to a close with lots of discussion and the over-arching sense that we need to capture carbon (plant trees), and halt the damage being done to the continental shelves (clean-up the seas).
There’s no course in March but we return early April, eager to take things further.
Our ‘poster’ will be a fruit tree guild in a pot that will demonstrate the idea of companion planting and the layers used in designing permaculture gardens. The exhibit will act as a gateway to our research, and we’re hopeful that we’ll have some interactive aspects available too by then – maybe one of the GROW Observatory’s soil sensors and some audio-visual-haptic experience.
Our research concerns blending permaculture and user-experience, and the pot-garden is a prototype of our larger work at Edinburgh Napier’s Merchiston campus where we’re developing a full garden space along these lines.
The GROW Observatory is “a citizens’ observatory for growers, researchers and decision makers.” and I’m attending a SICSA workshop they’re running on March 2nd around grassroots smart cities, which includes speakers from GROW and Making Sense (a related EU citizen sensing project).
We’re also hoping to be a part of the GROW Observatory’s pilot campaign. More details to follow…..
The Lions Gate Garden project with its associated kitchen garden off-shoot continues to progress and pull in stakeholders and interested parties.
A meeting has been scheduled for 9th March involving Properties & Facilities, Information Systems/Library and the School of Computing to move the project further along. The idea is to embed our project within the grander plans for Merchiston, along the Creative Campus theme.
We’re also hoping to work closely with the design department on lighting and haptic interactions, and on the design of specific garden elements, such as pots, markers, touch-points, bird-boxes etc.
Our ideas are gaining traction. That is, to provide spaces for students and staff to unwind, learn, experiment, entertain, play and perform, within a permaculture garden setting that has novel, engaging, fun, thought-provoking, digitally triggered experiences to hand, if you so wish to engage with them.
Key to the success of the project is an outward-facing approach. We’re keen to make the edges of the project, transitional zones where university meets public, and to foster close-working relationships with local communities, businesses, charities and individuals.
I’ve been spending necessary time within the two campus spaces to get a feel for their particular environments and to allow the creative juices to flow. Drawings, photographs and notes are accumulating at a fair pace now, and along with the extensive reading I’ve been doing on permaculture, garden design and sustainable HCI (I’m building a library wall at home to accommodate all the texts), and the 15 years of expertise I have in user-experience practice (and even longer association with media production) – new ideas are beginning to emerge from the ether. Exciting times ahead.
We have two third year group projects on the go. One project is looking at audio interactions in a permaculture garden setting, using solar-powered BLE sensors, particularly focusing on energy requirements and the quality/nuances of transitions between beacons. The other group are looking at video interactions in garden spaces, triggered by wood-crafted anchors, for example designed QR/AR codes.
Much has been happening on the permaculture/user experience project since the start of the year.
In early January Billie O’Neill and myself met with Holly Benyon and Amanda Palmer to discuss how Napier and Changeworks could collaborate on projects. Holly provided us with information on grey-water harvesting technology and Bille and Amanda discussed ways that Changeworks could help Estates with waste management. We then proceeded to have a walk-about the Lions Gate Garden and the proposed area for a kitchen garden.
It was agreed that once our Merchiston Garden projects are up-and-running then co-operation between the two organisations could likely take the form of community education. The gardens could be utilized as spaces for community groups/businesses/individuals to engage with the university and Changeworks could provide expertise in this area, in terms of workshops and learning materials.