Sustainable HCI: Insights from Permaculture Workshop

On the 1st September 2016 at Edinburgh Napier University, Prof. David Benyon and I hosted a workshop sponsored by the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA) and the Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction United Kingdom (SIGCHI UK) titled: Sustainability in Human-Computer Interaction: Insights from Permaculture.

Dr. Mike Hazas (Lancaster University) delivered a keynote on “Sustainable Human-Computer Interaction: Current approaches and future directions”, that included startling figures on the energy demands of digital technology. Following this keynote Graham Bell (author, teacher, gardener, agent for change) discussed “Work less, waste nothing, share abundance. – an overview of the permaculture design perspective.

In between the keynotes Dr. Nick Taylor (University of Dundee) informed on the GROW Observatory – a citizens’ observatory for family farmers, gardeners and growers funded by the EC Horizon 2020 program (visit to get involved), and Prof. Shaun Lawson (University of Northumbria) reflected on doing an art-digital tech show garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show (his team won a Gold Medal in 2013!).

Participants contributed enthusiastically to the workshop throughout, and after lunch brainstormed what a permaculture garden supplemented with appropriate digital technology might be like?

There was talk of a modular, mobile permaculture garden that could travel around the country; pop-up permaculture gardens; community technology; gardening as research; augmented-reality gardens, the internet of fungi; presence in gardens; technology-powered by plants; and the blend of digital and real-world permaculture.

Our hope is to develop a computationally enhanced garden in the Edinburgh area that provides a reflective and engaging blended space (a mixed media place) for learning about permaculture, sustainable systems design and encouraging activism.

If you’d like to get involved with the development of this regenerative blended space please contact me at:

Presentations from the workshop

Work less, Waste nothing, Share abundance – Graham Bell
Reflections on doing a show garden at Chelsea RHS Flower Show – Shaun Lawson
The GROW Observatory – Nick Taylor

Northern Soil

In May this year I visited Garden Cottage, Coldstream, Scotland (the oldest food forest garden in the UK) – for a meeting with Andy Goldring (CEO Permaculture Association), Lesley Anderson (Permaculture Scotland) and Graham Bell (author, teacher, gardener).

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the development of a Permaculture KnowledgeBase – an online, location specific, globally distributed permaculture resource and network. More on this at a later date.

Garden Cottage is a magical and inspirational place. The garden, which for many years was an extension of just the Bell family’s living room, has lately been open to visitors too. I don’t want to say too much about it as the film below reveals more than I could put into words.

Graham was kind enough to answer a few questions to camera, and take me on a guided walkabout:

More films are in the offing, so watch this space.