Interactive exhibit at Scotland’s Garden Festival

The Canopy Anchor
The Canopy anchor

Three very successful days at Scotland’s Garden Festival (2-4th June 2017) engaging around three hundred people with our interactive permaculture garden exhibit – a great example of harvesting edge.

A collaboration between Edinburgh Napier University’s Centre for Interaction Design and renowned permaculturist Graham Bell resulted in a 4msq pallet garden that demonstrated the layers of a food forest, enhanced by digital interactions, utilising the Blippar platform – triggered by ‘material anchors’ embedded within the garden.

Graham Bell engages the public
Graham Bell engages the public

A diverse audience showed interest in our work:

  • people interested in sustainability
  • people worried about declining bee populations
  • families
  • homesteaders
  • people with particular garden issues
  • people who knew a little about permaculture
  • people keen to do permaculture
  • people who have done/are doing permaculture
  • school teachers
  • councillors
  • people from all social classes
  • other stall holders and organisations
  • garden designers
  • an advertising executive
  • academics/educators
  • doubters
  • event organisers
Viewport, horizontal and canopy anchors in situ
Viewport, horizontal and canopy anchors in situ

Several people were keen to see our ideas delivered via a mobile experience in schools or via other public bodies, such as councils or canal authorities. The ability of the technology to reveal what is hidden is a popular idea.

Though we had inevitable technical issues (the triggered animations often crashed), we managed, via a bespoke web interface to show permaculture films and also used analog means (conversation, books, stickers and leaflets to convey what we are trying to do), that is, paradoxically, utilise digital technology to convey sustainability. Our tablet viewers chained to the garden highlighted how ‘clunky’ interaction in the wilds still is.

The process of putting the exhibit together (doing it), has propagated many research questions and issues that need to be addressed going forward – we talked about; getting away from screen-based interactions (glare was a big problem), the need for exhibit prompts, presence-led interaction, motion-triggered experiences, elemental design, immersive experiences, a geodesic/bower cinema cave, a controlled environment to feed nuanced experiences.

Personally, I was happy to see our garden attract bees, butterflies, ladybirds and dragonflies. Perhaps, in the future we can trigger novel interactions through these and other creatures, in our ongoing permanent story….

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