Starting a Garden, Caring for It, Growing with It


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Presentation of work-in-progress on urban gardening practices at the ECSCW'13 conference in Paphos, Cyprus, 24 September 2013

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Starting a Garden, Caring for It, Growing with It

  1. 1. Starting a Garden, Caring for It, Growing with It – a Study on Collective Practices in Urban Gardening Gabriela Avram Interaction Design Centre University of Limerick Work-in-Progress presentation at the ECSCW’13 conference, Cyprus
  2. 2. Outline  Sustainability and Post-Sustainability  The Resilience Discourse  Related research: Urban Food Communities  Case studies:  A community roof garden  A secret orchard  Challenges and Opportunities  Future Work  Sharing a “taste of (urban gardens) in Ireland”
  3. 3. Introduction  Post sustainability workshop at CHI 2013 discussed an alternative approach to sustainability issues;  What if we have to brace ourselves for “a world of limitations and a world of scarcity”? (Pargman 2013)  The role of communities becomes increasingly important in how we deal with limitations in today’s world;  Phenomena such as hackerspaces, transition towns, urban gardening and other local initiatives that involve new settings for cooperative work.
  4. 4. Resilience and Urban Gardens  Resilience is a key factor in the communities’ ability to adapt to unexpected changes;  Resilient communities – communities that have access to a wide range of resources, strong social ties and availability of support (Dillahunt 2013);  Grassroots movements shape our cities, cultures and politics and enable stakeholders to voice their concerns and act as agents of change (Kuznetov et al 2011);  Understanding the underlying values of urban communities such as maker spaces, urban food communities, citizen activist groups, in order to map the technologies they currently use and explore new design opportunities.
  5. 5. Research focusing on Urban Food Communities  Odom (2010) - food growing communities in Australia;  Tran (2012) - an urban food growing project in Central Harlem;  Ilsted (2013) - Spitalfields City Farm East London;  Lyle, Choi&Foth (2013 )- Urban Agriculture in Brisbane, Australia;  The reasons why people get involved in urban gardening communities - classical sustainability ambitions to:  promote bio diversity,  reduce the distance food has to travel from its production place,  avail of fresh fruit and vegetable produced locally  recycle biodegradable waste  Urban gardening - an interesting resilience strategy in response to volatile global food markets and breakdowns of the supply infrastructure in the case natural or manmade disasters.
  6. 6. Case 1 -A Community Roof Garden  Space re-furbished in September 2012;  In January 2013, a wide consultation process was initiated to research the volunteers’ attitudes and motivations towards the rooftop garden development.
  7. 7. Technology support and problems  Ad-hoc – general mailing list;  Doodle, surveymonkey;  List of email addresses;  University mailing list;  Website (Wordpress) - public-facing information outlet, meant to provide public visibility and to document the activities; also serves as coordination mechanism;  Facebook Page- started in July;  Several contributors to the site and page managers; contributions fluctuate.
  8. 8. Future work  Establishing a routine for “media work” just like the one for garden work;  Mounting a camera above the garden level to allow both recording and displaying the evolution of the garden throughout the seasons;  Installing temperature and moisture sensors in the vegetable beds to allow distant monitoring and allow the garden to “ask for help” - via Twitter or email.
  9. 9. Case 2: The “Secret Orchard”  Limerick Riverpaths Volunteers - a biodiversity activist group created in January 2012 by people who care about the river and canal banks connecting the university and the city;  The volunteers set to demonstrate that ordinary people using the area can contribute to its maintenance without relying exclusively on the local authorities.
  10. 10. Use of Technology  The Facebook Page – “We love Plassey river bank” - instrumental in forming a community;  Renamed as Limerick Riverpaths Volunteers;  Facebook Events used for coordination;  Facebook material later transferred to a website;  Photo albums on Flickr for raising awareness;  Walking the banks and talking to people; small cards for events including online presence pointers.
  11. 11. The “Secret Orchard” project  25 apple and pear trees to be planted on the Canal bank;  Section of the website dedicated to trees history;  Each tree is being adopted by a family/person;  Research ongoing for finding a solution to allow “reading the identity of a tree” with a smart phone.
  12. 12. Challenges and opportunities  Communities are fluid and engagement is seasonal;  Attempting to be all inclusive involves going beyond web & mobile technologies;  Supporting awareness, knowledge sharing and coordination are paramount;  Taking care of our local environment and growing our own food: is this “real work”?  Technological support and augmentation, NOT automation!
  13. 13. Conclusion  Designing for resilience has to take into account specific design sensitivities;  Non-intrusive technologies preferred;  High tech has to go hand-in-hand with low tech;  The barriers for contributing have to be lowered.
  14. 14. Thank you! My “poster” setting:  Peppermint tea;  Beetroot tart recipe;  Irish apples Comments welcome!   @gabig58  