‘Connected Seeds’ exhibition opens

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have created an interactive library of talking seeds, which gives users a potted history of the plants grown in the east end of London, and tells the stories of the people who grow them.        

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Connected Seeds library (c) Sara Heitlinger
Connected Seeds library (c) Sara Heitlinger

The cabinet of curiosity will be exhibited at the Rich Mix Cultural Foundation in Shoreditch for the first time from 31 January to 12 February 2017, where members of the general public will have the opportunity to hear first-hand the stories of the diverse group of people that make up east London food growers, gardeners and seed-savers community.

The library is part of the exhibition Connected Seeds and uses interactive content, video, photographs, sound, and data visualisations to tell the stories of the people who grew and donated the seeds.

The project used networked environmental sensors and tagging technologies to link the physical seeds inside the interactive library cabinet to the stories of the people who donated those seeds to the library.

Over 25 seeds are displayed in the cabinet and people can hear a number of stories from fourteen Seed Guardians, from individual and community gardens.

Sara Heitlinger, a digital artist and postdoctoral researcher at QMUL’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, together with researchers Nick Bryan-Kinns and Hamed Haddadi, also from the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, led the work on the research project which resulted in the exhibition. They explored how digital technologies, including Internet of Things devices, can support more sustainable urban food practices. The research grew out of Dr. Heitlinger’s PhD, which she completed at the innovative Media and Arts Technology Doctoral Training Centre at QMUL.

Dr Heitlinger said: “Too often digital technologies are designed in a lab by ‘experts’ and given to the end user. Our research has involved those who will be affected by our designs in the design process itself. We are not telling people how to be more sustainable. Rather, we are using digital technology to support and share existing practices and values that the community identify as sustainable.

“Our aim is that people from any background, age, or experience can engage with the playful and informative Connected Seeds Library, and be inspired to grow their own food and save their own seeds.”

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