Indiana University | firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan Coleman Morse
Indiana University | email@example.com
[ 1] This edition of
advances some themes
uncovered in research
by the permaculture
research group of the
Design Research Group
(SIDRG) at Indiana
namely Susan Coleman
Morse, Rajasee Rege,
Xi Zhu, Feixing Tuang,
Brandon Stephens, and
Eli Blevis. .
March + April 2009
[ 2] Mollison, B.C. and
D. Holmgren. (1978).
Permaculture 1: A
System for Human
Permaculture, urban farming, and locavorism—all
are newly familiar terms that we define in this
month’s forum and that are implicated in sustainable lifestyles. All denote opportunities for interaction designers [ 1]. By opportunities, we mean not
only potential applications of interactive technologies to help where no interactive technologies have
been previously applied, but also the potential use
of interactive technologies to more broadly distribute the cherishable wisdom of those who practice
simpler, more sustainable, more natural heirloom
and traditional forms of food culture and land use.
Much has been made of the digital divide as a
condition that groups us into IT haves and have-nots. High-profile projects such as One Laptop
Per Child (OLPC) and NIIT’s Hole-in-the-Wall (also
known as minimally invasive education) are targeted at providing interactive information technologies to those who would otherwise be on the
“wrong side” of the digital divide. Such projects
are not only admirable but also controversial—
perhaps the topic of another edition of this forum.
Another, perhaps more thoughtful, conception of
the digital divide is one that sees interactive technologies not so much as a treasure to be shared
by affluent cultures with less fortunate ones, but
as a two-way mediating and knowledge-sharing
technology between the natural world treasured
by certain cultures and the increasingly complex
digital world of others. To put it another way, we
in the industrialized world might be better off
learning about conservationism and simple living than conceiving of social equity as something
attainable only through the industrial-world consumption of digital technologies.
To be sure, not everyone who is poor lives simply
and in harmony with nature. The global situation
is much more complex than that. What we are
advocating is the conception of interactive digital
technologies as a means for sharing knowledge
between cultures and as a multidirectional con-
duit. One thing worth sharing is knowledge of food
and affinity for the natural world and its sustainable use and preservation. Such knowledge appears
to be highly distributed and oftentimes rare.
The motivations for learning about and practicing sustainable food and land-use culture are
manifold: ensuring a secure local food supply, living according to an ethos of sustainability, bridging the digital divide by developing an affinity for
stewardship of the natural world rather than the
export of digital materialism, and finding meaning
outside of the world of material cultures.
Forms of Alternative Food Practices
Before we can delimit the opportunities for interaction designers, we should define a number of
practices relateded to alternative land use and
Permaculture. The practice of designing land
for sustainable, agricultural use–the idea of permaculture is not just about food, but also about
sustainable use of the land. The permaculture
movement appears to trace back to Australians
Mollison and Holmgren [ 2].
Urban vegetable gardens and urban farming. It is
nowadays not uncommon for people to transform
their lawns and outdoor space into urban or suburban farms, whether to grow food for personal
use, to sell in local markets, or both. Just as owning a hybrid electric car is more fashionable than
owning an SUV in many circles, having a lawn full
of vegetables may one day become more fashionable than having a manicured lawn.
Locavorism. A food ideology that denotes a preference for local foods over imported ones. The
sustainability implications of consuming locally
produced foods rather than those that travel to
reach consumers are obvious.
Food co-ops. Food cooperatives are not a new
phenomenon, but they represent a community-owned alternative to supermarket chains.