PotGi is a plant-centered speculative design project. It is a digital device that supports an interspecies communication system and allows domesticated plants to interact with one another.
— Get to know your plants through observing their organic conversations with another.
Our group was formed due to our similar interests in plants and their living-system. Surrounded by the natural plants in the wild outdoors, we further questioned the emotions and perspectives of our beloved house-plants. We were curious whether these plants are truly suited for indoor living, or whether the industry has targeted us urban dwellers into romanticising its domestication.
How do exploration and scientific research make the design more interested and reach the essential heart of our surroundings?
Over this project, we observe, research, analyse, integrate and iterate our designs — with the priority to be inspired by nature’s complex yet humble innerworkings and subsequently develop concious designs.
For this project we dived into a lot of papers and Ted talks of various artists, scientists and plant lovers who are working in this field or just generally have a big knowledge about plants.
- Ani Liu (internationally exhibiting research-based artist working at the intersection of art & science) and
- Stefano Mancuso (italian biologist, professor of botany and author) have both been a main research and inspirational source for us in the begining.
What about plant-centered design? and How?
Through our researches, experiments, and brainstorming, one particular aspect we collectively found interesting is the communication between plants. Though Plant Neurology is still found debatable, it is no doubt that these living creatures thrive strategically. And this has been observed to be truly succesful due to the evolution of the “Wood Wide Web”, which is also known as the ‘Mycorrhiza’ process, a network that allows interspecies connection through communication, trade, nurture, and other rippling interactions.
After several research and conceptialize our ideas, we realised, that domesticated plants are lacking of communication channels and we set the goal to give them their social environment back.
In the first Storyboard we gathered a collection of possible outcomes to solve this problem, but for the final outcome we brought ourselfes back from a human-centered to a plant-centered view. Thats why our products has no human-understandable outcome.
PotGi is made out of a few technical components which are easy to assemble.
It includes a DIY Soil Moisture Sensor running with Arduino and shiftr.io. The Soil Moisture Sensor collects electrical and activity signals directly out of the soil and from the plant. Through a buzzer the plant receives the “information” of other plants connected to a PotGi over shiftr.io. This helps the plant to stay in touch with other species, evene around the globe as every PotGi can connect with Shiftr.io. As we are able to see now the communication between plants better, it does hopefully rise awareness for more gentle handling of our not so quiet flatmates.
With our initial interest in critical and speculative design, it would be fair to conclude that we achieved what we envisioned.
We pitch the idea of PotGi as a network that helps bring back domesticated plants their ability to communicate with one another, like they would in the wild; with the main aim to bring awareness to normalize plant-thinking. Subsequently, indeed, PotGi could be reflected as — a satirical commentary piece on the absurdity of anthropogenic thinking, that in our upmost try to decentralize ourselves, often times the design world misses the point in designing inventions for the world, because the best design (efficient solutions) would be to let plants grow out in nature, freely, without any artificial influence.
After I finished this project, together with our design theory course "If only: design, technology and society", I completed the paper "Empathize with Nature" to deliberate the definition of nature, alongside discussing the significance to empathize with nature. One step further, on the standing point of a designer, I attempt to explore the methods of empathizing with nature.
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