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Practical component: Methodology

August 8th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

After exploring and describing the theoretical botany knowledge for Human Plant Interfaces in chapter 2, the chapter 3 has investigated contemporary Human Plant Interfaces in interactive art, media art and human computer interaction. This section explores new applications for interacting with or through plants in urban or interior environments. The methodology of the practical works is based on the research outcomes of chapter 2 and 3.


4.1 Methodology


The practical methodology is characterized by a defensive strategy of interventions on an environment. The objective of this strategy is to create an improvement for humans without negative impacts on its environment. Particular, the new function should enhance interactions between humans and humans as well as between humans and their environment.

From a human centered design perspective it means establishing interfaces with a positive impact on human well-being or a none existing negative impact at least. Furthermore, the interface must provide an added value for humans in a spatial location. This improvement can be an information or a task oriented interaction. An information oriented interaction is about consuming digital data, which is in the most cases a one way directed interaction. The task oriented interaction is about executing an action on a certain object or in an habitat.

The interface is not allowed to cause any destruction or damage to its environment. For instance, common public screens in an urban landscape light up unnaturally its environment. Moreover its big plane shape causes a distorted visual appearance to its location. For this reason, the defensive strategy suggests that interfaces have to be harmonically and carefully integrated in the environments [ICC2007, page 17]. Only a harmonically integrated interface establishes the possibilities of new interactions without any negative impacts on an ecosystem (see chapter “2.2. Plant Ecology”) [Kob2010].

Development of the practical works

In the scope of this thesis four art projects were created. All of them follow the above mentioned requirements of a defensive approach. The features of the developed artworks are based on the findings of chapter 3. All projects, except the ”Charisma Garden”, were performed in public spaces of urban environments. Moreover, the projects are presented in a chronicle order. This chronicle order also reveals the progression of my produced Human Plant Interfaces. The involvement of digital communication technology is increasing with each new project.

The first project “Season Patterns” (2011-2012) is focused on the human perception of plants in an urban environment. The applied abstract photography method documented the visual changes of plant based settings in urban landscapes during all seasons. Furthermore, human behaviours in relation to plants were simultaneously observed while the photos were taken.

Based on the exploration of the human nature, Juliane Springsguth and me developed the “Travelling Plants” (2013) concept. This project was the first active intervention in a public space. Our intention were to explore people’s reaction on plants, where they do not expect them. In addition to that, we wanted to figure out if plants can be used as a connector or impulse for human to human interactions. In a minimalistic technical implementation each physical “Travelling Plants” unit referenced to an e-mail address, which also established a connection to a digital communication technology.

The positive feedback of the “Travelling Plants” proved my assumption that plants are an appropriated tool for encouraging interactions between humans as well as between physical objects and humans. For this reason the third project “Dead Tree Drop” (2013) explored the opportunity of embedding location-based data into tree stumps. The purpose was to strengthen the identity of a local area in social aspects with the help of a Human Plant Interface. An additional goal was to develop an eco-friendly solution for exchanging digital information for local communities.

The last project “Charisma Garden” (2013-2014) examined the opportunities of embedding digital data to a plant’s lifecycle. Moreover, it synchronised the communication behaviour of an individual on Facebook with the plant’s life rhythm. The motivation for this project was to investigate how strong an emotional connection between a human and a plant can become. Furthermore, it questions the visualization of personal charisma through a plant display.

My developed Human Plant Interfaces does not use any direct interaction with plants as it is described in the chapter “3.2 Biosensing for Human Computer Interaction”. Taking into account  that this field is already very well researched, there was no urgent need for further explorations. For this reason the practical work of this thesis focused more on Human Plant Interfaces in public environments and its social aspects.


[ICC2007] NTT InterCommunication Center (2007). Silent Dialogue. ICC, 2007.

[Kob2010] Hiroki Kobayashi (2010). Basic Research in Human-Computer-Biosphere Interaction. PhD Thesis, The University of Tokyo, Japan.



  1. admin
    April 12th, 2016 at 15:43 | #1

    When a man uses a computer, we describes this event as Human Computer Interaction. After many years we developed a Design concept “Human Centered Design”. The Computer has to adapt to the people and not vice versa.

    Imagine how can technology look like when it adapts towards plants needs. How can a Plant Centered Design look like? The Plant Sex Consultancy (2014) made the first start in thinking in that direction.

    PSX Consultancy’s plant-centered design methodology

  2. admin
    April 12th, 2016 at 16:02 | #2

    Another Design Methodology for the connection between nature and technology was developed by Andrew Quitmeyer. In his PHD Thesis he described the his Digital Media Framework To Support Ethological Exploration (2015) in more detail.

    A shorter version of his Framework is available at page 11:

  3. admin
    October 10th, 2016 at 15:04 | #3

    The conference Sustainable UX – Design in a Warming World offers some interesting talks and tobics around product lifecycle and how Design can influence a better interaction with our one world.

  4. October 21st, 2016 at 21:03 | #4

    This year of the Pixelache Festival (2016) in Helsinki had a really nice theme: Interfaces for Empathy

    Main topic of this festival was around another form of anthropocentrism. The objective was to create better empathetic consciousness towards the whole ecosystem. Humans play only a small role of it. Discussions were about if empathy could be one of the key elements in reconnecting us with our ecosystem and ourselves. Which is also a part of defensive design thinking.

  5. admin
    October 29th, 2016 at 20:51 | #5

    The book The Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World by Emma Marris introduces a new thinking about designing with plants and our diverse ecosystems:

    [Marris2013] Marris, Emma. The Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World. Bloomsbury USA, 2013.

  6. November 4th, 2016 at 11:39 | #6

    Ina Budde has developed a sustainabled-oriented approach of Design for Circularity for textile products. The material textile is strongly connected with plants, therefore her method of sustainable design is very interesting for my defensive design approach.


  7. admin
    September 9th, 2017 at 12:54 | #8

    Designing sustainable digital products is pretty tough challenge! Some orientation is provided by these resources

    http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920043904.do -> Designing for Sustainability

  8. October 14th, 2017 at 11:48 | #9

    Ecologial Design as larger design concept in combination with system thinking could provide new insight in a more context orientet design approach



    “Ecological design is a large concept that joins science and the practical arts with ethics, politics and economics;” to him ecological design “is not so much about how we make things as about how we make things that fit gracefully over long periods of time in a particular ecological, social, and cultural context.”
    — David W. Orr (The Nature of Design, p.4 & p.27).

    Ecological design is a large concept because it calls for an integration of the way we meet human needs — for shelter, food, education, community, clean air & water, transport, energy and a meaningful life — into the opportunities and limits set by local and regional ecosystems as well as the biosphere as a whole.

  1. September 29th, 2014 at 12:41 | #1