Over the past 100 years, the practices of agriculture have been radically altered in Western societies, spurred by development and application of a host of technologies designed to automate and monitor food production. Recently, however, many have called attention to the shortcomings of mainstream farming endeavors — large-scale agri-business may be producing more food, but the food itself is lacking in nutrition and the environment is suffering from these very farming practices. What is needed is a return to local and small-scale agriculture for both environmental and personal health concerns.
How might robotics technologies be used in near-future scenarios? And how might we use design to critically examine these futures and explore alternatives?
Drawing from the capabilities and research themes of contemporary engineering and computer science, the Speculative Robotics project uses design to critically explore and express possible future applications, adaptations, and appropriations of robotics technology. The concepts developed project these capabilities and research themes into new contexts, from post-apocalyptic suburbia to urban farms. From this exploration comes future forms and functions for robotics, and just as significantly, critical reflections on our current social and environmental conditions, expressed through design.
In July of 2009, we conducted a 2-week robot design workshop in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, Youth Art Connection. Youth Art Connection is a specialized program within the Boys & Girls Club for high school students who are interested in the arts. It allows them to work with designers, artists, and arts educators.
Since 2008 we have been investigating participatory environmental sensing and experimental information visualization through Public Design Workshop projects and classes. Although sensing and visualization are often cast as distinct fields and efforts, we chose to bundle them because from a design perspective sensing gives way to visualization: the data collected must be expressed.