Plant Hack

Myself and four other PhD students from QMUL, Pollie Barden, Katja Knecht, Sophie McDonald (from the Media Art and Technology PhD programme) and Dmitrijs Milajevs (from the Theory Group), teamed up to participate in the Symposium and Hackathon in Social Media and Interaction.

The theme of the hack was promoting sustainability, resilience and growth of local groups and communities through the use of social media. Organised by Swansea University and the Sustainable Society Network+, it was held at Emmanuel College, Cambridge on the 23-24 March 2014.


We were given access to an array of plants and various bits of kit including an Arduino, Raspberry Pi and a multitude of sensors.


The brief was to use these components to develop a system that encourages people in a shared space to achieve a common goal, such as raising awareness or changing behaviour. The interactions should aim to build up the community encountering the plant+system, enhancing its sustainability, resilience and growth.


Planticipation is a networked communal watering system and sound art installation designed to be situated throughout a London residential tower block, with a lobby or foyer area which we would be convert into a communal indoor garden. The system aims to promote social connections via plant life, as well as to create a space for shared responsibility and action, while improving the built living environment.


After two days of making together with three other teams from universities around the UK we all presented our working prototypes. Rather excitingly, Planticipation was the winning project and we now get to visit Anirudha Joshi and his research lab at IIT in Mumbai, India. Quite an exciting prize!


The combination of Symposium and Hackathon worked really well. Our intsense prototyping was interspersed with thought provoking keynote speeches from Yvonne Rogers from UCL, UK, Anirudha Joshi from IIT Bombay, India, and Jon Froehlich from University of Maryland, USA. There were also informal presentation and feedback sessions, creating space for reflection. This really helped us to refine our ideas over the course of the hack, which can be tricky at such events, when time is so precious and the pressure to get a working prototype is on.