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Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

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Simran Chopra | New Media Design

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

Simran Chopra New Media Design 2010-12 National Institute of Design, India Guide: Dr. Jignesh Khakhar



Simran Chopra | New Media Design

Acknowledgements Thanking the National Institute of Design, for making the self-sponsored project possible. Professor Dr. Jignesh Khakhar of NID, Gandhinagar for all the support, critique and advice throughout the project duration; also for the 2 years of mentorship that he provided during the New Media Design course at National Institute of Design. Expressing gratitude to Professor Dr. Anand Sukumaran for his guidance and knowledge, offering a different perspective towards the area under discussion. Jitender Joshi, Kavita Srinivasan, Sonakshi Botham, Manasi Agarwal, Devyani M. Lal, Harshal Karvande, Suvani Suri, Roli Agrawal, Aanchal Sood, Jaskeerat Bedi, Nikhil Joshi, Tanuja Mishra and Juniors, New Media Design 2011 batch of NID, Gandhinagar for lending ears and having patience. With special thanks to Arshad Pathan of NID, Gandhinagar and Hussain Limdiyawala for the support during the prototyping phase. Also Sajith Gopinathan and the NID Workshop group for their help in realizing the installation structure. Rest of the friends, for enduring her through the highs and lows of the project through constant grounding and motivation. Last but not the least; for all the love, understanding and support from her dear family.

Thank you all.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

“For my grandfather’s love for horticulture”



Simran Chopra | New Media Design




Perceiving food


Key touch points


Food & Art

1.1 Abstract


Understanding food


Key touch points


Food in paintings

1.2 Motivation


Food and society


Food in installations


Initial brief

Food design

Project scope

Investigating the food chain




3.2 Reframing the context 3.3


Eating design




Influencing factors

2.4 Examining food culture

4.5 Precedence






Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain


Concepts & experiments



Dinner Table

6.1 Space


Plants as Interfaces


Food as Interfaces

6.2 Representation & story

Installation development





6.3 Construction 6.4

Navigation Flow

6.5 Challenges 6.6


Future scope






Simran Chopra | New Media Design

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain



Synopsis 1.1 Abstract 1.2 Motivation 1.3 Initial brief 1.4 Project scope

1.5 Approach on process


Simran Chopra | New Media Design

1.1 Abstract We are what we eat - This is an epigram which validates our long-standing relationship with food. Food besides being a subject of endless passionate discussion within our personal and most intimate lives, has historically been a significant indicator of our cultural, ecological and social realms. Food is often associated with happiness, memories and nostalgia. It is always imbued with profound meaning which is communicated in various symbolic ways. It expresses our cultural identity by defining and determining social norms and can often be employed to define as a measure of our standing in society. This indicates that food has brought about as much exclusion as it has assisted us in breaking down the cultural barriers while nourishing us and offering us comfort. The production, distribution and consumption of food is and always has been troubled with complex issues ranging from industrialization to globalization. For some, the notion of food conjures painful memories of hunger, deprivation and struggle. Food has become an exigent issue, due to behavioural modification of appetites as urban scenarios are a provocative

environments structured on consumerism. While food consumption decisions are made many times a day, most food interactions for urban people occur based on convenience and habitual practices. This situation is in contrast to the fact that food is at the centre of global environment, health, and social issues that are becoming increasingly imminent. This project presented a unique challenge of employing design and art as a tool to re-examine the significance and relevance of food in our current socio-cultural and individual milieu, celebrating its intrinsic connection with ourselves, and explore it as a primary ritual that fosters engagement, interaction and collaboration. It also comprises a critical examination of issues surrounding ‘food’ through the intersection of food, culture and technology. The project’s installation offers an opportunity to engage in stimulating conversations around the discourse of food through an artistic medium. The installation is an insight into our urban food chain, where everything is controlled by corporations, branding and politics; driven

by the capitalistic mindsets. Farmers and producers today, are forced to abide by their whims & technology, or are being eliminated. Consumers are left without choices, unanswered questions, health issues and inflation. It is to understand, articulate and present these facts in a novice manner. Through carefully crafted interactions and an element of humour, people can interpret the story of the urban food chain. It uses ubiquitous objects and interactions of our daily life, objective being to subconsciously alter the perceptions of individuals; to be able to inspire them into questioning the existing urban food culture and make informed decisions as a consumer. Food is simply used as a medium to interact, explore, engage and enjoy. Bon Appétit!

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” Virginia Woolf



Simran Chopra | New Media Design

1.2 Motivation Our relationship with food although uncomfortable has been deeply personal. It renders new meanings and understanding of our bodies, pleasures and desires, fosters warmth and a sense of well-being, essentially enabling us to know ourselves. We associate food with some of our most memorable times, full of joy, in the company of others. Food is a vital and almost inseparable part of our sharing and exchange. In the author’s life, food has always been at the centre of all her experiences during her travel, memories and conversations. The author also has a strong relationship with technology. She had previously undertaken a project involving olfactory interfaces* and had attempted at building a smart cigarette case in another project#. These projects motivated her to explore more into the understanding of “tangible interfaces”, more specifically in the area of installation and critical design. * #

Combining these two first hand experiences is this project. The author recognizes the fascinating subject matter of ”Food” as a medium, to give out diverse information in layers, which can be interpreted by the person at different levels through multimodal interactions. {1}

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

1.3 Initial brief Critical Design for Sustainable Culture Challenge To address, enhance and achieve a common dialogue between art, design and technology. Intent being to maintain environmental health and social sustainability that intellectually stimulates individuals and community regarding blazing global issues which manifest in our urban daily lives. Consequently, to be able to encourage an individual to walk towards the path of improving thequality of their life.

Theme Today, we lead a mechanised life, surrounded by machines, we have forgotten to pause and observe our surroundings. We tend to overlook the simple nuances in life. Smell of the first cup of coffee, touch of freshly mowed grass, joy of experiencing a conversation.The theme of this project revolves around making

various such things, perceptible or tangible, visible to us. Culture influences behaviours of both the community and the individual. Accordingly, changing an individual’s outlook to his surroundings in a day-to-day event with the intention of nourishment with sustainable values, is a challenge. The current urban environment reflects challenging issues. For example, an everyday basic food interaction for many individuals simply involves consumption of readymade meals and processed food, based on convenience and habitual practises. This situation is in contrast to the fact that food/nourishment is at the centre of the global environment, health and social issues that are becoming impending today.[1] The problem continues to intensify with the unprecedented scale of urban growth in recent years. In this current milieu, this project explores the kind of contributions that we can make from the novel perspective of sensitive Interaction Design.

Potential The area of investigation and analysis will include how to conceptualise, design, deploy, and utilise ubiquitous technologies in everyday urban life, within diverse sociocultural contexts in order to cultivate and promote sustainable culture, with a critical reflection on already existing practises. The core foundation of the project will be to subconsciously stimulate and alter the perception of individuals in order to be sensitive to the cause and to act responsibly in the future. The outcome of the project will be a series of tangible installations, digital and new media art regarding the same.

[1] Choi, Jaz Hee-jeong and Foth, Marcus and Hearn, Gregory N. and Blevis, Eli and Hirsch, Tad (2009) Hungry 24/7? HCI Design for Sustainable Food Culture (Workshop). In: OZCHI 2009



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1.4 Project scope The role of the designer post the industrialization era involves breaking the rules and the boundaries among the disciplines by investigating the concept of critical design. Critical design uses designed artefacts as an embodied critique or commentary on consumer culture.[2] Both the artefact and its subsequent use, reflect on existing values and practices in a culture. A critical design often challenges its audience’s preconceptions and expectations thereby provoking new ways of thinking about the object, its usage, and the surrounding environment. The project scope is to provoke, inspire, make us think, and question fundamental assumptions; contributing to a dialogue about the role of technology / food in everyday life. As quoted by Food Designer MatiGuixe, “I will buy perhaps two chairs in my lifetime, but I’ll buy food three times a day. While many designers strived to come up with yet another great new chair, I believe that the most compelling and neglected area of design was and still is, food”. [3]

Considering food as an edible product of mass consumption, designed and far from any reference to cooking, tradition and gastronomy, it can be used as a means of information dissemination. Investigating ubiquitous technologies, the designer’s role would be to use interaction design with a conceptual approach. Whether openly and actively, or in subtle, subliminal ways, things talk to us, and designers help develop and improvise the dialogue. The project focuses on objects that involve direct interactions, such as tangible interfaces, visualization and communication devices that establish an emotional or intellectual connection with their users. The outcome should evoke the need for constant evaluation of the parameters of consumption, active engagement and reinvention on the part of the consumer by using design as a platform for questioning, visualising and influencing contemporary human behaviour. The playful, critical and provocative attitude of the work will lead to innumerable possibilities and responses.

[2] Critical design, [Accessed May 2013]. Available from: [3] Guixe Mati 2011. [Accessed July 2012]. Available from:

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

{2} Wordle generated for the initial research document, telling different words associated with the topic.



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1.5 Approach on process The project started with a formless idea of what is food and how is it relevant to people and their lives. The subsequent understanding led to findings about the cultural relevance and the current food culture that we live in. Through thorough readings and drawn conclusions a context was prepared, keeping in mind the inclination of the project. The cultural and traditional significance of food is changing with the current influences of the environment and the times we live in. After understanding the core issues, they were categorized and developed into metaphors. The representation of the metaphors was simplified through characterization. These characters narrate the story to the viewer

through dialogues which are impactful and humorous in nature, giving it the essential critical view point. The foundation of the project will be to alter people’s perceptions, sensitizing them to the cause and to act responsibly in the future. The approach on the process was iterative, which involved different concepts and prototypes. The prototypes were tangible or digital in nature. Successive iterations offer a relevant quality of exploration and experimentation that was required to reach or derive the conclusion. The outcome of the project being, new media art installation which critically examines the consumerist point of view on food.


Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain


{3} The diagram shows different iterative steps undertaken through the project. {4} The diagram shows the various stages in the design process, for the project.



Simran Chopra | New Media Design

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain


Perceiving food 2.1 Understanding food 2.2 Food and society 2.3 Investigating the food chain 2.4 Examining food culture



Simran Chopra | New Media Design

2.1 Understanding food Experiencing Food We go back to the Greek classical theory of “tabula rasa” where there is nothing in the beginning and everything comes from experience. By experiencing a lot of things, we abstract the idea of what we are remarking on; this thought is analogous in the case for experiences with food. No matter who we are or where we live, our lives revolve around food. Much more than simple sustenance, food is a part of our culture and our traditions. Everything about eating – including what we eat, how it tastes, who prepares it and who’s at the table – is a form of communication rich with meaning [3]. Food in a way is already designed and undergoes a design process at every step. From making a choice to the consumption everything follows a process which can be broken down into factors. If we try and observe our interactions with food, eating is already a multi-sensorial experience with multimodal interactions with innumerable possibilities.

The most astounding interaction with the eater is the smell, even if the visual feedback is non-existent the person can smell and recognise or even taste the food (synsthesia or nostalgia). It also helps the eater to determine the quality of food. We were accustomed to think that this was entirely subjective, outside the world of science. Now the chemists are able to tell us that each smell or each taste has a certain chemical composition and to give us the reasons why subjectively some smells or some tastes feel to us as having something in common and some others seem widely different. Then comes the visual interaction (presentation) which also allows the person to judge the quality of food that she is about to eat. As the world is moving to a more visual based format it plays one of the most important roles in deciding what to eat and whether it tastes good. This interaction is dependent on the basics of visual design like color, balance, harmony etc.

[3] Harris Patricia, Lyon David. The meaning of food

[4] Shepherd M. Gordon, 2012. Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters, United States of America: Columbia University Press. [5] Asensio Oscar Paco, 2005. Food Design, TeNeues. [6] Vogelzang Marije, Schouwenberg Louise. 2009. Eat Love: Food Concepts. Amsterdam: Bis B.V., Uitgeverij(BIS Publishers).

Afterward comes the sense of touch which allows you to feel the texture and most importantly, play with it. People don’t concentrate on the fact that when they eat they actually play with their food, offering different interactions and possibilities. For example the way we make a sandwich, can be different from person to person. When we bite into our food, we can hear the sound in our head. It also plays an important role when one engages in cooking food, like the familiar cooking sounds from our kitchen. The most interesting facet - the taste, is the most satisfying, nourishing and the most important part of food. Taste is divided into sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Taste is highly interdependent on the smell. Last interaction with food is the way it exits our body, for any living being. Food design or eating design can also be synonymic to designing excreta. The interdependency of food to the episodic experiences is indivisible. Food and memory

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

leads to nostalgia which is a very personal and individualistic part of the brain.[4] Food has the capability to trigger certain set of pleasant or melancholic thoughts associated to one’s past experiences attached to the exercise of its consumption such as place, person etc. Food is an area which is high on nonintentional design (NID)[5]. From the places where we cook, how we cook, the way we serve, everything organically grows according to the needs of the person.

{5} The image comments on, how we use different sensors in an interface to replicate our senses.

Multi-sensorial experience has not been well articulated, since we tend to take sustenance for granted. We amidst our mechanised life, have forgotten to reflect back on the most important interaction that is performed daily by everyone. Emergence of eating design is relevant to the verb “To eat�. It is a way of designing interactions or experiences woven around food. It delves into the context of culture, history and experience [6] exploring how small interventions or experiments can create a big difference.





Simran Chopra | New Media Design

People’s perceptions Food is an expression of humanity. It shows how our attitudes, practices and rituals around food reflect our most basic beliefs about our world and ourselves.

linked with food. In ceremonies or religious rituals food plays an important role. It can be for nourishment, pleasing the gods or showing charity.

It takes us back to understand history and culture as food is not inseparable from the two. Tracing the origins of human settlement and how approachability of food led to nomadic hunters becoming farmers, which further lead to establishment of staple foods and diets.

Some memories are shaped by language, others by imagery. Much of our moral and social life depends on the peculiar ways in which we are embedded in time. ‘Memory’ labels a diverse set of cognitive capacities by which we retain information and reconstruct past experiences, usually for present purposes. Memory is one of the most important ways by which our histories animate our current actions and experiences[7] . Most notably, the human ability to conjure up long-gone but specific episodes of lives is both familiar and puzzling, and is a key aspect of personal identity.

It also accounts for the fact how different exotic foods when introduced to local food systems through subsequent colonisations throughout the world have now become part of daily diets. The exotic varieties have become native as they are now produced and consumed locally. For example potato and tomato are some of the vegetable and fruit varieties that have travelled across the world widely through Spanish colonies. Food, culture and religion are inseparable, be it fine wine or just our homemade bread, every culture has deep rooted traditions

Food experiences are highly dependent on memory, personal identity and vice versa. For example when a survey was conducted asking people about how they perceived food, the answers ranged from their past experiences about home food, dates with

[7] Stanford 2011. [Accessed July 2012]. Available from:

someone special, mother cooked food, celebrations, festivities, etc. Experiences and memory are always contextual; it also depends on the current scenario of the individual. Hence, memory seems to be a source of knowledge, in the area of food experiences. In practice, there can be close interactions between remembering, perceiving, and imagining. {7}

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

{8} Mind mapping on the topic of food and our perceptions towards it.



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Case study City of Melbourne’s food policy [8] Melbourne is world-renowned for the quality of its food and its liveability, and we want it to stay that way; we want to make sure that everyone in Melbourne can enjoy good food, now and reliably into the future. The way we eat is an important part of how we connect as people and communities, and also influences the strength of our local economy and the quality of our environment. The availability, accessibility and sustainability of healthy food is as essential to Melbourne’s liveability as the quality of our public spaces, services and neighbourhoods. There are however, signs that Melbourne’s food system is facing serious challenges, and the way the community responds will shape the quality of life within the City of Melbourne for many years to come. Food policy of Melbourne City provides an overarching vision and framework that will guide coordinated action and decision-making to improve the food system. The aim of the policy is to improve people’s health and well-being by promoting a food system that is secure, healthy, sustainable, thriving and socially inclusive.

The food policy has been informed by the outcomes of a discussion paper and a community consultation process. Community consultations were conducted with community members and stakeholders from October 2011 – to April 2012 to explore what food means to people in the City of Melbourne and what are the most important food issues the community will face in the future.


Introduction Melbourne’s food is a cause for celebration. People have ready access to a wide variety of high-quality foods all year round, which they enjoy at home and in a diverse & thriving scene of cafes, restaurants, bars and other outlets. These and other related businesses are an important part of the local economy, providing diverse jobs, opportunities and enterprise. For others, there are real challenges in consistently being able to get the food they need. Limited choices often combined with poor physical or economic access undermines health and contributes to food insecurity. Those of us who do have ready access to the foods they want, also often eat in ways that undermine their health.

It is increasingly apparent that food systems and the health of the natural systems that support them (our land, water and atmosphere) are unsustainable. The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to a changing climate and reduce oil vulnerability in the food system, is pressing. These issues are emerging as important global concerns. Cities around the world are recognising the important role they can play in leading and catalysing change towards healthy, sustainable, fair and resilient food systems The community has articulated a vision for Melbourne as “a bold, inspirational and sustainable city”.This discussion paper starts the conversation about what this means for food.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

Outcome of the research:



Our food system is facing serious challenges, and the way we respond will shape the quality of life in the City of Melbourne for many years to come.

• 23% Enjoyment, tastes great and is an indulgence • 22% Means of survival

• 5% of the adult population do not have enough food

• 21% Is healthy and nutritious • 12% Socialising, sharing, connecting with others WHAT IMPORTANT FOOD ISSUES WILL WE FACE IN THE FUTURE?’ • 21% Food insecurity/ not enough food

• 46% of the adult population do not eat enough fruit • 40% of household rubbish is food waste • Fast food is more available, convenient and affordable than healthy food

• 16% Poor quality food • 13% Unsustainable food production practices • 11% Poor health related to low quality convenience foods


• 94.5% of the adult population do not eat enough vegetables

• Fast food sector in melbourne CBD has grown by over 50% in the past ten years • 1 in 3 city users consume fast food when they are in the city

[8]City of Melbourne, 2011. [Accessed October 2012]. Available from: http://www.



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2.2 Food & society {11}

Food history To examine the history of food; cultural, economic, environmental, and sociological impacts of food will also have to be considered. Food historians look at food as one of the most important elements of cultures, reflecting the social and economic structure of society. Food has been hunted, gathered, cultivated, and domesticated. Their nutritional makeup and uses impact on human populations. It also offers geographical perspective on the history and culture of a society, offering us knowledge about subjects from food fads, prejudices and taboos.[9]

Due to many influencing factors man has evolved over time and has manipulated environment, culture and society. There are things we have lost and we should try perhaps to regain them because in the kind of world we are living in and with the kind of scientific thinking we are bound to follow, we can regain these things exactly as if they had never been lost; but we can try to become aware of their existence and their importance. Modern science is not moving away from these lost things but attempting to reintegrate them in the field of scientific explanation.

[9] Kiple F. Kenneth, Ornelas Coneè Kriemhild, 1958. The Cambridge World History of Food. Cambridge University Press [10] Ritzer George, 2007. The McDonaldization of Society, SAGE Publications [11] McDonaldization, [Accessed October 2012]. Available from: http://


{11} A five day ration list, Jemdet Nasr perio, 3000 - 2900 BC {12} ButcherManual, Tools, 1500 AD British Museum, London.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

Symbolism of food Symbology concerns the study of symbols. A symbol is something that stands for, or suggests a concept, idea, belief, action, association, or material entity which is not directly present. Symbols take the form of words, sounds, gestures, or visual images used to convey ideas and beliefs. Basically we are referring to cultural symbols and how these symbols can be interpreted to better understand a particular society. Food like all human activity has terrific symbolic value. It is because it is central to human existence. For example when you are eating a dish, let us say, kheer which is served at a punjabi wedding, the food dish exits at a literal level in terms of sense experience, but it also stands for something else, it symbolises some aspect of tradition, culture and history. All social groups eat food at a literal level and also at a mythical symbolic level, which is that the dish represents some meanings of the social group about the world. That is why in festivals, rituals, religious rituals, marriages etc., there is a certain list of dishes that are prepared that is different for each

social group. This description suggested will also hold true for the way we prepare food or experience it culturally. If we suggest fast food, it will have different symbolic value than the prepared (staple) food that every cultural group has. Staple food is a term that people use to describe what a social group eats on a daily basis, as that food item is available in that local geographical area. As food can never be independent of the social or cultural context of the group and fast food can be seen symbolic of the industrial, consumption or production meaning of the world. The literal sense of fast food is about food that can be quickly made like a snack and eaten quickly too, in the symbolic sense fast food can be linked with McDonaldisation. In the book The McDonaldization of Everything, George Ritzer examines how McDonald’s idea of food has come from industrial logic and is now applied to every aspect of life in society chiefly as society is all about consumption. It essentially outlines his social theory of what makes Mc Donalds and the whole meaning of the world according to it, including Mc

food, Mc jobs etc. [10] Fundamentally it is an extension of a type of rationality called instrumental rationality, which Max Weber was the first to talk about. This instrumental rational way of seeing the world is what “fast food” means at a theoretical / symbolic level [11]




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Interrelation of food and society Complex interrelation between food and society deserves special attention. It becomes eminently plausible if one considers just how fundamental a part of human experience ‘eating’ really is, given the inexorable demands of the body for nutrients and the multifaceted symbolic charges that food can carry. Being an intrinsic expression of our cultural identity, food has often been employed as a measure of our standing in society, defining and determining social norms and thereby used as a means for discrimination and oppression. Food has had the power to manipulate cultural and historical materialism. For instance as exclaimed by the Queen of France (1774), Marie Antoinette “Let them eat

the cake” traditional translation of the French phrase “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”,[12] was sardonically spoken by her upon learning that the peasants had no bread. It has brought about as much exclusion as it has assisted us in breaking down cultural barriers while nourishing and offering us comfort. But for some, the notion of food conjures painful memories of hunger, deprivation and struggle. Food is not only a political and economic value creator but also a symbolic explanation of human behaviours. People construct value systems by a variety of cultural and traditional practices involving food. Learning the connections between food and society can make a significant contribution, to our understanding of the

[12] Kiple F. Kenneth, Ornelas Coneè Kriemhild, 1958. The Cambridge World History of Food. Cambridge University Press

context within which the production and consumption of commercial food takes place. Political, economic, technological and social developments govern the changes for contemporary cultural life, the same influencers hold true for food as well. Food also directs the social construct of cultural memory, tradition and belief systems. The nature of production, work, cultural consumption, changing class identities, communications and globalisation; all influence the association of food and society. It also tells us about the bond amongst us as humans, as cooperative efforts are devoted to processes around food which is absolutely essential for survival of any society.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

{14} Interdependency of food and society



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2.3 Investigating the food chain Every organism needs to obtain energy in order to live. A food chain is the sequence of who eats whom in an ecosystem to obtain nutrition. A food chain starts with the primary energy source to an organism that make its own food from the primary energy source. For example photosynthetic plants make their own food from sunlight and chemosynthetic bacteria make their food energy from chemicals in hydrothermal vents.[13] These are called autotrophs or primary producers. Next are herbivores or primary consumers; example is a rabbit that eats grass. Then animals that eat herbivores are called secondary consumers: example is a snake that eats rabbits. In turn, these animals are eaten by larger predators; example is an owl that eats snakes. The tertiary consumers are eaten by quaternary consumers; example is a hawk that eats owls. Each food chain ends with a top predator and animal with no natural enemies like an alligator, hawk, or polar bear.

The city’s food web that we exist in right now is not a linear consequence of who eats whom, but it is a series of controls and influences that are put forth by people who rule or control the food pyramid. Producers are primarily farmers and consumers are the common people. Consumers, producers are the ones being influenced by local stakeholders in the web like corporations, governments, science etc who act like predators. It is a fight for power over the producers and consumers of the world to gain monetary profits, rule governments and much more. In the scenario chosen for the project, the Urban Food Chain comprises different factors that influence the food that is produced and consumed in metropolitan scenarios. The food corporations of the world control what we consume and how we consume it at every point; beginning from farms to the supermarket shelves that project an image of a brand that we would want to procure and have.

[13] Food chain, [Accessed June 2012]. Available from:

Our daily food is caught up in the cycle of demand and supply which is also influenced by world politics. Science and technology is exploited in the name of doing good for the increasing number of people. Forgetting the fact that the consumption is rising in only certain urban sectors of the society and there are still people dying of hunger in the weaker economic parts of the world. The price of seeds and pesticides keeps the lives of farmers in dilemma, putting them in chains from which they cannot find a way out. We as consumers, consume whatever is projected to us through marketing gimmicks leaving us prone to chemicals, pesticides and diseases.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain


{15} The Sugar High: Understanding the food chain with regard to Sugar Cane as a cash crop. {16} Autobiography of a tomato: Depicting the food chain, with reference to the daily consumer food crop, tomato.




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“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.� Mahatma Gandhi

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

{17} The diagram was made after consecutive iterations of different food chains that were studied. Understanding of the various factors that influence the food chain / scenario led to defining linkages, to facilitate realization of associations within the issues.



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2.4 Examining food culture The characteristics of food are often based on a rich world of different cultures, ceremonies and social interactions. For example sharing food has been a way for people of all cultures to sustain and create a mindful or emotional union with others.


Many interactions with food create a culture of imagining, producing, preparing, and consuming food – a ‘food culture’ of the community at a collective level. Conversely, food culture influences behaviours of both the community and the individual. Accordingly, changing an individual’s dispositions to food in day-to-day life towards more sustainable values presents opportunities for bringing about improvements in the sustainability of food cultures at a broader level. The current urban environments present particularly challenging issues as everyday food interaction for many people simply involves consuming readymade meals and processed food. The problem continues to intensify with the unprecedented scale of urban growth in recent years.

{18} Waitrose Supermarket, London, United KIngdom.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

(a) Food trends Fast food It is the term given to food that can be prepared and served very quickly. A meal with low preparation time can also be considered to be fast food, typically the term refers to food sold in a restaurant or store with preheated or precooked ingredients, and served to the customer in a packaged form for take-out/ take-away. From its inception, fast food has been designed to be eaten “on the go”, often does not require traditional cutlery, and is eaten as a finger food.

did not have means to cook their own food, particularly single households. Unlike richer town dwellers, many often could not afford housing with kitchen facilities and thus relied on fast food. Travellers as well, such as pilgrims en route to a holy site, were among the customers. In the Middle Ages, large towns such as London and Paris supported numerous vendors that sold dishes such as pies, pasties, waffles, wafers, etc. [14]

Consumerism Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts. The newly emergent middle class arising post the world war era, comes to full fruition by the end of the twentieth century through the process of globalization. In this sense, consumerism is usually considered a part of media culture. The term “consumerism” has also been used to refer to something quite different called the consumerists movement, consumer protection or consumer activism, which seeks to protect and inform consumers by requiring such practices as honest packaging and advertising, product guarantees, and improved safety standards. In this sense it is a movement or a set of policies aimed at regulating the products, services, methods, and standards of manufacturers, sellers, and advertisers in the interests of the buyer. [15]

Outlets may be stands or kiosks, which may provide no shelter or seating, Franchise operations which are part of restaurant chains have standardized foodstuff shipped to each restaurant from central locations. Historically in the cities of Roman antiquity, much of the urban population living in multi-story apartment blocks depended on food vendors for their meals. Many of these establishments catered to those who {19}

[14] Fast food, [Accessed May 2013]. Available from: http:// [15] Consumerism, [Accessed May 2013]. Available from: http://



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In economics, consumerism refers to economic policies placing emphasis on consumption. In an abstract sense, it is the consideration that the free choice of consumers should strongly orient the choice what is produced and how, therefore the economic organization of a society.

Globalization It refers to processes that increase worldwide exchanges of national and cultural resources. Advances in transportation and telecommunications infrastructure, including the rise of the telegraph and its posterity the Internet, are major factors in globalization, generating further interdependence of economic and cultural activities. Though origins of globalization are said to be placed in modern times, but one can trace its history to the European age of discovery and voyages to the New World or even before; for example at the time of conquests by Alexander the great. In the late 19th century and early 20th century the connectedness of the world’s economies and cultures grew very quickly. Now everyday staple food constituents have already

travelled across continents, before they became native due to cultivation; for example tomatoes and potatoes. Our food now travels an average of 1,500 miles before ending up on our plates. [16] This globalization of the food supply has serious consequences for the environment, our health, our communities and our tastebuds. Much of the food grown in the breadbasket surrounding us must be shipped across the country to distribution centres before it makes its way back to our supermarket shelves. Because uncounted costs of this long distance journey (air pollution and global warming, the ecological costs of large scale monoculture, the loss of family farms) are not paid for at the checkout counter, many of us do not think about them at all. {20}

McDonaldization It is a term used by sociologist George Ritzer in his book The McDonaldization of Society (1993). He explains it occurs when a culture possesses the characteristics of a fastfood restaurant. McDonaldization is a reconceptualization of rationalization, or moving from traditional to rational modes of thought, and scientific management. [17] McDonaldization in cultural version is a comparatively recent idea of the world wide homogenization of cultures. The process of McDonaldization can be summarized as the way in which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of society. Efficiency, Calculability, Predictability (standardization) and Control are the four primary components of McDonaldization, which can be now found everywhere in urban areas. Irrationality of Rationality is also a factor it means that basic humanity, the human reason, of the people who work within or are served by them, is denied. Ritzer further states that beyond dehumanization further irrationalities emerge.[18] [16] Schlosser Eric, 2001. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the AllAmerican Meal, United States of America: Houghton Mifflin Company. [17], [18] Ritzer George, 2007. The McDonaldization of Society, SAGE Publications

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(b) Sustainable food culture Slow food revolution


Carbon footprint

Slow Food is an international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. It was the first established part of the broader Slow Movement. The movement has since expanded globally to over 100,000 members in 150 countries.[19] Its goals of sustainable foods and promotion of local small businesses are paralleled by a political agenda directed against globalization of agricultural products. At its heart is the aim to promote local foods and centuries-old traditions of gastronomy and food production. Conversely this means an opposition to fast food, industrial food production and globalization.

A locavore is a person interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market. The locavore movement has spawned as interest in sustainability and eco-consciousness became more prevalent.

A carbon footprint is the total sets of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an organization, event, product or person. Greenhouse gases can be emitted through transport, land clearance, and the production and consumption of food, fuels, manufactured goods, materials, wood, roads, buildings, and services. To assess the carbon footprint of certain packaged consumer products, evaluating the package of some products is a way to figure out the carbon footprint. Look at the materials used to make the item. For example, a juice carton is made of an aseptic carton, a beer can is made of aluminum, and water bottles made of plastic. Also the larger size means bigger footprint.

[19] Slow food, [Accessed June 2013]. Available from: http:// [20], [21] Locavores, [Accessed October 2012]. Available from: http:// [22] Pollan Michael, 2008. In Defence of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, United States of America: Penguin Group US.


The food may be grown in home gardens or grown by local commercial groups interested in keeping the environment clean and selling food close to where it is grown. It is often associated with “local” food grown within 100 miles of its point of purchase or consumption.[20] Farmers’ markets play a role in efforts to eat what is local. Those in the movement generally seek to keep use of fossil fuels to a minimum, releasing less carbon dioxide into the air and preventing global warming. Keeping the carbon footprint of the produce they consume to a minimum. A related movement is the “underground supper club”[21], in which organizers use sustainable ingredients and use a Website to inform a waiting list of those who donate a given sum to pay for the food used.

Organic consumables like vegetables, fruits etc., which are not native of the country, are imported from different parts of the world to our supermarket shelves. They undergo a process of preservation, freezing and transportation to reach the consumers; this drastically increases the carbon footprint of such items.



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(c) Growing your own food Hydroponics The term hydroponics originates from the ancient Greek “hydros,”[23] meaning water, and “ponos,” meaning work. Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture and is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Terrestrial plants can be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only or in an inert medium, such as perlite, gravel, coconut husk etc.

When the mineral nutrients in the soil dissolve in water, plant roots are able to absorb them. When the required mineral nutrients are introduced into a plant’s water supply artificially, soil is no longer required for the plant to thrive. As the population of our planet soars and arable land available for crop production declines, hydroponics will

allow us to produce crops in greenhouses or in multilevel buildings dedicated to agriculture. Already, where the cost of land is at a premium, crops are being produced underground, on rooftops and in greenhouses using hydroponic methods.

Aquaponics Aquaponics, is a sustainable food production system that combines conventional aquaculture, (raising aquatic animals in tanks), with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. Aztec cultivated agricultural islands known as chinampas in a system considered by some to be the first form of aquaponics for agricultural use. South China and Thailand cultivated and farmed rice in paddy fields in combination with fish are cited as examples of early aquaponics systems. [24]


[23] Hydroponics, [Accessed Septemper 2012]. Available from: [24] Aquaponics, [Accessed Septemper 2012]. Available from: [25] Permaculture, [Accessed August 2012]. Available from:


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Aquaponics consists of two main parts, with the aquaculture part for raising aquatic animals and the hydroponics part for growing plants. Aquatic effluents, resulting from uneaten feed or raising animals like fish, accumulate in water due to the closed-system recirculation of most aquaculture systems. The effluent-rich water becomes toxic to the aquatic animal in high concentrations but these effluents are nutrients essential for plant growth. Although consisting primarily of these two parts, aquaponics systems are usually grouped into several components or subsystems responsible for the effective removal of solid wastes, for adding bases to

neutralize acids, or for maintaining water oxygenation. Plants are grown as in hydroponics systems, with their roots immersed in the nutrientrich effluent water. This enables them to filter out the ammonia that is toxic to the aquatic animals, or its metabolites. After the water has passed through the hydroponic subsystem, it is cleaned and oxygenated, and can return to the aquaculture vessels. This cycle is continuous. Freshwater fish are the most common aquatic animal raised using aquaponics, although freshwater crayfish and prawns may be used.


Permaculture Originally derived from the words ‘PERMAnent agriCULTURE’, permaculture has gone beyond in looking at strategies to create sustainable food growing methods to become a worldwide movement encompassing all aspects of how we as human beings can live harmoniously in relation to our Earth and

it’s finite resources. It believes in creating sustainable human habitats by following nature’s patterns. Example growing plants, vegetables, fruits and flowers together, with the help of insects creating a natural ecosystem. {25}



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Permaculture is a broad based and holistic approach that has many applications to all aspects of life. At the heart of all sustainable design and practice however is a fundemental set of ‘core values’ or ethics (Earthcare, Peoplecare and Fairshares) and principles which remain constant whatever our situation. Providing the tools to create greater sustainability within our lifestyles, home environments, and gardens, permaculture is about finding ways of mending community and rebuilding our fragmented society. Putting massive effort into attempting to ‘tame nature’, such as by damming valleys and flood plains or creating and maintaining bare soil by plough, is not only energy consuming, unsustainable and destructive, it is also unnecessary when we can meet the needs of people and the environment by working in harmony with, or even directly utilise, natural systems. For example instead of using massive chemical inputs to control pests, why not encourage predators such as ladybirds and hoverflies to do our work for us.


Edible garden An edible garden is a garden that contains flowers, herbs, seeds, berries and plants that you can eat. It does not have to be large. Your garden can start small with a few pots and containers, or even just a window box with a few herbs. There’s nothing more empowering than having control over your food. And there’s no better way to ensure its prominence than having grown it yourself. Growing an edible garden is not only a great way to connect with your food; it’s also a fun way to reduce your monthly produce bill. There’s something about a plant you grew yourself that just tastes better on a plate. It reduces the carbon footprint of your food and encourages sustainable food culture.

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“When you put love, into growing something, you can taste it.” Alys Fowler



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Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain


Design process 3.1 Key touch points 3.2 Re-framing the context 3.3 Influencing factors



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3.1 Key touch points Today we produce more food than ever before, more than one in ten people on earth are hungry. The hunger of 800 million happens at the same time as another historical first: that they are outnumbered by the one billion people on this planet who are overweight.[26] The key points here are the main areas of apprehension that can help us understand the current milieu. In the project they will provide a path towards how to approach the problems

(1) Role of being a consumer Being a part of the urban food web, it is imperative to comprehend the responsibility of being a consumer. Consumers drive the food system or so it seems, as they are the ones buying off supermarket shelves. But the choices aren’t entirely their own because even in a supermarket, the menu is crafted not by their choices, nor by the seasons, nor where they find themselves, nor by the full range of items available, nor by the full spectrum of available nutrition and tastes; but by the power of food corporations. [26] Patel Raj, 2008. Stuffed & Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System, India: HarperCollins Publishers.


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(2) Farmer’s plight Why doesn’t the consumer pay attention, towards food? • Time • Trust • Aspiration • Cultural Disconnect • Taste

Another main view point is that of the farmer. Farmer’s plights fall on deaf ears as hunger and suicide still surface. In the land of consumerist & obese, the farmers are forced to give in to industrial farming and monoculture. Every day, resources are mobilised to cope with demand. As these resources are not fully exploited or consumed, much is wasted at a cost to all of us. For example if we threw away less rice, the demand for rice would drop, along with prices. Farmers would be encouraged to grow something else. Bank loans could be diverted to something in higher demand. So, the farmers are just producers who are influenced by different players in the food chain.

• Money (Affordability) • Availability (No other option) • No brainer

(3) Emotional connection to food Reviving emotional connect towards food is also a standpoint. People are already connected to food emotionally with nostalgia and memory as main influencers. These can be used to communicate the prominent causes. For instance the food system needs resources

and exploitation to sustain itself. These vulnerabilities of the current food culture lie close to our surface of daily lives. They can be exposed with a gentle jolt to the system revealing their effects on nature and ecology. All this can inspire people to think critically about food security and culture.

(4) Community & ecology driven food culture There is a need to build a community, ecology driven food culture where people come together to solve the current situation. The wounds of the current food order can be fought back through shared and public deliberation. It means coming together locally, regionally and internationally, to better understand the choices we make and the food we eat in the places we make them. It is time to organize, educate, savour, reclaim and build the new, to point the way to a better shaped future. For example it can be appreciated in the spirit of Glocal and traditions of sharing food as a community.



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3.2 Re-framing the context Restructuring the Problem To understand how diet, health, economics and politics are connected, it is worth looking at the food system in greater depth. To observe India as a case study, the speed and rate of India’s adoption of modern neoliberal economic policies, and western diets, has been the source of great wealth for a few, and increasing misery for many more. India is rapidly becoming an environment rife with poor diet, poor people and impoverished futures.[27]

While consumers have been only recently wrestling with the problems of how to eat well, farmers have long been fighting against the vanishing of their freedoms, and their battle continues even today. As lands have fallen before the banks, repossessed and repurposed by political control, suicides rates for farmers across the world have soared. Yet farmers and the disposed are not going quietly. There have been, and continue to be, rebels.

The food system is a battlefield, though few realize quite how much causality there has been. It requires just as much energy as it generates. Without the energy available to manufacture and ship pesticides and fertilizers, the conventional food system would grind to a halt. Depleting fossil fuels, soil fertility and water are the sinking foundation of today’s food system.

As the hour glass shows, the food system doesn’t just put farmers at the blunt end of abuses of power by policies and science enforced by the government. Consumers are also subject to the market power of corporations. Of course, as consumers our position is slightly different. We can shape the market, however slightly, by taking our wallets elsewhere.

[27] Patel Raj, 2008. Stuffed & Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System, India: HarperCollins Publishers.

We can start asking questions and exercise the right to know about our food. We can dictate the corporations, what we would like to have and consume. So as being the people who can change the current burgeoning scenario, it would be fitting to say for ourselves; with great power comes great responsibility.

Effects of the current food system • Deteriorating quality of health • World/ Regional consumerism • No emotional connect to nature • Farmer injustice • Corporate farming • Genomic selection/ Monoculture (cultivation of specific varieties)

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{28} Explaining the diverse issues playing a role in distrupting a sustainable food system. Also how the same sustainable culture thought can be delivered to the consumer.



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“Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables. They probably get jet lagged, just like people.� Elizabeth Berry

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

Audience Kids


• 5years to 12years

• 25years to 35years

• Indirect dependent consumers

• Urban

How will the Audience pay attention?

• Mouldable/ Easy targets

• New money

• Start understanding social constructs

• Pace of life

• Shock and Awe (Surprise & Fear)

• Memory / Emotional Connect

• Inquisitiveness

• Inquisitive about the world • Want to explore • Targeted by food companies • Targets of aspirational values of parents

• Availability (no other option) • Recent parents • Direct consumers

• Realising the interdependence of

• Aspirations • Disappearing connect to food sources

technology and food



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3.3 Influencing factors Developed world since the World War II may think that the damage to food system is felt only in the areas of the world that suffer famine, malnutrition and other deficiencies; but in the rich world too there is a huge toll. Western societies have increased the caloric content of the diet and boosted the sheer quantity of their food, they have at the same time introduced methods of production, distribution and consumption that threaten the future of the food system that deliver those calories, reducing the quality and nutritional value of many food items.[28] At the same time, global food supply faces new challenges: a continuing surge in population growth in some parts of the world and an increasing aged population in others; introduction of radical new technologies such as genetic modification; a new global scale and scope of corporate control an influence; a breakdown in consumer trust in food governance and institutions; and persistent health problems associated with diet such as obesity, diabetes, cancer etc. which , alongside hunger and famine, affect hundreds of millions of people. The current food system seems to lurch from crisis to

crisis. The factors weighing on the food chain are related to food toxins, additives, labelling, entitlements and governance. These aspects should be questioned and looked into closely to understand how they affect consumers and producers like wise.

(1) Consumer culture It is about consumption choices and behaviours from a social and cultural point of view; addressing the dynamic relationships between consumers, the marketplace, and cultural meanings generated in the process. Reflective of a post-modernist society, it views cultural meanings as being numerous and fragmented and hence views culture as an amalgamation of different groups and shared meanings, rather than a homogeneous construct; for example the American culture.

are mediated through markets� [29] and consumers as part of an interconnected system of commercially produced products and images which they use to construct their identity and orient their relationships with others. For example fast food is a tawdry manifestation of American popular culture; it has been designed to taste good, it is also inexpensive and convenient. How and why a person consumes food, is influenced by popular culture. Consumerist mindsets and products are heavily marketed to children; it is a culture that feeds and feeds off children.

Consumer culture is viewed as “social arrangement in which the relations between lived culture and social resources, between meaningful ways of life and the symbolic and material resources on which they depend,

[28] Pollan Michael, 2006. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The search for a perfect meal in a fast food world, United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Publishing. [29]Schlosser Eric, 2001. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, United States of America: Houghton Mifflin Company.


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(2) Pesticide content in daily fruits & vegetables We rarely think about food, where it came from and what it is doing to the community. Unlike other commodities, food enters the body and becomes part of the consumer. While pesticides help protect our food supply, people are concerned about pesticides on the food they eat. Pesticide residues may stay in or on our food after it is applied. “An apple a day might have kept the doctor away prior to the industrialization of food growing and preparation. But, according to the

research compiled by the United States Drug Administration (USDA) today’s apple contains residue of eleven different neurotoxins— azinphos, methyl chloripyrifos, diazinon, dimethoate, ethion, omthoate, parathion, parathion methyl, phosalone, and phosmet. That doesn’t sound too appetizing does it? The average apple is sprayed with pesticides seventeen times before it is harvested.” [30] The example cited above is just one of the many food items grown under the influence of industrial farming. Homogenization and appearance of the food products matters the most in corporate farming.

(3) Multinational Control on food systems The way food is produced and handled, from farm inputs to consumption is controlled by corporations around the world. ‘Agribusiness’ exerts corporate control and suppresses the market’s competitiveness. Agribusiness is conducted mainly according to commercial principles. This translates to {30}

dominating markets and increasing profits as the industry’s key focus. A handful of multinational corporations control the world’s food industry. This applies to global food production and distribution, sector by sector. For example, merely five companies now dominate the grain trading. Corporate mergers and acquisitions have led to this concentration of market power. This small group of multinationals determines what farmers sow and what we eat. This is the result of current circumstances in agribusiness. Centralized purchasing decisions of the large commercial chains and their demands for standardized products have given a handful of corporations an unprecedented degree of power over the world’s food supply. Today’s retail economy is wiping out small businesses, obliterating regional differences

[30] Pollan Michael, 2008. In Defence of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, United States of America: Penguin Group US.



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and spreading identical stores throughout the country like a self replicating code. Every facet of our life is being franchised or chained. Uniformity and feeling of reassurance is used to draw consumers to familiar brands in an instinct to avoid the unknown.

(4) Food Governance Despite technological advances in agriculture, nearly a billion people around the world still suffer from hunger and poor nutrition while a billion are overweight or obese. This imbalance highlights the need not only to focus on food production but also to implement successful food policies. It deals with how food economy is

regulated and how food policy choices are made and implemented. Governments control the policy making capacity in the food system. They also control inflation and import / export of food commodities which manipulate the economy of a country. Government must address the many complex challenges that lie ahead in view of continued poverty, globalization, climate change, food price volatility, natural resource degradation, demographic and dietary transitions, and local and organic food production.[31] Rather than making informed decisions government plays merrymaking to the whims and fancies of multinational corporations. Subsidies and schemes launched by the government in lieu of doing good to the farmers end up pressurizing them into taking bank loans for fertilizers, seeds and pesticides. This in turn pushes them into a vicious cycle of demand and supply. It leads to an outrage by the farmers when they suffer due to such never ending loans and pressure by the government.

pretext of development and advancement. Farmers are displaced without livelihood, home or money to survive.

(5) Plight of farmers and workers Major multinationals are allowed to dominate one commodity market after another. Farmers and cattle ranchers are losing their independence, essentially becoming hired hands for the agribusiness giants or being forced off the land. Family farms are now being replaced by gigantic corporate farms. In order for large scale

In developing countries, the scenario is even more infuriating when farmland is converted into infrastructure by the government on the {32}


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farming cooperations to work the land on which it needs to happen needs to be contiguous. Small disconnected plots aren’t well suited to industrial farming machinery, the length of several football fields. Rural communities are losing their middle class and becoming stratified, divided between a small, wealthy elite and large number of the working poor. In developing countries same practices are being implemented in the context of farming. Farmers are the producers of food, but they themselves face starvation to a certain extent. This can be due to many reasons including large amount of bank loans taken for seeds or chemicals, giving into industrial monoculture, growing only cash crops for a better return etc. They fall prey to diseases due to the large amount of pesticides and fertilizers they use on their fields. Diseases like cancer, birth abnormalities, and miscarriages have now become part and parcel of the lives of farmers. The farmers are constantly subjected to government policies, corporate pressures of demand and supply, giving them no ability to lead a good sustainable lifestyle.

(6) Food and science The use and misuse of land, sea and other natural resources while producing food, is being attempted to be comforted through the advancement of science. New technologies have been used over ages to increase the production of food. The growing population is one of the main reasons to influence such a thought. Radiation breeding and genetic modification are some of the ways in which new mutates varieties are being produced, which are said to be better than the already existing natural ones. The attempts to classify degrees of genetic mutation, from conventional breeding all the way to the creation and insertion of artificially synthesized genes, are the subject of continuing debate, which is heightened by the significance of particular labels in the consumer’s mind and the resulting economic impact. For example, a mutagenic Ruby Red grapefruit grown without the use of pesticides can be labelled as organic and thus be sold for a premium, despite the fact that organic foods by definition cannot be genetically modified. [32]

Also fast food chains still embrace a boundless faith in science and as a result they have changed not just what we eat but also how food is made. Much of the taste and aroma in the multinational fast food chains is manufactured in chemical plants. {34}

[31] Lang Tim, Heasman Michael, 2004. Food Wars: The Global Battle for Mouths Minds and Markets, United Kingdom: CPI AntonyRowe. [32] Pruned 2011. [Accessed September 2012]. Available from: http://



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Food & art 4.1 Food in paintings

4.2 Food in installations 4.3 Food design 4.4 Eating design 4.5 Precedence



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4.1 Food in paintings Whenever one comes across still life paintings depicting things like bread, fruits and vegetables, they are actually seeing the results of a long tradition of food in art. Historical studies show that the Greeks and Romans prided themselves in the realistic depiction of food in artworks. A glass bowl of fruit was commonly included in Roman paintings to boast of the delicacies that the rich citizens of Rome enjoyed, and of the generous hospitality they had to offer.

Even farther back, archaeologists have found drawings of food on the walls of Egyptian pyramids. In ancient Egyptian culture it was believed that those drawings, through magical properties, would nourish those gone on to the afterlife. Things haven’t changed much since then, today depictions of food on the walls of restaurants, people’s homes and in hotels are recreated. Clearly it is very appealing, comforting almost, by having paintings of food around us.


The history of food in paintings has changed in both meaning and presentation, since the early Renaissance. The sixteenth century saw great innovations in food subjects, but it was Dutch food paintings of the seventeenth century that created the visual vocabulary still operative today. From the hearty meals being devoured by peasants on canvas to the lush and lifelike fruits of atrompe l’oeil, food has enjoyed a central place in painting for centuries [33]. From the Renaissance to the present day; through the works of artists from Rembrandt, to Monet, to Warhol, the meaning of food imagery is determined by factors such as myth, religion and social privilege. Food in paintings can be purely symbolic portrayals of food or multi-layered with sexual references as seen in surrealist works. Recent artists have also used food as a depiction of the society and the culture that we subsist in right now. They use food as metaphors or a medium to comment on social and political issues. As food is an integral part of our existence the relationship formed with the viewer is deep and holistic. [33] Kenneth Bendiner, 2004. Food In Painting: From The Renaissance To The Present. Reaktion Books

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{35} Opposite page bottom left: 1880 Still Life With Peaches by Henri Fantin-Latour Opposite page bottom right: 1893 Still Life With Drapery, Pitcher and Fruit Bowl by Paul Cezanne Top left: 1781 Still life With Lobster by Anne Vallayer-Coster, Bottom left: 1568 The Peasant Wedding by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Bottom right: 1888 Still Life With Mackerels, Lemons and Tomatoes by Vincent Van Gogh



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Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527 – July 11, 1593) An Italian mannerist painter best known for creating imaginative portrait heads made


entirely of objects such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, and books. His paintings represented these objects on the canvas, arranged in such a way that the whole collection of objects formed a recognizable likeness of the portrait subject painted.

was composed of only various spring flowers and plants. From the hat to the neck, every part of the portrait, even the lips and nose, was composed of flowers, while the body was composed of plants. On the other contrary, in the painting named “The Winter”, the human head was composed mostly of roots of trees. Leaves from evergreen trees and the branches became hair, while a straw mat became the costume of the human portrait.

At a distance, his paintings looked like normal human portraits as painted at the time. However, individual objects in each portrait were actually overlapped together to make various anatomical shapes of a human. They were carefully constructed by his imagination. He has chosen the assembled objects with great care and detail, depicting some kind of relationship to the subject portrayed. Each object was related by characterization.

The portraits portray renaissance fascination with riddles, puzzles, and the bizarre. Some may find Arcimboldo’s paintings grotesque or dreadful, but he might just be catering to the taste of his times.

A Mannerist painting tended to show close relationships between human and nature. Arcimboldo also tried to show his appreciation of nature through his portraits. For example in his painting “The Spring”, the human portrait

By using the everyday objects, the portraits were decoration and still life paintings at the same time. His works showed not only nature and human beings, but also how closely they were related. [34]

[34] Giuseppe Arcimboldo. [Accessed June 2012]. Available from: http:// [35} Literature: The Arcimboldo Effect: Transformations of the face from the 16th to the 20th Century. Abbeville Press, New York, 1St Edition edition (September 1987).

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These bizarre works with multiple images and visual puns, were rediscovered in the early 20th century by Surrealist artists such as Salvador Dalí. The exhibition entitled “The Arcimboldo Effect: Transformations of the face from the 16th to the 20th Century” at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice (1987) includes numerous ‘double meaning’ paintings. [35]



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Ralph Goings (May 25, 1928 - present) An American painter closely associated with the Photorealism or Super Realism movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He is best known for his highly detailed paintings of hamburger stands, pick-up trucks, Sauce bottles and American fast food portrayed in a deliberately objective manner. His work has succeeded from Pop Art in which the


philosophy was bonded to consumerism; for example the works of Andy Warhole, but with stark reality in portrayal. His paintings comment on the consumerist food culture, with bleak reality looking straight back at us. Goings paintings showcase reality in outmost detail making people uncomfortable and forcing them into thinking. It portrays what is happening now in our life every day, without us giving a second thought about it. It does not portray a meaning but relays a fact, keeping it open ended for the viewer to interpret. Life and its nuances are captured in the details of his paintings. His paintings have objects portrayed in deliberately objective manner as he felt that if something was to represent an object then why not make it resemble a photograph as closely as possible. He projects and traces the photograph instead of copying it freehand which brings out even more shocking resemblance. It has upset people, not considering his paintings as pieces of art.

His paintings have freewheeling quality of the American lifestyle. When you look more closely, his paintings are full of American optimism, but also of melancholy—will the perfect place to stop and settle in ever in fact be found? Indeed, embracing banality is very much the point of what Goings does. He wants to tell us that the most ordinary things are well worth looking at, provided that we have the discipline to look at that property, on their own terms and for their own sake. [36] Goings paintings are a reflection of the consumer culture that we now live in. Most importantly, the food culture that we now have and we think we belong to.

[36] Essay: RALPH GOINGS: America’s Vermeer Catalog Essay By Edward Lucie-Smith 2004 | http:// [37] Andy Warhol. [Accessed June 2012]. http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Andy_Warhol

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Andy Warhol was always attacked for “capitulating” to consumerism. Critics were scandalized by Warhol’s open embrace of the market culture. A pivotal event was the 1964 exhibit The American Supermarket. The show was presented as a typical U.S. small supermarket environment, except that everything in it—from the produce, canned goods, meat, posters on the wall, etc.—was created by six prominent pop artists of the time, among them the controversial Billy Apple, Mary Inman, and Robert Watts. Warhol’s painting of a can of Campbell’s soup cost $1,500 while each autographed can sold for $6. The exhibit was one of the first mass events that directly confronted the general public with both pop art and the perennial question of what art is.[37]



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4.2 Food in installations Artist

Stefan Sagmeister Deitch Projects, Banana Wall {38}

The Banana Wall was a part of an art installation, in the exhibition at Deitch Projects in New York - Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far. At the opening of the exhibition, an installation was made out of 10,000 real bananas, stacked up in a giant wall at the Deitch Gallery. Green bananas created a pattern against a background of yellow bananas. In the Banana Wall, Sagmeister used green bananas spelling out the sentiment: Self-confidence produces fine results, with ripe banana as the background. The remarkable fixation about the installation is that it changed over time. After a number of days the green bananas turned yellow and the type disappeared. As the banana’s ripened further, the background become brownish-yellow, the motto (and the self-confidence) appeared again, only to go away when all bananas turned brown. The artwork gradually decayed over 24 days of the exhibition. It is remarking on the fact that food has the quality to decay and die, while being used as a medium to portray futility. It also relays us the meaning of art and its usage with the beauty of it being a temporary feature.

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Mathilde Roussel Lives Of Grass {39}

Exhibited at 2010 Crossing the Line FIAF Festival at Invisible Dog Gallery, Brooklyn, NY ; French Institute Alliance Française FGH Theater hall, NY ; Brooklyn Utopias: Farm City at The Old Stone House Gallery, Brooklyn, NY and Anatomia Botanica, Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art, Nashville, US. French artist Mathilde Roussel has created a series of living grass installations that take the shape of human beings. These ephemeral sculptures, made of recycled material and fabric filled with soil and wheat grass seeds, serve as a metaphor for our bodies’ transformations over time. For them, like us, decay is inevitable. The installation also draws attention to the politics and centrality of food. Each sculpture erupts from Earth’s essential resource – soil, without which we would not exist. These sculptures strive to show us that, in the artist’s words, “Observing nature and being aware of what and how we eat makes us more sensitive to food cycles in the world - of abundance, of famine - and allows us to be physically, intellectually and spiritually connected to a global reality.” “You are what you eat,” echoes in the minds gazing upon these anthropomorphic grass sculptures.[38] [38] Mathilde Roussel, [Accessed May 2013]. Available from: http://www.mathilderoussel.


Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain




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4.3 Food design “Food Design makes possible to think about food as an edible designed product, an object that negates any reference to cooking, tradition and gastronomy”.

Marti Guixé (1964 - present) Marti Guixé is a Catalonian designer living in Barcelona and Berlin. Marti Guixé as a Food Designer builds edible products that are ergonomic, functional and interactive. His work is visionary but radically contemporary and timeless. As a statement against the limited scope of the traditional designer and to open new possibilities for the industry Guixé started an ex-designer movement, defining himself by the same name.

of function and active engagement and reinvention on the part of the consumer. It should be firmly rooted in contemporary experience and not linger in past structures of functionality. Because of this critical and provocative attitude, his work is sometimes associated with the critical design movement, popularized by Fiona Raby and Anthony Dunne, but in general is more playful and less moralistic.[39]

Guixé is very outspoken in his dislike of design as stylized object and form. Rather than reshaping existing products Guixé’s work claims to alter ways of seeing and thinking. Design to Guixé needs to evoke constant evaluation of the parameters

His non-objective approach is reflected in the frequent use of disposable or cheap materials and the quick and ephemeral character of much of his work. The final design often seems only one outcome but of innumerable possibilities.

[39] Critical design, [Accessed May 2013]. Available from: [40] Guixe Mati 2011. [Accessed July 2012]. Available from:

Guixé’s sensitivity towards materials of mass consumption led him to become an important innovator in food design. He understood food design as a way to reevaluate and redesign the structure around food, the industry and the consumer. As Guixé puts it ‘’I am only interested in food, as I consider it is a mass consumption product and I like the fact that it is a product that disappears – by ingestion – and is transformed into energy. For many years food has no longer been a necessity but a consumer product. Most of my food projects are not commercial, but are a way of defining a new perception of this kind of product.’’[40]

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

I-cakes: The pie graphic indicates the

ingredients of the cake in percentages. Decoration becomes information. Prototypes 2001 2001 Presented in Foodwork. La Sala Vinçon, Barcelona.

Oranienbaum Lollipop: An orange candy

lollipop with a seed inside. It is a way to activate sporadic and spontaneous reforestation just by splitting the seed once the candy is finished. {40} 1999 Presented Couleur Locale



Flavoured Stamps: Stamps with food images on one side and with the flavour of the imaged food on the other. 1997 Presented in SPAMT Galeria H2O, Barcelona.

Plato combinado: System to combine food ingredients along genetic theories. The four variables are sea, land, carbohydrates and vegetables. They are combined mathematically. 2001 Presented in Foodwork. La Sala Vinçon, Barcelona.

The ‘Gummibärchen’, Germany’s equivalent to the jelly baby, was designed by Hans Riegel in Bonn in 1922; fish fingers appeared anonymously in the UK around the year 1960, the sugar cube goes back to Jakob Christoph Rad from Bohemia and dates from the year 1843, while the chewing gum ball was invented by Thomas Adams in the USA around 1870. [41] [41] Kiple F. Kenneth, Ornelas Coneè Kriemhild, 1958. The Cambridge World History of Food. Cambridge University Press



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4.4 Eating design “Eating design is to design from the verb ‘to eat’.” Designers who work with the subject of food are often called ‘food designers’.

Marije Vogelzang (1978 - present ) According to Marije Vogelzang, food is already perfectly designed by nature. Instead, her designs focus around the verb ‘to eat’. Vogelzang is inspired by the origin of food and the preparation, etiquette, history and culture around it. Food goes to the stomach, but it can also activate the brain and can rouse strong memories and emotions. Not only does she think deeply about what is on the plate, but she also thinks about everything that surrounds the act of eating. The atmosphere, the people involved in the stories behind the ingredients, the taste and texture. Sound, smell, colour of food and the way it is prepared and served. She explores the intimacy of design that actually goes inside your body and follows the journey of food from seed all the way to poop. As Marije

says “there is no material that comes as close to human beings as food. Being a designer how close can you get to the human being? My designs go inside your body. They feed you; they become a part of you. Even after you carried them to the toilet they will feed the soil that feeds the trees that will feed you again”. It is often thought that designers who work with food only design the shape of it. Vogelzang’s aim is to look at the content and background of the food as well; the shape is just a tool to tell a story. [42]

Eating design is an uncultivated area with an endless amount of possibilities. Marije’s eight point philosophy gives insight into where the possibilities of working with food can lead.

Thinking about all this and working and experimenting in her studio and restaurant and by creating eating experiences for her clients she has developed her own unique way of looking at eating from a psychological, cultural and design point of view.

• technique

[42] Marije Vogelzang 2012. [Accessed July 2012]. Available from:

The eight points are: • the senses • nature • culture • society

• psychology • science • action

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Eat Love Budapest (Culture) Memory / Experience ‘Eat Love Budapest’ was a multisensory performance project and experience, bringing together two strangers for the intimate act of sharing food and being fed. The project emphasizes the individuality and beauty inherent in the life of each person. Ten Roman women were invited to anonymously share their story with one stranger at a time. Each woman would feed her guest with her own hands foods that have personal meaning to her, recounting memories, songs, and stories as they sit together. Each visitor to the installation enjoys a different experience with different stories, different foods, a different scent, different photographs and messages in the tent. Each also left having partaken not only of traditional foods but also the story of a person, in sound, taste, smell, and touch. Likely to be relived at each encounter of these foods, other Roma people, or the smells and sounds experienced.



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Sharing Dinner (Action) Experience / Performance Droog Design in the Netherlands asked Marije to do a Christmas dinner. Thinking of Christmas as a time when people eat together, she decided to create a simple intervention. She used a table with a tablecloth, but instead of putting the cloth on the table, she made slits in it and suspended it in the air, so that the participants sat with their heads inside the space and their bodies outside. Physically connecting each person, covering everyone’s clothing created a sense of equality. Initially she was concerned because the participants didn’t know each other beforehand, but it increased their desire to relate to one another, and brought about a feeling of being in something together. The food was also part of the project. One person was served a slice of melon on a plate that was cut in two; the person opposite her was given ham on a similar plate. The combination was so classic that, without even being told to do so, the participants naturally began to share food.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

Go Slow {41}

(Society) Cafe / Restaurant It offers a different kind of “slow food,” in which elderly people of New York prepare and serve food slowly, with attention and care. Its aim is to accentuate ordinary aspects of dining and eating for a renewed appreciation of details and processes. You are treated as though you are visiting our grandmother’s for dinner. The tranquil setting and deliberate slow pace transform the dining experience. The menu and the wooden plate visualize and physically express transport and distance: local food is served in generous portions while ingredients from far away are served in progressively smaller portions. At the most local level, is baby cress: grown on-site and literally worn by the staff on their aprons, combined with mustard greens from the recently hip Rooftop Farms in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Then on to cheese from Tennessee, ham from Kentucky, walnuts from Chile, olives from Turkey, a lychee from China, butter from Russia, and finally, star dust.



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Roots (Nature) Play / Experience It explores the shared culinary history of British and Dutch root vegetables. It was rediscovered through the medium of clay cooking. Clay cooking enables you to build sculptures, bake seasoned root vegetables and create a sensory landscape. In ancient times whole animals were baked in clay on an open fire, and after being removed from the hot coals, smashed open. The cooked contents, in this case, root vegetables are only revealed when the clay shell is broken, creating a dilemma; breaking a sculpture to sample the warm root inside. It is an attempt to connect past and present on a modern table like an eclectic archaeological site.

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Black Confetti (Psychology) Exhibition / Memory / Nostalgia ‘It looked like black confetti’ the ashes falling down the sky after the WWII bombardment of Rotterdam seen through the eyes of a child. For the opening of an exhibition about WWII, the resistance museum was asked for original war recipes. Dishes were prepared according to the recipes but served as hors ‘d oeuvres. Some survivors of the war, who were children back then, were invited. They came and tasted the food. They had not tasted this food in over 60 years. Some food brought back forgotten memories of that time, both horrific and pleasant. The experience was very emotional and nostalgic.



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4.5 Precedence “To set a precedent” would mean to begin a certain line of thought which can be the foundation for further exploration and work. It describes an opinion established in a previously undertaken project of similar background. The general principle of precedent is the mechanism by which that goal is attained through understanding of what has already been implemented by other people working in similar areas. It is to explore the possibilities through already undertaken work, in emergence of the two disciplines; New Media Design and Food.

and study of new media is to create associations/ cross linkages across the fields of art, science, technology and design.

New media design is “severely transdisciplinary” in nature and it examines the impact that technologies may have on mankind in the future. It encourages in exploring and critically examining the relationship between technology and culture giving the undertaken project the niche it requires to delve into the domain of food culture. Contemporary practice

Exploration of earlier implemented works, gives a background for further development. It also controls the course of the project so that similar work should not be put into practice. It creates a foundation for novice creations so as to be able to function in situations where lack of definition persists, to define our own practices and grounds, informed through practice and research.

The following section is to recognize the intersection of New Media and Food through various projects. Food and technology traverse at a common meeting ground resulting in diverse projects and outcomes. Food as a medium is employed with varied results. It is to consider the capacity of design that falls in the same section as the venture undertaken.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

Breakfast Machine Yuri Suzuki, Masa Kimura & Platform 21 {42}

“Breakfast” is symbol of a beginning, which is wonderfully used by Suzuki in the breakfast machine. It’s playful and interactive nature encourages the viewer to become a part of the work. Impressive in both conceptualization and execution, the machine is a Rube Goldberg machine which can serve you an omelet, coffee and a toast with jam. Yuri and Masa invited other designers and the public to help build and design the machine using recycled remnants of previous Platform21 projects.



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Whispering Table {42}

The GreenEyl & Stiftung Jßdisches Museum Berlin Four unique festivities celebrated by people of distinct cultures are assembled in an archetypical scene of congregation. Visitors approaching a round table filled with empty dishes discover that these are actually telling personal stories about the symbolic meaning of food and rituals. Written by a story writer, these stories are based on interviews and research carried out for this piece. The content changes according to the dishes’ positions and their distance to the others. Similarities and peculiarities of different food ceremonies are explored in a playful and entertaining way. By changing table constellations, the visitors reveal more and more stories and become part of a participatory spectacle. With a variety of sensors and microelectronics, each module offers the ability to calculate, behave and narrate according to users’ wishes.

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Till you stop Mischer’Traxler & MAK Vienna The project is designed for the exhibition ‘Design Criminals or A new joy into the world’, inviting a discourse on ‘Ornament and Crime’.


‘Till you stop’ cake decoration deals with a cake decoration method that allows the visitor to decide how much decoration is applied onto their cake. A simple machine decorates the cake with lines (similar to a Spirograph) and continuously decorates until the visitor decides to stop the decoration process. The decor is continuously changing and the visitor decides whether he prefers a simple ornament or a more complex one. When is the right time to stop? Once the decoration machine is stopped it cannot be started again. The project reflects the industry behind decoration (industrialized image vs. the romantic imagination). The project is a critique of the excessive tendencies in our consumer culture.



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Three Pieces Ziggy Campbell, Simon Kirby & Found Electronics Collaborative musical composition between robots, traditional instruments, and living things, housed in Victorian Palm House of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, where a multi-fingered robot plays a traditional Chinese dulcimer whilst an ensemble of robotic chimes, concealed by the surrounding foliage. The robots are separate entities, however, they communicate with one another, essentially performing together. The robot performers are conducted by the living organisms in the Palm House; as the moisture content of the soil changes slowly according to the water intake of the plant, whilst the temperature within the building fluctuates according to human and animal movement. The music changes in relation to these variations. The installation uses custombuilt hardware which monitors motion within the Palm House together with a soil moisture probe. The music is performed by 13 robots. The robots react to humans, but their mood alters with the plants.


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Growth rendering device

David Bowen & Rochester Art Center Bowen creates complex sculptural installations that utilize technology to integrate mechanical systems with the natural world. The installation intertwines the organic with the machine, to create a new hybrid environment; exploring how technology can amplify our experience of the physical world. The device produced a 50 foot scroll of drawings of a pea plant as it grew, thrived, withered and died over a 3-month period. This system provides light and food in the form of hydroponic solution for the plant. The plant reacts to the device by growing. The device in-turn reacts to the plant by producing a rasterized inkjet drawing of the plant every twenty-four hours. After a new drawing is produced the system scrolls the roll of paper approximately four inches so a new drawing can be produced during the next cycle. This system is allowed to run indefinitely and the final outcome is not predetermined.



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Botanicalls Rob Faludi, Kate Hartman, & Kati London. The project is fundamentally about communication between plants and people, empowering both by inventing new avenues of interaction. Plants that might otherwise be neglected are given the ability to call, tweet and text-message people to request assistance. People who are unsure of their ability to effectively care for growing things are given visual and aural clues using common human methods of communication. The original system in 2006 enabled house plants to make phone calls for human help. When a plant needs water, it can call a person and ask for exactly what it needs. When people phone the plants, the plants orient callers to their botanical characteristics. In our highpaced lives we seldom have the time to stop and smell the flowers, let alone water them. But what if the plants could call us and tell us what & when they needed it? What if they assigned us tasks? Would this alter or engage us?


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Botanicus Interacticus Disney Research It is a technology for designing highly expressive interactive plants, both living and artificial. Driven by the rapid fusion of computing and living spaces, it takes its interaction from computing devices and places it in the physical world using livings plants as an interactive medium. This instrumentation of living plants is simple, non-invasive, and does not damage the plants. It requires only a single wire placed anywhere in the plant soil. It allows for rich and expressive interaction with plants, gestures such as sliding fingers on the stem of the orchid, detecting touch and grasp location, tracking proximity between human and a plant, and estimating the amount of touch contact, among others. Botanicus Interacticus technology can be used to design highly interactive responsive environments based on plants; developing new forms of organic, living interaction devices as well as creating organic ambient and pervasive interfaces.



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Food Probe Philips Design ‘Food Probe’ that looks at current social trends and how this may affect the way that people will eat in the future — and how this will manifest in design. The investigation includes three parts: a self-contained farm for the kitchen, a nutrition farm and a hightech cooking device. “Home Farming” is arguably the most interesting part of this investigation. The unit is a self-contained and self-reliant food growing unit that uses the system of aquaponics. Its cabinet-like shape contains room for ‘shelves’ for planting vegetable and herbs, and a bottom level for fish, making this tech-gardening device ready to fit snugly into any home and a possible replacement for its backyard version. Philips Design has recognized that the restructuring the way we grow and consume food over the next 15-20 years is a serious one, and with their Food Probe, have presented us with a three-pronged approach to food systems of the future.


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Noisy Jelly {46}

RaphaÍl pluvinage & Marianne Cauvard at L’Ensci Les ateliers Noisy jelly is a game where the player has to cook and shape his own musical material, based on coloured jelly. With this noisy chemistry lab, the gamer will create their individual jelly with water and a few grams of agar-agar powder. After adding different colours, the mixture is then poured in the moulds. 10 min later, the jelly is set and the shape can then be placed on the game board. By touching the shape, the gamer will activate different sounds. Technically, the game board is a capacitive sensor and the variations of the shape, their salt concentration, the distance and the strength of the finger contact, are detected and transformed into an audio signal. This objective was to demonstrate that electronic interfaces can have a new aesthetic and can be envisaged as a malleable material; that can be manipulated and experimented through certain variable properties. This project was a fully working prototype made with Arduino and Max/ Msp, with live generative sound.



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Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain


Concepts & experiments Initial concepts & experiments 5.1 Dinner Table 5.2 Plants as Interfaces 5.3 Food as Interfaces



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Initial concepts & experiments

5.1 Dinner table Objects like tables are different from any other multimodal artefacts given the importance of their practical function. To a large extent a table is defined by its ability to serve as a surface of varying elevation of human interaction and activities, and for carrying objects. In this way communication is not the primary function of tables. However, that is not to say that tables are not semiotic. Tables are multimodal and semiotic artefacts. [43] A dining table allows humans to be seated at them with knees underneath the table. They allow for a more intense relation between humans and the table. The potential for Human – Table interactivity can be presented as a number of possible choices depending on involvement, hierarchy and social distance. The larger the table top: the longer the physical and symbolic distance between the people surrounding the table.

As stated in a case study of IKEA tables: A round table does not distinguish between higher involvement and detachment in such an obvious way and allows for involvement between lager number of people [44]. Thus keeping this in mind, for the conceptual prototype a round table is developed with multi-touch sensing capabilities. The table surface is constructed in two layers, the top is a non conductive layer and the bottom is a conductive layer formed by a metal sheet. They together would act as a capacitance sensing device. With the help of customized electronics and code, the table detects the number of fingers placed and the pressure applied on the surface of the table. Each touch interaction is relayed as readings from the micro-controller. Visuals were put into place to interpret the readings in a simpler fashion. The table top is used for projection of content.

[43], [44] Björkvall, Anders. 2009. Practical Function and Meaning: A case study of IKEA tables, In:The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis. London & New York: Routledge. pp: 242-252

The activities that we perform daily around the dining table like sitting, picking up a spoon, eating, sharing etc. were intended as interactions which can have a mediated output. The content for the output can be mapped and projected on to the surface of the table while food is consumed. The table is an important cultural artefact in the act “to eat”. In the idealistic situation the table can act as a self sustaining aquaponic structure. It will support plant and aquatic life which can become part of the food chain of the person. Herbs, vegetables can be grown along side with fishes. They help in providing each other with the needed nutrients and oxygen to survive. The surface of the table will offer immediate value and the plants/ fishes will suggest contemplation value. The table’s intent is to motivate people subconsciously and grow their food to live a sustainable locavore lifestyle.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

Proposed interactions • Sit • Touch table • Touch plants • Touch plate • Pick spoon • Pick fork • Smell • Eat / taste • Share




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Polystyrene 3mm sheet out of which 2ft diameter circle was made, under that the same size aluminium circular plate fitted to cause the phenomena of capacitance. It could detect the number of fingers placed and the pressure applied.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain




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Initial concepts & experiments

5.2 Plants as interfaces Most food has its origin in plants. Many plants or plant parts are eaten as food; even animals that are used as food sources are raised by feeding them food derived from plants. There are around 2,000 plant species which are cultivated for food, and many have several distinct cultivars. Cereal grain is a staple food that provides more food energy worldwide than any other type of crop. Maize, wheat, and rice, in all of their varieties, account for 87% of all grain production worldwide. [45] Fruits make up a significant part of the diets of most cultures. Some botanical fruits, such as tomatoes, pumpkins, and eggplants, are eaten as vegetables. Vegetables are a second type of plant matter that is commonly eaten as food. These include roots, bulbs, leaf vegetables, stem vegetables , and inflorescence vegetables.

Incorporating plants into the study of concern appears inevitable, due to the underlying fact of plants being an important part of our food system. However there was a need to create a way to make them more expressive and relatable using ubiquitous technologies present around us. Further development of the idea took place by imparting plant with human characteristics and emotions in a response to quantitative/ qualitative inputs. The concepts and experiments lead to plants becoming multitouch or multimodal interfaces for human interactions. These can also be expressed as “Living interfaces�[46].


Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

Living Interfaces In the recent years, different projects have followed this vision. For instance, the (In)Security Camera [47] is a shy surveillance camera that avoids eye contact, and was designed as a statement of social criticism (rather than an exploration of affective HCI). Nabaztag [48] gives information about weather, stock market, air quality, road traffic, email, etc. in various ways, including (ear) posture, light and sound – as opposed to the appliance proposed in this paper that relies only on non-verbal communication and reduced functionality. Furthermore, Luxalive [49] should be mentioned, a reading lamp that moves in relation to the user’s personality and mood.

{51} Multimodal Interactions: Input - Output

[45] Wikipedia: [46] Eva Burneleit, Fabian Hemmert and Reto Wettach, Living Interfaces: The Impatient Toaster Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Tangible and Embedded Interaction (TEI’09), Feb 16-18 2009, Cambridge, UK [47] S. Ruzanka, B. C. and D. Strakovsky, (in)security camera. Available at:; [48] Violet, Nabaztag. Available at: [49] R. Zoontjes, Luxalive. Available at: http://zoontjens.blogspot. com/2007/07/luxalivehuman-values-in-interaction.html.



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{53} Plants as living interfaces and where they can form a connection to humans.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

{53} Plant Interactions and technology that can be used.



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1) To curate a tomato The installation is based around the idea of existence and presence. The two can be characterized differently by people. Things exist but their presence is not felt and the nuances of life can be missed out in the hyper-mediated era that we live in. Tomato is taken as the subject of interest as it is one of the widely used fruits (mistaken as a vegetable) in our everyday food. A living, growing tomato plant is mounted onto a wall, which is not its natural perceived environment. The plant is infested with tiny mechanized pygmy like creatures. They pop out or hide according to people’s actions. The behaviour of the creatures is mapped to proposed interactions which are presence, speech, whistle, sing, shout, touch and pluck.

When the pygmies don’t sense activity around them they come out of hiding and curate the plant. Loud noises and touch can make them disappear. The user can sing to them or speak softly to motivate them to slowly appear back. The subtle movements during the act signalize activity and life. Life like movements, suggest sympathy and perceived cuteness of an object. The intent is to get people involved and watch the performance of these little creatures. The idea of infestation is used to instigate people’s response. Making them think of these creatures as insects. But it is a statement towards the lives of farmers. Who, like insects are invisible beings in oblivion performing their responsibilities, affected by the choices made by the consumers.

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Proposed interactions • Presence • Speak • Whistle • Sing • Shout • Touch • Pluck




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2) Aural physis ‘Physis’ is a Greek word which translates to english as ‘Nature.’ It is the principle of growth or change in nature. [50] Rapid fusions of computing and dwelling spaces, as well as the increasingly tactile and gestural nature of interactions with digital devices act as motivation for the following explorations. If a broad variety of objects in living, social and working spaces are made aware and responsive to human presence, touch and gesture; what will be the outcome? In the series of experimentation with living plants, ubiquitous technology is used. Plants were transformed as highly expressive and interactive user interfaces. The prototypes use customized electronics and computing with living flora. The outcome is an interaction platform that takes interactions from the physical to a digital environment.

The technology used has a number of unique properties. This instrumentation of plants is simple, non-invasive, and does not damage the plants. It requires only a single wire placed anywhere in the soil. The interaction with plant goes beyond simple touch and allows rich gestural interaction. Examples include sliding fingers on the stem or leaf, detecting touch and grasp location, tracking proximity, and estimating the amount of pressure on touch. A broad range of applications are possible with the developed technology, designing interactive responsive environments and new forms of living interaction devices as well as developing organic ambient and pervasive interfaces.

[50] Physis 2011. [Accessed October 2012]. Available from:

{55} First conceptual prototype, leading to experiments with touch and sound.

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Experimentation (a) Touch with visual output The visuals were mapped to different touch interactions. {56}




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(b) Touch with sound as output Different interactions such as position of touch were mapped to different songs.



{58}, {59} Working prototype, experiments with touch, music and sounds. Using capacitive sensing.

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(c) Touch with tweets as output Touch and pressure as inputs were used for sending twitter messages on internet. {60}


Similar experiment is carried out with the plant.




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3) Wormholes {63}

A wormhole, also known as an Einstein-Rosen Bridge is a hypothetical topological feature of spacetime that would be, fundamentally, a “shortcut” through spacetime[51]. In other words a black hole, through which things could travel from both the sides. The suggested pair is designed like a portal into another dimension. Giving the user access to the unseen world, to eavesdrop on what is happening on the other side. They act as communication devices to the other realm. They are a sender-receiver pair in the physical world. The medium used in this experiment were living trees. If one could imagine that the trees acted as connectors to different places in the world, they would be able to transmit voices from one end to the other. Today the world is in the age of transmission where everything is disembodied and is getting reduced to a signal. The pace of the world is increasing with advancement in technology and it seems the distances are becoming smaller. Whereas the physicality and the old world charm of tangible objects is getting lost. The underlying idea is to make the tree like a transmitter and a receiver with the ability

to send and receive voices. An individual would speak into the wormhole from one end not knowing if she would get a reply. If she does get a reply, she would want to know who is she talking to and where is the person located. The device can also act as a passive channel, just relaying activity from the other end. The act would make people inquisitive to know about the noise being relayed. The purpose of the communication is to transfer a person’s tangible presence into other person’s environment, through which they can device new ways to play, communicate and share. If there are a number of such devices on trees across the world, in different continents, cities and places. By the end you would not know where the voice is coming from and who is it going to. It would be like an active connection between different places coexisting in the same world. The developed low fidelity prototype uses the internet connectivity, Bluetooth speakers, voice over IP and a laptop. The unit can become self sustaining with an integrated chip that would have the capabilities of a computer to do the needful. [51] Wormhole 2012. [Accessed September 2012]. Available from:

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{64} {63} Working prototype, forms a voice connection between two points, people interact with each other through trees.



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4) Relaying existences Today, man leads a mechanized life, surrounded by machines, he has forgotten to halt and observe his own space and surroundings. He tends to overlook the simple nuances in life. Plants are part of our environment but their existence is passive as living organisms. Passing under a tree without taking notice is a daily activity. The challenge is to instigate a response from the usual bystander to take notice of the beautiful tree. It is an attempt to make people more aware of their environment, to which they have become unobservant. To make things, be it perceptible or tangible, visible to the casual passerby which is no longer of value to him. Changing an individual’s outlook is the intention. The initiative is to make a tree more expressive, not by altering its natural form but by enhancing its presence. Letting the tree blend into the backdrop but provide a playful, exciting, tangible and non-verbal connection to the human being involved in the interaction. The communication is to convey the tree’s tangible presence to the person through the element of surprise. The interaction chosen is the act of falling fruit, which is a natural

phenomenon. As the individual passes under the tree a fruit falls down. The person can choose to take the fruit or the fruit will roll back on to the tree after a while. The installation can be a number of trees having similar response, placed in an orchard or any day-to-day scenario. The interactions henceforth can device new ways to engage and play with our surroundings. The conclusion of the installation will be left abstract for the person to make his/ her own meaning. {65}

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5) Chatty planters {67}

The exploration is done on the same outline as the above mentioned series of prototypes. The distinction is the user group targeted. It is for young kids from the age group of 3 to 5 years. At this age the kids start to learn about colors, numbers, different fruits and vegetables. It is based on the practice of play, which is important for learning at this young age. It is also influenced by the Psychology of Flow which is an important phase of learning and doing. The prototype is made in the form of a planter, with different fruits and vegetables. The fruits and vegetables are in the form of stuffed plant signs. Plant signs are put in planters to indicate the seed that has been sowed in the pot. These interactive plant signs come to life when planted in the planter. Individual fruit or vegetable is imparted with a specific character. These are then transformed into a narrative structure with dialogues. The interaction indicates the act of planting and gratification. When a tomato is planted the tomato will talk back to the child with information. The relayed content will be the kind of plant, the colour of fruit, classification and some fun facts. When a

second plant is planted into the planter a short dialogue happens between the two plants. The conversation will be from daily life; for example how the two are related or used in everyday food. The intent of the concept is to introduce children to the idea of planting. Giving them knowledge about our day-to-day food arriving from plants, how they are grown and where they come from. The children can be taught the idea of “growing your own food�. So that when they grow up they can live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain




Simran Chopra | New Media Design

Initial concepts & experiments

5.3 Food as interfaces As talked about earlier, the emphasis till now had been on plants as they form an integral part of our diet. Plants were used as expressive interfaces, to make people more perceptive towards their existence. Living interfaces theory was used as an underlying influence. Thoughts and concepts progressed at each step with different explorations during the course of the venture. For proof of concepts experimentation with technology played a vital role in prototyping. The focus of the investigation now, shifted towards the wholeness of food. Making people understand the importance of the kind of food that they put in their body

also communicating all the factors that influence it. The objective now was to use daily food items as a medium to relay poignant information. If your food had a voice, what would it intend to tell you? Would it tell you its story? Food was transformed into “edible interfaces” to convey information and make people interested and aware. Ubiquitous technologies of our current lifestyle were employed to form the interactions with the edible interfaces. The edible interfaces will convey the ideas, by different everyday interactions that we usually perform. It could be through harvesting, cooking, eating or going to the toilet afterwards.

Hundreds of years ago, the Hindu scriptures “Upanishads” were already mentioning ‘You are what you eat’, and in Europe, in 1826, Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, in Physiologie du Goût, ou Méditations de Gastronomie Transcendante: ‘Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.’ “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are”[52]. As the ideas underwent evolution, the project started to take a different direction and this quote became an inspiration for the work that followed. [52] Harris Patricia, Lyon David. The meaning of food

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.� J.R.R. Tolkien



Simran Chopra | New Media Design

1) Croonfood It is an exploration with food and sound. Distinct tunes are played according to the kind of eatables in your plate. The production of music takes place through a smart handheld device. The handheld gadget is made out of customized electronics and acts as a food scanner. It has the ability to scan your food and generate musical notes accordingly. The food on your plate acts as an input to produce music. Generated music from food is based on the thought; if food had the ability to talk to you, what would it say? Would it sing? Maybe it would sing or speak in a gentle murmuring tone; crooning its way to your stomach and heart. Eating is multisensory in nature and the device enhances the sensorial hearing aspect of your food, through producing sounds. It enhances the experience around food and of eating. Every sound clip produced will be specific to the nature of the food on your plate. Particular food items will have specific sounds; it will depend on the colour, the quality and the quantity. With further

work it can have the ability to distinguish and detect fast food so that it can produce corresponding shocking sounds. The device will also have the ability to send the produced sound clips to other people, using similar devices or over social media websites. So that other people can hear the kind of food you are eating. It can also have an effect on people’s consumption patterns, as they would relate certain sounds to be good and certain sound to be dire, consequential to the foods that produce it. It will give rise to a subconscious equation of good and bad foods. The conceptual prototype for the concept works through the use of a Web Camera, Bluetooth Speakers, Processing (open source programming language) and a Computer. The webcam is used to detect the colours in the edibles on your plate that are then synchronized to different tunes through the software and customized code. The tunes will narrate the colour frequencies in the foodstuff; for example ketchup will have a higher frequency than vegetable greens.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain




Simran Chopra | New Media Design

2) In Reflection The concept revolves around the idea of reflection, which enhances the capability of play. People like to play with their shadows and reflections. They want to see themselves perform through the means of reflection. In reflection is a concept to signify ‘You are what you eat’, as mentioned in the Indian texts ‘Upanishads’. It can be interpreted that food constitutes us, builds us and makes us, so we are formed by the kind of food we eat. By telling what you eat we can estimate who you are. By taking inspiration from the artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the interpretation of the reflection was structured. The reflection of the person is enclosed within a painting like frame, but the reflection is not straightforward. The manipulated reflection has the capability to comprehend interaction between two mediums. And return the information to the medium from which it originates for interpretation. Rather than a simple reflected surface the reflection is influenced by the kind of food that constitutes you.

The conceptual prototype uses the abilities of a webcam to detect presence. It captures the silhouette and colours of the person’s image and translates it into a reflection into the picture frame. It is a generated image, composed of different foods, fruits and vegetables. Computational abilities of the code will derive the selection of the food items through different colours. For example colour red can be formed by tomatoes or cherries depending on the intensity and tone of red in the image. So the reflected silhouette of the person is actually composed of tomatoes, wheat etc. The thought can also comment on the consumption patterns of people as the image formed can be through the input of people’s choice of food and food items. As images are more powerful than words it can denote in a painting the kind of consumer culture we live in right now.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain




Simran Chopra | New Media Design

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain


Installation development 6.1 Space 6.2 Representation & story 6.3 Construction 6.4 Navigation Flow 6.5 Challenges 6.6 Future scope



Simran Chopra | New Media Design

Final Concept

Story of the Urban Food Chain (Characters, Metaphors, Designing Interactions, Technology) Designers are using the whole world to communicate, transforming it into a live stage for an information parkour and enriching our lives with emotion, direction, depth, and freedom. New branches of design practices have emerged that combine design with form, function, and meaning with a focus on the exchange of information and emotion. Interface and interaction design delineate the behavior of products and systems as well as the experiences that people will have with them. Also in critical design, conceptual scenarios are built around hypothetical objects to comment on the social, political, and cultural consequences of new technologies and behaviours. The purpose of design has shifted from utility [53] MOMA, exhibit: Talk to me. 2012. [Accessed October 2012]. Available from:

towards a more holistic combination of purpose and meaning. Thus centered on interactions, “I communicate, therefore I am� is the defining affirmation of contemporary existence. [53] Objects and systems that were once charged only with formal elegance and functional soundness are now also expected to have personalities. Contemporary designers now also must draft the scripts that allow people and things to develop and improvise a dialogue. The installation is an insight into our urban food chain, on how the consumers are left without a choice to choose food. Everything is controlled by corporations, branding and politics; driven by capitalistic mindset. Farmers are forced to abide by their whims & technology or get eliminated. We are left with unanswered questions, health issues and inflation. To improve the quality of life, the factors which play pivotal role in the daily food chain have to be analyzed and sustainability in food practices has to be considered.

The concerns were reflected in the form of metaphors, which allows space for creating associations for any individual engaging with the installation. Embedded and tangible interaction act as the mediums directing a thought provoking experience. The project ecosystem consists of the main factors that are involved in revealing the story of the urban food chain. The art work is tangible and exploratory in nature, dealing with live plants, fruits and vegetables. Understanding of space and ergonomics helped in defining the interactions and responses. With the help of physical computing dealing with electronics and codes, specific mediums are devised. A great deal of work is put into making living and edible interfaces as the connecting points; a live plant, a tomato you can pick and bite into, an apple which can communicate back and an onion which can talk were some of the interfaces that were thought of and put into action. The context is evident through specific characters

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

devised through understanding of the concerns and the metaphors that were drawn. The installation explores a new terrain that enhances communicative possibilities and embodies a new balance between technology and people, bringing technology down to a comfortable, understandable human scale. Whether openly and actively or in subtle, subliminal ways, things talk to us. Tangible and intangible, and at all scales¡ªfrom the spoon to the city, the government, and the web, and from buildings to communities, social networks, systems, and artificial worlds¡ªthings communicate. All of them do not speak up: some use text, diagrams, visual interfaces, or even scent and temperature; others just keep us company in eloquent silence. Same thought was put while designing the interactions for specific characters. All of them were distinct and specific to the conversation at hand, designed to help people interpret the metaphors with ease. So as to stimulate the viewer into subconsciously thinking about the concerns.




Simran Chopra | New Media Design

6.1 Space The settings chosen for the installation are art galleries, exhibitions and public spaces. It has to be a place which will have an inflow of diverse people, with an open mind. The space plays a crucial component in involving the viewer and creating an environment to construe. This kind of specific space will provide the liberty for the people to engage and interact with the installation, giving them time to understand the underlying significance. The freedom will stimulate a dialogue and discourse, within the community to create own meanings to comprehend the factors influencing the urban food chain, and also the importance of what and how they consume as consumers. For success of the endeavour, interpretation is very important and it will happen only when the individual is given the liberty to realize the impact of the design and thought. For it will subconsciously affect the thinking of the person to consider the information and enquire into the topic. The dimensions of the installation are 5 meters in width and 6.5 feet in height and 1 foot in depth.


Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

6.2 Representation & Story

{73} Performers - Characters - Concerns



Simran Chopra | New Media Design


Apple Character: The Superstar Concerns: Cosmetic nature of food,

branding and marketing influence on our buying decisions

Interaction: “Come close to tweet� When the person comes close to the podium holding the apple, the apple starts tweeting on its personal twitter account.

Technology: Arduino Microcontroller, Arduino Ethernet Shield, Distance Sensor, Internet connectivity, Twitter and Smartphone

Our everyday apple was selected for portraying the superstar. The intention was to convey the cosmetic nature of food, which is now prevalent due to the food culture that we live in. We as consumers are made to think that if the food item looks good, it will taste good and be nutritious as well. This outlook

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain


is developed due to the persuasive nature of marketing, advertising and branding which is done for food products now days. Apple is a fruit available in the Indian market which is now mostly imported. To satisfy the high demand of consumers throughout the year, imported varieties travel across the world. They are stored in cold storage for months waiting to be bought again and sold. For surviving the journey only a few robust varieties are chosen which are transport friendly and can survive for long. These apples are then waxed and polished so that they do not lose water content and can endure for longer period of time. They are then carefully stickered and packaged into air / sea freight to be transported to distant corners of the world. The waxing procedure makes them look good outside as the skin of the apple stays and looks the same but the apple ages from inside and rots. When a consumer buys the same apples from a shelf locally, through vendors or food malls, they don’t know about all the factors that have influenced their choice. The choice is not actually a choice anymore. It has already become a carefully selected menu by the corporate for you to consume. The fruit

that you buy and put inside your body may be months old and has lost its nutrition value. But the consumer is not imparted with such information about the apple. The indigenous varieties lose out in the competition and are not sold as widely or even considered as good as the imported ones. This act increases the carbon footprint of the imported food item to a very large extent. Taking into account the transportation, waxing, polishing and storage, each apple has a big carbon footprint which gets sold with an expensive price tag. The personality of the apple is that of a snobbish, popular celebrity. The character created for the installation also has to invoke all these concerns through the dialogues that it will be saying. The interaction developed for the apple is when a person comes close to “the superstar¨ - the apple, it starts tweeting on its personalized twitter account. It is in tune with the character it is portraying in the era of connectivity where popular people use social media to communicate to their fans. The dialogues of the character are realistic and satirical in nature, as the person interacting with the apple will have to understand the hidden message subconsciously to realize the impact.



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Dialogues: • “Have you seen my #carbon footprint... its huge!!”,

• “Yooohhhooo World!!!, I’m back”, • “#Flying business class from California to India”,

• “I love consumerism... ”, • “Here I get shipped again.... woohhoo”,

• “Past 2 months in the #cold storage, it’s so freezing in here”,

• “My wax can kill you, I feel so evil”,

• “Just got my waxing done, #polishing coming next”,

• “My wax is my botox, it’s the looks that matter”, • “I love my cosmetics & preservatives”,

• “Polished to my brightest #red”,

• “I am an average superstar, high on chemicals”,

• “#luscious me!!”,

• “Juicy me, no juicy no more”,

• “I am #crunchy no more”,

• “Indian apples... do they exist anymore...?”,

• “Now I have my own #brand sticker”, • “Preservatives make me rotten inside, I look best outside”, • “Having some competition with the #Australian Green”,

• “Apples are a man’s best friend”, • “If looks could kill”, • “Bite into the Snowwhite’s poison”.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain




Simran Chopra | New Media Design


Tomato Character: The Relative Concerns: Chemical and toxic content in food due to fertilizers and pesticides.

Interaction: “Pick one to taste” When someone picks up a cherry tomato from the tray, it triggers voice output in the form of dialogues.

Technology: Arduino Microcontroller, Arduino MP3 Shield, Light Detecting Resistors and Mini Speakers

The word “tomato” may refer to the plant or the edible, typically red fruit that it bears. Having originated in Mexico, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown throughout the world. [54]

[54] Tomato. 2013. [Accessed June 2013]. Available from:

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain


The tomato is consumed in diverse ways, including raw, as an ingredient in many dishes and sauces, and in drinks. While it is botanically a fruit, it is considered a vegetable for culinary purposes, which has caused some confusion. Tomato is widely used in our everyday food from stews to curries. It forms an integral part of our cuisines and meals. As we would say that food is our sustenance and it forms part of our body. So the tomato that we eat is also in a way part of us. Taking the analogy of its colour, why not say it forms our blood as in whatever we consume flows through our veins. It is in a way our close blood relative. Having formed the correlation with us and our family tree, it is something we cannot ignore. As you cannot disregard your relatives you cannot overlook a tomato in your daily diet. To this context a tomato is widely used every day. It is also one of the fruits which have the highest amount of chemical content. Due to its thin skin and high water content the tomato absorbs a lot of pesticides and fertilizers being sprayed on the plant. Tomato is a

difficult plant to grow and support, so the high consumption demands by the consumers are sustained by the farmers through continuous use of chemicals. The installation invites the viewer to pick up a cherry tomato from the customized tray, while doing so it triggers a voice output. The voice is that of an irksome woman, which you can associate to one of your aunts in the family. She talks in a quirky tone, with an underlying tone of sarcasm and disgust. She is talking about the consumerism and how it leads to usage of more chemicals in food and how it harms our body. The dialogues instigate a feeling of repulsion as a result the person keeps back the picked up tomato. The character is very well connected to the concerns it wants to convey through the interaction and the dialogue as our mothers and aunts are the ones concerned about our diets and food, always telling us to take care of our nourishment needs. But you cannot detach what is already inside or constituting your food also is invisible to the naked eye.



Simran Chopra | New Media Design

Dialogues: • “Relatives are grotesque caricatures of yourself”, • “Food chooses your bloodline”, • “Blood is thicker than water”, • “I am a recipe for slow death”, • “I commit murder with a smile on my face”, • “Our potential is stunted by your parents and relatives”,

• “Goodness of sunkissed tomatoes is hormonal disruption”, • “Apple might have kept the doctor away before the industrialization of food”, • “Industrialization of food is seeping in our veins”,

• “Pesticide and fertilizers are decaying us from the inside”,

• “Chemical love now comes in a value pack”,

• “Endosulphan is not the end but the beginning of problems”,

• “It is just some neurotoxins, organophosphates and carcinogens”,

• “Food is your blood”,

• “Average arabitta sauce’s secret ingredient is some neurotoxin”,

• “Today it is me tomorrow it will be you”, • “Kill the world to make it a better place”,

• “Making Campbell tomato soup can kill bees”,

• “Industrialized food is a slow poison”,

• “I am red with cancer and mental retardation”,

• “Corporate control of food is lurking havoc”, • “I suffer you suffer, I die you die”.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain




Simran Chopra | New Media Design


Peppermint Character: The Scientist Concerns: Power of science and how it

influences our food, touching on topics as radiation testing, atomic seeds, genetically modified food & genetically modified organisms.

Interaction: “Call or message” It picks up your phone’s EMF(Electro Magnetic Fields) and triggers visual output on a green LCD screen.

Technology: Arduino Microcontroller,

EMF detecting circuit, Green LED strips(Light emitting diode), RGB(Red, Green and Blue) LED strips and Basic 20X4 Character LCD(Liquid Crystal Display) Peppermint is a hybrid mint, a cross between watermint and spearmint[55]. The plant, indigenous to Europe, is now widespread in cultivation throughout all regions of the

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain


world. The popular practice of exposing seeds to radiation gained popularity immediately after the Second World War; people were preoccupied with the idea of using the power of the atom for beneficial purposes. Nuclear-powered-selective-breeding, in many ways was the forbearer of modern genetic modification and synthetic biology practices. A wide variety of plants were bombarded with radiation hoping to produce genetic mutations such as disease-resistant wheat. Peppermint was one of the first varieties of plants to be subjected to radiation breeding. [56]Most of the global production of mint oil used to make artificial mint flavouring, with an annual market value estimated at $930 million, is extracted from the wilt-resistant Todd’s Mitcham cultivar - a variety of peppermint, a product of thermal neutron irradiation. It is further known that the exact nature of the genetic changes that cause it to be wiltresistant remain unknown.[57] The preferred character for peppermint to portray is that of a scientist. Remarking on the power of science and how it influences our food, touching on eminent topics such as radiation breeding, atomic seeds, GMF

& GMO. It initiates the dialogue on the LCD display by catching the EMF radiations from our mobile phones. In a way it is commenting on the ill effects of ubiquitous technology used in our life now. These technologies have a hidden consequence and effect on our lives, be it culturally, socially or physically. The effect of mobile phone radiation on human health is the subject of recent study, due to enormous increase in mobile phone usage worldwide. Mobile phones use electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range. The potential effects of electromagnetic fields extensively vary depending on the frequency and intensity of the fields. In 2011, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified mobile phone radiation scale into possibly carcinogenic as the radio waves emitted is absorbed by the body. The radio waves emitted by a GSM handset can have a peak power of 2 watts.[58]

[55] Peppermint, [Accessed September 2012]. Available from: http:// [56], [57] Pruned 2011. [Accessed September 2012]. Available from: http:// [58] World Health Organization press release N° 208 (Press release). International Agency for Research on Cancer. 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-06-02.



Simran Chopra | New Media Design

Dialogues: • “The power of the atom, splendid achievement of science & technology”,

• “Government funds the research and the implementation”,

• “Atom is not just death and destruction”,

• “Government turns science into a biological massacre”,

• “Science can rearrange life molecule by molecule”,

• “There is no evil in science but only in a man’s soul”, • “Genetic manipulation is for the good of mankind”, • “Science can never harm it can only help”, • “Harnessing the atom, in the new era of unlimited power”, • “Science & nature work together to sustain mankind”,

• “Eureka moments can change into food tragedies”, • “Science can change the world for better or worse”, • “Genetic modified food is the answer to world starvation”, • “Scientific bumper seeds lead to a bumper crop”, • “Government and Scientific policies govern the land”, • “Small wonders can lead to bigger disasters”,

• “Radiation selection is the new way of evolution”,

• “Consumerism pays for the science”,

• “Absolutely in love with the philosophy of the atom”,

• “Corporations drive the money flow”,

• “Nothing exists except atoms and empty space”,

• “Corporations make the world go round”.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain




Simran Chopra | New Media Design


Onion Character: The Politician Concerns: Understanding the role of

politics in our food chain and exemplifying the politician’s position in exercising control over our food.

Interaction: “Cut to reveal” When a person chops the onion on the chopping board, it triggers a voice output in the form of dialogues; revealing secrets and eliciting clarifications from the ‘politician’ onion.

Technology: Arduino Microcontroller, Arduino MP3 Shield, Metal to Metal Customized Switch and Mini Speakers

Onions are cultivated and used around the world. As a foodstuff they are usually served cooked, as a vegetable or part of a prepared savoury dish, but can also be eaten raw or used to make pickles or chutneys. They are pungent when chopped and contain certain

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain


chemical substances which irritate the eyes. In the installation they are a metaphorically related to politicians. As politicians do big promises but their policies and performance go under, so people want to graze them apart for not fulfilling what they had undertaken and assured to the common man. Imbalance in the current food system of the world highlights the need for successful food policies and governance. The governments control the policy making capacity of a country, there by controlling the food economy. They have the capability to control inflation and implement schemes which can offer its citizens healthy and nutritious diet. Politicians exercise control and pressure into directing the food chain for their individual proceeds. In the Indian scenario, the bifurcation of power in the hierarchical structure makes the implementation of any kind of new policy very difficult and cumbersome. As you chop the onion in the installation, it reveals secrets within its layers. Every time a person cuts the onion, it starts giving clarifications to save itself from the public.

As one has to cut across the layers of bureaucracy to reach the people in power, similar is the case with the interaction. As you slice across the onion, giving off stench and chemicals, there is a voice output representing the gift of gab; peculiar voice of a politician trying to give justification for the food situation in the country. The dialogues address the collaboration between government bodies and multinationals, government schemes which are introduced for the farmers, also touching on topics such as inflation and food policies. The cynical objective of the dialogues is to make the person interacting with the installation pause and think about the political influence on our food. Everything that comes to our markets and plates is directed by the policy makers in the government. Imports, exports, production, technology and supply everything goes through a decision making process through the government and agribusiness bodies of the world.



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Dialogues: • “Politics has no relation to morals”,

• “Food price inflation fuels political controversy”,

• “Do you know who I am”,

• “I am on a hunger strike... for farmer plights”,

• “Right to food... is it a right??”,

• “Farmers policies are next on our agenda”,

• “I promise you... as always”,

• “We are coming up with a new scheme for the farmers”,

• “Inflation is a necessary evil”, • “Farmer suicides will be compensated”, • “Food prices are not affected by politics”, • “We are there for the common man”, • “Hunger and famine don’t exist anymore”, • “We are doing everything we can”, • “Vote for me, I will change the world”, • “If you don’t have bread you can eat cake”,

• “We will take action... in our 5year plan”, • “I will set up a committee to look into the matter” • “Corporates and politicians collaborate for the people”, • “We cannot comment on the situation right now”, • “It’s a trick of the opposition to defame me”, • “We understand a poor man’s plight”.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain




Simran Chopra | New Media Design


Corn Character: The Corporation Concerns: Realizing the corporatization

of the food system also understanding the industrialization of food and Mcdonaldization of the world.

Interaction: “Please insert coin” When you insert a coin into the coin slot, it gives you a printout/ bill, explaining about the installation. It also prints the cut throat business one liners of the ‘corporate’ corn.

Technology: Arduino Microcontroller, Micro Lever Switch and Adafruit Thermal Printer

Maize in known in English-speaking countries as corn. After European contact with the Americas in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, explorers and traders carried maize back to Europe and introduced it to other countries. Maize spread to the rest of the world because of its ability to grow in diverse climates. Sugar-rich varieties called sweet corn are usually grown for human consumption, while field corn varieties are used for animal feed and as chemical feed stocks.[59]

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain


Maize is the most widely grown grain crop throughout the world, with 332 million metric tons grown annually in the United States alone. Approximately 40% of the crop ¡ª 130 million tons ¡ª is used for corn ethanol. Transgenic maize (genetically modified corn) made up 85% of the maize planted in the United States in 2009.[60] Right now a handful of companies control most of the food we eat. Decades of bad government policy, unchecked market consolidation and undue corporate influence over science have left agribusiness giants with unprecedented power over our food system. [61] Industrial farming and production of food is bad news for both farmers and consumers. Everything in the food system controlled by such Agri-giants is controlled by the economics of it all. Everything is reduced to demand and supply, with monetary gains as the main motivating factor. The emotion of greed and wanting more was the main drawing factor, while thinking about the interactions for the corn. As seen in a wending machine, you put in coins or money to buy the packaged consumables. Similar interaction was used in the installation for the effect of corporatization of food. For any kind of response from the corporate, you as the consumer would feed them money and they would answer back to you in paper work. Giving you a bill citing what all has

been transacted for, without giving you the exact costs for the product as they hide real environmental and human cost of the products that we buy. A printed bill was used as the output for the interaction with the corn as it seemed apt for the concern in discussion. The thermal printer initiated when a five rupee coin is dropped into the slot, prints out a black and white print which looks like a bill in all aspects. It states the name of the company, time, date, it even says thank you and come back soon but what is different about this bill is that rather than stating the items it tells you about the installation. The small paragraph written about the installation describes what installation is all about, metaphorically giving you the hidden costs for the food that you consume each day. The bill also prints the individual dialogues of the ‘corporation’ corn relaying the characteristics it wants to portray. The dialogues give you the stark aggressive nature of a multinational corporation whose balance sheets matter more than anything else. The intent is to enlighten the person into thinking about the hidden cost of food and to give a second thought about where they spend their money and is it really worth it.

[59] Corn, [Accessed September 2012]. Available from: [60] Schlosser Eric, 2001. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, United States of America: Houghton Mifflin Company. [61] Lang Tim, Heasman Michael, 2004. Food Wars: The Global Battle for Mouths Minds and Markets, United Kingdom: CPI AntonyRowe.



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Dialogues: • “Show me the money”,

• “It’s a free market & you’re part of it”,

• “I’m going make you an offer you can’t refuse”,

• “We are not here to indulge in fantasy but economic & political reality”,

• “Greed works, it clarifies, cuts through & captures”, • “Greed is good, now it seems it’s legal”, • “I don’t like violence, I’m a business man, blood is a big expense”, • “Capitalism at its finest”, • “It’s a zero sum game somebody wins, somebody looses”,

• “Food is the biggest resource to make money”, • “Bulls make money, bears make money, people get slaughtered”, • “It’s all about the bucks, rest is conversation”, • “Corporate farming, leads to an era of more food & more money”, • “Who cares about the quality, just sell it”,

• “I’m not a destroyer, I’m a liberator”,

• “Branding & strategy increase our market share”,

• “We make the rules pal, the news, war, peace, famine, revolution, the price of per bag of corn”,

• “Political lobbying is essential for land subsidies & our stock-price”,

• “Greed captures the essence of evolutionary spirit”, • “You’re not naive enough to think we are living in a democracy”,

• “Processed foods, make fat people & fat money”, • “Farmer benefits, we will plan CSR for that”.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain




Simran Chopra | New Media Design


Plant (Bonsai) Character: The Farmer Concerns: Due to all the above factors

cited till now farmers suffer the most. They fall prey to industrial farming and government policies while no one is there to listen to their plights.

Interaction: “Need a touch of help� When someone touches the plant it talks back. The live plant is converted into a touch interface triggering a voice output according to the pressure and place of touch.

Technology: Arduino Microcontroller, Arduino MP3 Shield / Computer + Processing, and Mini Speakers

Plants are the primary producers in the food chain. Similarly farmers are the primary creators of food in the urban food

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain


chain. The plant used for the installation is an Adenium. It is a genus of flowering plants in the dogbane family; they are appreciated for their colorful flowers and also for their unusual, thick caudices. They can be grown for many years in a pot and are commonly used for bonsai. Farmers and consumers being the most venerable in the food system are affected by all the issues concerned. Prosperity of a country was at a time related to the condition of the farmers as societies were predominantly agrarian. Culture and traditions revolved around seasons and crop cycles but as industrial farming has taken over the food production, things have changed drastically. Industrialized monoculture has taken over where vast expanses of land just grow one cash crop, which is subsidized by the governments and bought at lower rate by the multinationals. Government policies concerning the production of food commodities, play

tricks with the lives of the farmers making them get in the vicious cycle of loans. For seeds, pesticides, fertilizers etc. heavy monetary support is taken from the banks making them fall in hands of corporates dictating their lives. Farmers need our support as consumer that is why the interaction was based on touch. The live plant is converted into a touch based interface with a voice output. The customized electronics can detect the place of touch on the plant triggering different voice outputs. When you touch the plant it calls out for your help, it has peculiar dialogues which state its condition due to different circumstances. Declaring the facts about how their own life is governed by consumer demand and supply.



Simran Chopra | New Media Design

Dialogues: • “Your wish is my command, increasing fertilizer demands”;

• “Today it’s me tomorrow it will be you”;

• “I feed you, you feed me”;

• “Caught in the vicious cycle of demand and supply”;

• “Weeds remain my best friend”;

• “Pesticides kill pests like you and me”;

• “Suffocated by the corporations”;

• “Farmers are easy targets for bullets”;

• “What you sow, so shall you reap”;

• “We need your help not your sympathy”;

• “Government schemes scheme against me”;

• “Farmer protests fall on deaf ears”;

• “Loans make me bleed”;

• “Sustenance for millions death for me”;

• “You breed I bleed”;

• “Food for millions starvation for me”;

• “Fields of gold exist no more”;

• “Help me help you”;

• “Ignorance is bliss in a farmer’s paradise”;

• “Left bereft and destined to die”;

• “Once my land now your parking lot”;

• “It is all about the quantity not the quality”.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain




Simran Chopra | New Media Design

6.3 Construction The interest was to critically think about digital, computational media and create one’s own media work based on the thinking and research. The straightforward formula: its new media design as design of media, not just with media. Free Software and Open Source was used because they provide the building blocks for self-created media and non-mainstream tools and work flows. The structure of the installation was conceptualized as an urban skyline, with building like structures representing the homogenized character and quality of urbanization. The skyline of a city is symbolic of its progress, character and growth. Similarly the installation is commenting on aspects of development and its consequences. The colour for the installation was chosen to be white; to represent an unemotional, restrained characteristic of a metropolitan city. The backdrop of the represented skyline was also kept white so as to keep the colour and form

interaction to a minimum. But white can be substituted with pastel shades that fall in the category of food colours. Also the installation had to enhance the colours of the organic matter that were the key part of it, to enhance interaction. The organic substances were the fruits and vegetables which portray specific characters related to the theme for the installation. Six different characters that become pieces of a story come together for a mutual narration, for a cause. It was designed to be a sequence of box like structures, where individual boxes are interconnected while still acting as separate podiums for the food stuff. It provides a window which acts like a stand for the fruit / vegetable in discussion. Each natural food item is suggestive of a personality with specific interactions and technology. The installation was corporeally realized with the help of people from the NID workshop. The structure was made out of 12mm MDF boards constructed into

boxes. Different faces were cut, glued and nailed together into a box keeping in mind the finishing and the required size. The cuboids were 5 sided, being empty from the back so that independent customized circuits can be fitted and housed. The structure possessed a modular quality to itself as they were separate units placed together to make a sequence. The height of each piece was decided keeping in mind the interactions that have to be performed by people, to interact with the characters. Precise heights were chosen considering the body height of Indian people according to different postures that were part of the interactions. Also the overall height of the installation was decided on the Indian anthropometric dimension data. The data referred below are based on 75 percentile. Percentiles are statistical values of a distribution of variables transferred into a hundred scale. The population is divided into 100 percent categories, ranked from least to the highest.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

• Normal Standing height - 1671mm • Stature height - 1673mm • Standing eye level height - 1557mm • Standing mid position height - 1399mm

• Standing front leaning mid position height ¨C 839mm • Comfortable vertical upward grasp reach from floor height - 2139mm [62]

[62] Chakrabarti Debkumar, 1997. Indian Anthropometric Dimensions: for ergonomic Design practice, India: National Institute of Design. {80} Initaial illustration for the final installation design.




Simran Chopra | New Media Design

{81} Measurement drawings for the installation.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain




Simran Chopra | New Media Design


Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain




Simran Chopra | New Media Design

6.4 Navigation flow Every installation has intent and a flow, through which it navigates the viewer into understanding the narrative. It can be determined through the sense of space, movement and articulation. The flow of ‘Story of the Urban Food Chain’ is flexible, giving the storyline a non-linear quality. The tale can run from any direction and any character. Each character tells a specific account with a concern. But only when all the characters come together they form an understanding that is required to interpret the installation. The beginning does not matter but the end does, as it involves going through all the issues and making your own elucidation in the end. The shape of the display also breaks the monotony through different heights and interactions. The boxes right now are put in

a linear continuous fashion for the person to easily form connections and to comprehend the concerns and metaphors employed. The display can also be divided into parts due to its modular quality, each box relaying a separate distress. The installation can also be placed in a circular manner as all the characters are separate and have very strong subject matter. But in a way all of them are interdependent in relaying a complete description. The modules can also be distanced apart into a larger area where the person has to approach the white structures, to discover the organic elements. Interpreting what they have to say for the person to come up with his/ her own analysis.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain




Simran Chopra | New Media Design

6.5 Challenges During the initial stages of the project there was an inclination towards the subject of food. Food as a medium is already multisensorial in nature rich in interaction and communication. It has always intrigued the author into defining aspects of daily consumption into smaller more defined ways. The test was to create a union between two very different subjects; food and new media. One is the essence of life and the other one is the creator of the future technologies for betterment of existence. The primary challenge was to decide on the topic of concern. Food as a theme was too vast and needed to be narrowed down to decide the scope of the project. The act of cooking, utensils, problems faced in preserving food and community

engagement were some of the preliminary stream of thoughts. As research proceeded onto comprehending the cultural relevance of food, it led to an understanding of how food and culture are interdependent. Due to the choices made by the community the equation between the two keeps on changing and influencing each other. Being aware of the cultural aspect of food, clarity towards the facet of the food chain was needed. The ‘Urban Food Chain’ that has been developed has to do more with the availability and consumption pattern of people living in metropolitan areas. The project was an understanding of our daily urban food system through which we grow, distribute and procure food. It also relates to the different issues that influence it.

Another challenge was to communicate these concerns to the common man through ubiquitous interactions and concealed technology. After the understanding of how to negate culture and tradition, clearly defined goals of educating people about the distress were laid. The tone of voice had to be inspirational to instigate the person into thinking without being preachy. To prompt them into asking questions and subconsciously thinking about the food that they consume everyday without a doubt. It is to generate the wave of mutual thinking about aspects related to food with a capacity for continuous action for the future and the generations to come.

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

6.6 Future Scope The concept is of an installation with different food items which are part of our daily urban scenario. The structure for the installation can be modified in the future, into a food wall. Continuous white wall with recesses for the dedicated characters can be built. It will allow the pieces in installation, to look like artworks hanging on the wall. The interactive pieces are presented inside windows, telling us their individual stories and transporting us to a different facet. Future scope of the project will be to be able to display it in community areas, to generate public interest in the topic of concern. Getting the people interested, to know about the factors influencing our daily meals. The concerns, characters and metaphors are already in place and the interactions

can be made more intense. By taking data from people’s consumption patterns, their presence in the vicinity of the installation, current price of the vegetable/ commodity, watering the plain in the installation and other similar inputs, the complexity of the project can be increased. A set of new interactions can also be added into the endeavor. Like the objects can start conversing amongst themselves, giving rise to a new level of interpretations for the viewer. It can tell us in detail how all the issues are interdependent and related. Through intense programming and use of technology the characters can start giving live answers to the questions people want to ask, which can give rise to online debates and social media coverage.

The installation doesn’t have an explicit conclusion right now, as it is left open for people to make their own interpretation and meaning but maybe later in the scope of the project a definitive outcome and analysis can be provided with certain amount of data collection. The conclusion can then be updated on the internet everyday onto a platform, reaching a wider audience. The same can be followed by the masses through a dedicated website also giving information about sustainability, pesticide levels, carbon footprint, edible gardening etc.



Simran Chopra | New Media Design

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain





Simran Chopra | New Media Design

It is important not to think of Design as a set of disciplines, but to think of it as a process or a way of thinking. In this light, a good definition of Design is: “a process of creative and critical thinking that allows information and ideas to be organized, decisions to be made, situations to be improved, and knowledge to be gained.” - Dr. Charles Burnette. This shift in design focus from object to context, has initiated the term “Design Thinking”. To allow a broader scope, design has embraced ethnographic research, scenario building and many more new design methods. Design thinking’s interdisciplinary approach has augmented the area of Critical Design, which looks at products/ practices with embodied critique or commentary on consumer culture. In this project, food was used as a medium to explore the broader context

of design. It started with some key inputs on food and sustainability to highlight current critical issues. After analyzing the most pressing social debates on food and slowly zooming in on our everyday life rituals, our journey ended where stories are uncovered and visualized through our own individual creativity. When the project started, the conclusion was ambiguous. The topic was vast and the devised brief was open ended, there by offering the required scope to explore. A specific area was narrowed down through subsequent learning and explorations. It involved intensive testing and required re-examination on every front ; but the outcome was satisfying. The investigation consisted of three phases. In the first part issues concerning food security were understood and how these are reflected in our society. In the second stage technology was explored

and prototyped. In the third step former inputs were used to create the narrative; a meal with a story to tell. Precedent studies concerning New Media design helped comprehend existing work done by various people in similar field. During the conceptual period exploration and experimentation was carried out through various tangible interfaces and open source technologies like Arduino, Processing, Flash, Open CV, etc. The project concluded as an art installation commenting on the nature of our metropolitan food system. Where corporations and politicians are the ones in power trying to exert influence over farmers, consumers and science interlinked food web. From the implementation point of view, the structure marvelously concealed the idea and the technology, putting the interactions and the interpretations in

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

the foreground. The technology used was minimal and open source as the intention was to create novel mediums. When the installation was last on display, it attracted a lot of people. The main appeal of the exhibit was the consumable, live, organic items that were on display. When people started interacting with the objects, the reaction was mixed with repulsion and delight, due to the dark humorous tone of the dialogues. People quickly took on to the one-liners said by the characters. The dialogues initiated a discourse between the items and people and other members within the community. Looking at the project from a higher future level, the built and natural environment, and the inanimate objects and organic matter that populate it, will soon be embedded with sensors. The potential to monitor the journey that food item takes from planting to consumption can become part of the user’s experience. From the seed selection,

to the climate conditions it is grown under, to the working conditions of those who tended to it, to the food miles used to export it around the world and the demographics of those who eat it. All this data can be visually represented and distributed to the consumers, so that they can make their consumption choice based on this new type of information provided to them about their food. But if you stand back and ask, do we really need all this technology and information for us to lead a healthy sustainable lifestyle? The answer would be simple enough and wonderfully said as “Future isn’t a place we are going to, it’s a place we are creating” - Darren Rowse

The video can be viewed at: Story-of-the-Urban-Food-Chain



Simran Chopra | New Media Design



Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

As an ending note, the author would like to briefly state her learning from the project. Food is the essence of life and how we use or abuse it affects us as human beings. As individuals it is our concern to create a balance in our life so that the equilibrium of nature is not disturbed. As a designer, defining what actually a problem is, is very crucial. It helps being oblivious as exploring without expectation is the most honest exploration. In a self initiated project scenario, like the present one, the problem is initially undefined and needs perseverance. The subject demands clarity and research before approaching a solution. Uncovering the effects and circumstances that create the problem is equally important as solving it; since it will lay the foundation for the answers. The conclusion might just as well substitute the word ‘Art’ for ‘Design’ or vice versa but the intent of the result will still have the spirit of the endeavour. While defining a cultural dilemma it is important to delve into books and visual culture, as it offers us the essence of myths, beliefs and perceptions. Also participant observations in scenarios help understand

people. Absorbing what is observed can lead to a perceptive outlook which offers the ability to see the bigger picture while analyzing the nittygritty of the venture. Technology is an essential part of New Media Design and has to be given equal importance while approaching an outcome but as Bruce Archer would say, ‘Technology is concerned with ‘how’ to make things; Design is concerned with ‘what can be?” and though there is a close connection between both, as a designer the primary focus has to be to apply design as a tool: design approaches, design attitude and an overall way of looking at things.



Simran Chopra | New Media Design

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain





Simran Chopra | New Media Design

Images All images are credited to the author unless otherwise specified here. {5} Kyle Bean, Interconnected senses 2013. [Accessed July 2013]. Available from: http:// {9}, {10} City of Melbourne, 2011. [Accessed October 2012]. Available from: http://www. health/foodpolicy/Pages/FoodPolicy.aspx {19} Cheeseburger 2005. [Accessed October 2012]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/File:Flickr_jef_31871680--In-N-Out_ Cheeseburgers.jpg {21} Logo 2010. [Accessed October 2012]. Available from: {22} Hydroponics. [Accessed May 2013]. Available from: eartheats/?attachment_id=28102 {23} Hydroponics. [Accessed May 2013]. Available from: some-real-benefits-of-hydroponics.htm {24} Aquaponics. [Accessed May 2013]. Available from: projects/2142509221/home-aquaponics-kitself-cleaning-fish-tank-that-g {25} Permaculture. http://www.lincolnschool.

org/page.cfm?p=1027 {26} Edible Garden. http://www.lincolnschool. org/page.cfm?p=1027 {29} Packaged food. http://commons.wikimedia. org/wiki/File:Packages.jpg {30} Pesticide spraying. http://www. depressed-about-pesticides {31} Industrial monoculture. http:// peacefulanarko.files.wordpress. com/2010/04/0522_mz_farming2.jpg {32} Food Policies. http://blog.ecoagriculture. org/ {34} Atomic Seeds. Pruned 2011. [Accessed September 2012]. Available from: http://pruned. {35} Food paintings. http://www.wikipaintings. org/ {36} Giuseppe Arcimboldo paintings. http:// {37} Ralph Goings paintings. http://ralphlgoings. com/?page_id=407 {38} Banana Wall. http://www.sagmeisterwalsh. com/work/project/deitch-projects-banana-wall/

{39} Lives of Grass Mathilde Roussel, [Accessed May 2013]. Available from: http://www. {40} Food Design. [Accessed June 2012]. Available from: com/01-food.htm {41} Marije Vogelzang 2012. [Accessed July 2012]. Available from: http://www. overzicht.html {42} Project Images. Klanten Robert, Ehmann Sven, Hanschke Verena, 2011. A Touch of Code: Interactive Installations and Experiences, Die Gestalten Verlag {43} Botanicalls 2013. [Accessed July 2012]. Available from: {44} Botanicus Interacticus. http://www. {45} Philips Food Probe. philips-design-food-probe/foodprobe1/ {46} Noisy Jelly. NOISYJELLY_presskit.pdf

Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

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Diploma Project | Story of the Urban Food Chain

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Simran chopra - Thesis project document  

Thesis project - ‘Story of the Urban Food Chain’ is an installation which offers an opportunity for users to engage in stimulating conversa...

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