“Sheep’s Clothing: crypsis for urban sensing” was commissioned in 2010 by the 01SJ Biennial in San Jose, CA as part of the growBot Garden Project.

“Sheep’s Clothing” is a participatory design project that explores the co-construction of agricultural practices and technologies through a series of short workshops. This exploration focuses on developing speculative technological artifacts for alternative agricultures which ascribe to methods of urban foraging, illicit farming, and public cultivation. These alternative agricultural models require new objects that aid in the functional aspects of these practices as much as ascribe to a new set of visual and interactional forms. To structure the workshops, participants focus on developing tools and technologies for urban mushroom foraging. Participants are led on guided walks to explain and search for urban mushrooms. During the walk, the group collects and catalogs various ideas for potential sensor housings. These ideas are then sketched and mocked up upon returning.

The project is founded on the idea that the aesthetics of agricultural technology directly impact cultivation. As designers of such technologies work to meet the needs of individuals through the perceived use of a device, they also leverage and develop forms which communicate farming techniques by rethinking the relationship amongst parts and wholes. Here technology is approached conceptually, and participants are asked to document and reflect on the assumptions of who, what, and where such practices and technologies exist. By employing modes of crypsis (a zoological term meaning an organisms ability to blend in with its environment), visual forms reify these new practices. The goal is not to unearth new technological artifacts or speculative practices, but to use scenario-based designing within a participatory design context to elicit reflection on existing assumptions around agriculture.

Check out the gallery for the workshop installation here.