This project focused on amateur chemical chromatography as a complement to digital sensors. Paper chromatography of soil is a visual and qualitative method for portraying its fertility and offers an engaging possibility to learn more about the biological processes taking place in soil and compost piles. The role of interactive technologies in this attentive practice may be to amplify the chromatograms through image editing of e.g., scale and contrast, or through more advanced image processing and recognition. However, beyond possibilities for computationally supported analysis, the findings show how a sensitive and qualitative attention to chromatograms was appreciated by urban farmers as a fruitful engagement with the multiple contextual factors that affect the health and fertility of soils. In this appreciation, soil was highlighted as full of life and with its own temporality. Such perspectives may benefit the broader fields of citizen science and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) as we reinvent design modes to focus on interaction in complex more-than-human networks, rather than closed feedback loops between humans and interfaces. Soil literally and figuratively grounds these innovation practices.
A DIS 2022 pictorial is published about this project.
Watch a presentation of the project.