post ten: allegory, allelopathy, and adios.

Recently I was cleaning out my childhood bedroom (10/10 would recommend as a method of procrastination) and during the rummaging I came across my Dad’s old dictaphone. 

Dad’s version was essentially a less cool version of Macauly Culkin’s Talkboy in the 1992 classic, Home Alone 2:Lost in New York.

To avoid leaving you in suspense, I found some AAA batteries and rewound the tape. The voice I heard was very distinctly not my Dad’s. It was mine. About seven years old and singing the rap to TLC’s No Scrubs. Aced it. A good 25 minutes of rapping, singing and self-analysis ensued.

All narcissism aside, I was actually the least interesting thing about that tape. What was fascinating was the story that came packaged up within the experience of it. The nostalgic squeak of rewinding, the washy sound of the recordings, the sudden stop/record breaks that made their own staccato rhythm, the static background noise. The act of listening in on a former version of myself was strangely voyeuristic and made me think of myself in a post-modern dual narrative way. How many stories and versions of each story are running simultaneously?

This little tidbit is mildly irrelevant, but what’s new? I’ve not tried to hide the fact that I love a good tangent,

and if mind mapping has taught me anything it is that everything is connected, no matter how tenuously.

So I think this story is perhaps the perfect segway into my design proposal because it embodies everything that I want to achieve. A design that is intuitive, surprising and poetic. I want to evoke the sense of stumbling upon something private and feeling dirty with secrets and hungry for more.

My design intervention is inspired by eavesdropping on myself and will hopefully make sense as more is revealed, so stay tuned!

Reflection from small group exercise – week seven. 

As I’ve mentioned in extensive and potentially overzealous ramblings over the last few blog posts, I’ve found the ideation half of this subject particularly difficult. I really embraced the space and flexibility that shaped the early phases of research and writing, and have found the transition into more structured proposals to be jarring.

The small group exercise during week seven really reaffirmed what I already knew. I was brimming with ideas but they didn’t have any weight. After discussing this in depth with a fellow climate-changer, I realised that most of my struggles were a direct result of my unwillingness to settle on a concise problem statement.

If you look through post seven and eight, you are likely to notice a favouring of quantity over quality. I panicked and rushed into a prolific idea generation phase, churning out potential problems and solutions like a machine. Only they were pretty defunct. Cliche, niche, and not really relevant were keywords in my feedback. Not exactly positives.

The proposition I gave was based on mapping the terrain of the internal and external landscapes in hopes of showing a connection between one’s emotional state and one’s environmental realities. The idea was born from an attempt to make people realise their deep connection with the natural world, in effect influencing changes in guiding values and behaviours in relation to climate change.

What became apparent when I spoke through my concept aloud was that it was incredibly far removed from my initial goal. In fact, it was shaping up to be a project on mental health more than anything else. This made sense given my interest in psychology, storytelling and the human condition, but it really didn’t make for an effective climate change intervention.

So I was tasked with realigning my sails, finding one channel of wind and following that into one simple idea that I could work and rework until it was doable. My colleague helped me pick out the things that seemed most important to me; story telling, values, and connection.

nailed it.

So I decided to give myself an information ban. After all, I could go on researching forever if time permitted. Instead, I committed to using the things already in my brain, on my blogs and whatever serendipitously occurred in my daily life. I was actively going out of my way to avoid MORE STUFF because I’m a hoarder of things that are possible and probable but not so much doable.

This was a surprisingly effective tactic insofar as it forced me to have confidence in my knowledge and ideas, which freed up space for creative play.


+ creative, poetic, addresses the demographic

– Too niche, unstructured, irrelevant, doesn’t address the issue

Data Visualisation possibilities 

  • The modes of communications between various sentient and non-sentient lifeforms (allelopathy, written language, story telling, insect language, non-verbal forms like sonar etc.)
  • The various culturally specific idioms used to discuss the weather and external environment – map out the boundaries that are defined by cultural vernacular
  • Make visible the disproportionate impact of climate change on those who wield the least power. Potential lines of query are economic, ethnographic and racial.



title (WIP):
Allegorapathy – A poeticised service design that reimagines the climate change conversation from the perspective of trees. 

emergent area:
Generative Design – App and supporting social media campaign 

Humans seem to have a knack for storytelling. We wring words from the banal and weave narratives out of the everyday in an attempt to make meaning. We live and die by the stories we tell ourselves. We’re a bunch of covert existentialists.

But wrapped up in our story making is a need to reduce and compartmentalise the world around us. For something as colossal and capricious as nature, attempts to set up boundaries undermine the consubstantiality of humans and the natural world. For climate change this all but guarantees attitudes of apathy and impassivity.

If nature is repressed as just an exteriority in our stories, global warming is no more than a condition to be witnessed. 

Of course, this is emphatically untrue. Anthropogenic climate change is an urgent global issue that directly threatens human rights and biodiversity among other environmental, political and economic  realities. Still, knowing all of this, global warming has trouble gaining any social traction.

To complicate matters further, the conversation is littered with denialist rhetoric and misinformation, and even where the truth exists, it’s rarely more than a low hum of numbers and statistics that lacks the necessary emotion and sticking power needed to change behaviour.

Though, this all seems secondary to the fact that within our storytelling is the creation of the other. In the context of our global reality that can mean reducing entire populations of people as exotic

Take the power of storyteller from humans and give it back to nature. This rather poetic approach has a few modes of meaning.

  1. Nature will outlive us. It’s inevitable and something that doesn’t fit neatly within our individual narratives. We feel like there can be no being in the absence of people to witness it; so trees become the witness.
  2. Humans operate on various levels of bias, one being humour. This design outcome reframes the climate conversation as one enlivened by satire. In not taking itself too seriously, the science of the issue is made relatable.
  3. In revealing the multiplicity of stories and experiences, climate change is shown to be a universal issue. The realisation of our inner dialogue prompts us to become the watcher of our thoughts and to consciously rewrite our own narratives.
  4. Climate change is a massive issue that requires big thinking to change. But big thoughts have roots in small imaginings.
  5. The human(listener) is made the voyeur. In doing so, the efficacy of their narratives are undermined and it is the human, not nature, who is fetishised. This can lead to feelings of vulnerability from where change is much more likely.

Inspired by the narrative device of allegory and the plant communication technique termed allelopathy, my design outcome sits somewhere between generative design and data poetics.

The primary modality is an app that allows you to listen in on the fictitious conversations of trees. Here they talk to other trees about their daily struggles with the changing climate, their view of humans and whatever other existential questions vex plant life.

The app has virtually no interface. Once you open it, the only thing on the screen is a visualisation of sound.

You place your earphones in and go about your journey how you wish. You can actively seek out the conversations by walking to or near trees, or the interaction can be much more serendipitous. There’s no sense of where exactly the voice is coming from and you can enter mid conversation. It’s literally a case of eavesdropping on nature.

Geolocation is the backend technology used to establish the network of trees involved. These trees are mapped out, named, given distinct personalities and twitter accounts. The social media campaign is an extension of the app that allows the conversation to continue online. While the user is interacting with the app, they aren’t able to directly

*I still have yet to decide whether the humans will be allowed to directly communicate with the trees – while it opens up some great possibilities for dialogue, it undermines the voyeuristic premise of my idea. I’ve considered setting up a seperate kind of ‘treeter’ – social media for trees, but I think that creates yet another boundary and prevents the design from being so fluid and serendipitous. 


Header Image: 

Ozaslan, M. 2014, Step, Saatchi Art, viewed 22nd September 2016, <;


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