What if plants, animals, microbes, fungi of the flows of water, air, and nutrients in the ecosystem could use the same technologies that people do— services like social media, GPS, weather charts, and prediction algorithms—to navigate and secure their status? Environmental sensors, bio-monitoring, the internet of things, and social media are collections of novel technologies that people use to interact with each other and make sense of their environment, but what happens when other organisms and biospheric flows use similar technologies to communicate their own needs, likes, and goals?
Ecosystem Service Design combines the need to take into account and maintain ecosystem services with the tools and processes of design. As a neologism, it serves as a way to re-think the future trajectory of design practices to respond to the emerging challenges of the 21st century.
Ecosystem Service Design includes many non-human clients: plants, animals and biospheric flows. Traditionally trained designers learn how to communicate with these new clients, discovering their unmet needs and desires. Designed animism, either through mimicry or avatar, is one technique in this toolkit. Another is the design of new architecture and infrastructure standards that replace their hardness and brittleness with permeability and flexibility. Meanwhile, as the field of Human-Computer-Interaction (HCI) envelops the disciplines of Animal-Computer Interaction, Microbe-Computer Interaction, and Plant-Computer Interaction, user ethnography and usability testing begin to look more and more like field biology surveys.
In its current form, the objective is to create new frameworks for:
- Investigating and visualizing interactions between personal and environmental health systems, and
- Learning and skills-building to innovate cross-impact services and experiences.
The Ecosystem Service Design platform consists of a field guide, curriculum, set of workshops, introductory video, and and online microsite. Using these materials, participants:
LEARN about points of intersection between environmental health, service design, and ecosystems ecology,
APPLY an Ecosystem Service Design process to discover and distill new connections between people, technology, and the environment, and
CREATE proposals and prototypes to reveal service opportunities that span personal, ecological, and environmental health systems.
The program works with students and leading-edge experts to support cross-impact thinking, making, and innovation skills, while fostering career exploration and professional development, greater awareness of emerging trends and technologies, practice in strategic foresight and service delivery, and communication of science and technology concepts for different audiences.
Ecosystem Service Design puts organisms and ecosystem services at the center of an experience design process and measures the value of the interactions it creates against measurable improvements in ecosystem service like clean air, water, or soil.