Author: stefaniehung

Cheap Food Is Making Us Hungry.

Food Security   //     when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life

– definition agreed to at the 1996 World Food Summit

Relating ‘Alice’,a fictional, Australian, middle-class wife and mother of two, to our speculative object exposed significant concerns regarding todays food supply. Forming our scenario on the basis that in 2050 the S.H.I.F.T (Self-sustaining Hydroponic Individual Food Tray) would alleviate world hunger, we envisioned a healthier, more equal, and more plentiful food system.

But how do we reach that goal for the poor?

‘an estimated 70% of the World’s poor live in Rural areas and depend either directly or indirectly on agriculture. Cheap food has made them hungry and kept them in poverty’ 

(Wise 2010)

It is popular belief that if crops yield more produce, food becomes cheaper and world hunger dissolves. But this is incorrect. By making food cheaper, farmers lose income, reducing the number of farmers and the money invested into producing more food in the long run. Globalisation is currently devaluing food. And with the ‘current and unabated trend of diminishing food supply, rising food prices and falling food production’ (Abbassian 2011), poor countries and those in lower socio-economic classes are being significantly hit.

This is unacceptable.

Today’s Situation.

  1. The poor are moving to the city at a faster rate than the population as a whole. (Chen & Ravallion 2007)
  2. If current trends continue, the world’s slum population will increase 50% between now and 2020. (Carolan 2011)

It is a recognised fact that low-income urban neighbourhoods tend to have ‘fewer grocery stores and more quick-stop type convenience stores’. (Lane et all 2008) In other words, the only food the poor can afford in significant quantities are ‘energy-dense (nutrient shallow) foods’. (Carolan 2011) And just think of the health consequences.

Food security must be reclaimed. 


Carolan is emphatic – ‘we will not feed the world any time soon with vertical farming. (But) that is why it deserves a closer look, because without serious study vertical agriculture will remain a future possibility rather than a practical option’ (Carolan 2011). Food levels are decreasing, population is rising and there needs to be new and innovative thinking to ensure food security.

Cue Augustin Rosenstiehl, a French, principal architect at Atlier SOA and director of the Agricultural Urbanism Lab (LUA); a multi-disciplinary project that focuses on the complementarity between environmental and social diversity within the problems of urban agriculture. (Agricultural Urbanism Lab 2012) Focusing on just how to integrate the farm into the city, Rosenstiehl has been in discussion with farmers, philosophers, sociologists, and agronomists since 2010, developing a small network of ‘case studies’ over Paris. Working with anything from sociology and economics in the rural world to agriculture and agronomy, Rosenstiehl has delivered amazing, and very impressive projects.

It is well worth your time to check them out here.


Make sure you discover Urbanana 2011, isn’t the name perfect? Visually Urbanana is beautiful. Located on the Champs-Elysées it provides ‘an attractive landscape of fruit trees growing in a brightly lit space on the street’ (Agricultural Urbanism Lab 2011) – the lighting, vital for the banana’s growth, provides a substitute for street lighting at night. Clever.

And even better – The Urbanana questions the impact on the economy of banana-producing countries. Because whilst the banana is a key source of income for Caribbean economies, its intensive production has caused considerable environmental damage. ‘The drive for productivity at any price, inadequate waste management, soil depletion and packing methods are now threatening these countries with bankruptcy.’ (Agricultural Urbanism Lab 2011)

SOA_URBANANA_ exterieur nuit 2

SOA_URBANANA_ interieur haut



All images – (Agricultural Urbanism Lab 2011)


Abbassian A 2011, World Food Prices Reach New Historic Peak, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Accessed 21 October 2014, <;

Agricultural Urbanism Lab 2011, Urbanana / SOA, Accessed 21 October 2014, <;

Agricultural Urbanism Lab 2012, Ideas, Accessed 21 October 2014, <;

Carolan M 2011, The Real Cost of Cheap Food, 1st ed., Routledge, New York

Chen S & Ravallion M 2007, The Changing Profile of Poverty in the World – October 2007, 2020 Focus Brief on the World’s Poor and Hungry People, Washington, DC, Accessed 20 October 2014, <;


The Future. And its Technology.

Design as a discipline is strongly infused by technology; interacting, challenging and coexisting alongside one another. And as history has shown, this bond only increases over time. Perhaps this is the cause of significant anxiety and questioning over the future and technology’s role. Will robots take over the world? Will we live on Mars? Travel on hover-boards?  (unfortunately, still unlikely)


(Dunne & Raby 2012)

Design duo Dunne & Raby have presented far more compelling speculative futures through United Micro Kingdoms – particularly the kingdom of the Anarcho-Evolutionists. Abandoning most technologies, or at stopping development of them, Anarcho-Evolutionists concentrate of ‘science to maximise their own physical capabilities through training, DIY biohacking and self-experimentation’. (Dunne & Raby 2012) Humans modify themselves ‘to exist within the limits of the planet rather than modifying the planet to meet ever growing needs’ (Dunne & Raby 2012). Families undergo metamorphosis over generations, distinct physical make-up is associated with each clan and becomes a matter of pride.

“We become what we behold. We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”

—Marshall McLuhan

(Culkin 1967)

When asked to envision future universities by Ali, my group collectively acknowledged the tools we utilise shape us and our design practice. Realising that our current use of technology is moulded by our fields of study – ie. fashion: sewing machine, tenaka, digital printing, etc – it unwittingly highlighted technologies determination of our behaviour, lifestyle and personality. Thus, we wanted future technologies to mould behaviours that were profitable, desiring more exposure to industry technologies and networks that university did not currently provide. We were passionate that technology did not replace face-to-face social interaction as we found networking to be a fundamental skill.

By resolving key values in regards to technology, we developed a futuring scenario based upon an economic/industry skills axis. In our Utopian quadrant – UTS developed a department store that gave students the opportunity to work in commercial industry; involvement would not be compulsory as students apply for positions. Full-time employees run the department store whilst communication students prototype marketing, design students propose products to buyers and business students worked alongside the finance team etc. Realistically, there substantial flaws that we left unresolved –  the increase of university fees, the loss of international students, the replacement of competition in friendly environments and even if this scheme produced a different, more successful kind of graduate. And yet, perhaps to my shame, we were all so captivated by the chance to integrate more technology into our degree that these flaws were seen of little consequence. Revealing the extent of which we value technological futures.

Perhaps this is why I felt so enthused when discovering Dunne & Raby’s collaboration with designer Michael Anastassiades – Do You Want to Replace the Existing Normal? (07/08). Their exploration of future technology appears frivolous but aims to address a, perhaps utopian, future where everyday needs become more complex, addressing imaginative and impractical needs and desires. (Dunne & Raby 2013) My personal favourite work Alignment, is programmed with the owners horoscope and on key astrological dates an ‘airbag is filled. An explosion of pinkness. It takes seconds, like an airbag in a car crash. Voluminous. Fantastic. A triclinic crystal: a form without 90 degree angles. Perhaps no one sees it, only the aftermath.’ (Anastassiades, Dunne & Raby 2007) It then deflates and the owner must decide what it means.


(Anastassiades 2007)

This is the kind of technology in the future that is exciting; the variety that questions design.


Anastassiades M 2007, Do You Want to Replace the Existing Normal, photographed by F.Ware, viewed 17 October 2014, <;

Anastassiades M, Dunne A & Raby F 2007, Dunne & Raby: Do You Want to Replace the Existing Normal? 2007/08, Accessed 17 October 2014, <;

Culkin J, S 1967, ‘A Schoolman’s Guide to Marshall McLuhan’, Saturday Review, March 18, pp. 51-53

Dunne A & Raby F 2012, Anarcho-Evolutionists, photographed by J.Evans, viewed 17 October 2014, <;

Dunne A & Raby F 2012, United Micro Kingdoms, Accessed 17 October 2014, <;

Dunne A & Raby F 2013, ‘Design as Critique’, in Speculate Everything, Cambridge Press, pp. 33-46

Sustainability. and Vertical Farming.

As Emily mentioned – most people want to help with environmental sustainability but do not undertake any proactive or productive actions to improve the situation. And I, to my shame, am guilty as charged when it comes to this accusation. Whilst I acknowledge earth’s resources are decreasing at a expeditious rate, I feel disassociated from the eco-system and its relation to production; it seems that every production system impacts the environment negatively and there is no easy solution. Thus, I turn a blind eye to the environmental problems we face.

I do not think I am the only one to do this. In fact it did not surprise me when Natalie Jeremijenko, environmental art activist, found that none of her students could account for who made the objects they carried everyday, or how they were made. For although we are in an age of information overload, there is also much ‘profound ignorance’. (Nelson 2011)

Jeremijenko interests me and it is not only her eccentricity that captivates my imagination. Instead, I admire her vision, her aim to repair ‘our intimate relationship with non-human organisms’ (Nelson 2011), placing faith into a future where ‘cities host healthy populations of fish, and in which tall buildings house hundreds of different edible plants.’ (Nelson 2011) Unbelievably, her vision is not longer just that but reality – vertical farms are currently being built in Sweden, Singapore, Japan, Korea and the U.S.A. And the statistics are incredible:


(Appareil 2012)

K E Y   F A C T S

1. If we continue utilising the same agricultural methods we will need an additional land area equivalent to the size of Brazil to produce enough crops (Möller Voss 2013)

2. By 2025 two thirds of the world will be facing water shortages  – on a global scale modern agriculture uses 70% of available fresh water (Ellis 2012).


    (Ohare 2011)

  V E R T I C A L   F A R M I N G

Vertical farming utilises hydroponics and aeroponics within a closed loop system, conserving up to 95% of the water used as well as ‘eliminating agricultural run-off and the negative repercussions it has on the environment and human health in general’ (Despommier 2010).

Hyrdroponics : Plants are grown with their roots in nutrient solution or a supporting medium ie. sand, gravel, perlite etc, creating a soilless environment; statistics have shown that plants grown using hydroponics grow faster, ripen earlier, provide greater nutritional value and produce up to ten times the yield than that of soil-grown plants. (Ellis 2012)

Aeroponics :  plants are grown with their roots suspended in a deep air or growth chamber whilst periodically sprayed with nutrient solution; this method operates with up to less than 70% water than hydroponic technologies (Despommier 2010)

Even more importantly, the movement of agriculture to vertical farms conserves space, increasing food production and crop output for every acre used. And by relieving the land currently used for agriculture, ecosystems can begin the gradual and natural process of repair; ecosystem regrowth increases ‘natures resilience and resistance to disturbance and pollution, increasing biodiversity and carbon sequestration to name a few’ (Despommier 2010).

Quite frankly, count me in for Vertical Farming.

 B I B L I O G R A P H Y

Appareil 2012, Agriculture 2.0, viewed 8 October 2014, <;

Despommier, D 2010, The Vertical Farm: Feeding the world in the 21st century, 2nd ed, Thomas Dunne Books, New York

Ellis, J 2012,  ‘Agricultural Transparency Reconnecting Urban Centres With Food Production’, PhD Thesis, Dalhousie University, School of Architecture, Halifax

Möller Voss, P 2013, ‘Vertical Farming: An agricultural revolution on the rise’, PhD Thesis, Halmstad University, Sweden

Nelson, R 2011, ‘Our Agency is Powerful: Future Foods for Humans and the Planet’, Arena Magazine, No. 114.

Ohare 2011, World’s First Airport Aeroponic Garden, Flickr viewed 8 October 2014, <;

. Data . And the Panopticon .

Technologies once detached are now converging, using new programs and systems with user friendly features. Consequently, it is increasingly difficult to manage everyday life without interacting with forms and systems of technology, familiar and highly present. Thus we have evolved to the popular belief that ‘you don’t exist unless you appear on Google’ (Raley 2013).

Most of us remain unaware of the huge mass of data we generate through each action – data that is stored, analysed, processed, and used by corporations, companies and other interested parties. In my mind, this echoes Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’ (Orwell 2004), causing concern that there are very few and very limited laws which make data surveillance activities illegal, ‘or which enable regulatory agencies, or the public to sue transgressing organisations.’ (Clarke 1994)

Issues respective to data and information technology are problematic to solve as each are surrounded by a myriad of theories, debates and dialogue. For example, Jeff Jarvis argues that technology makes it impossible to control who will have access to one’s private information. Therefore individuals and society should abandon the idea of privacy altogether – ‘communication and empathy would be strengthened as humans are better informed, share information, and help each other.’ (Jarvis 2011) However, like Orwell’s 1984, I can only envision a post-privacy society as totalitarian.

Orwell’s 1984 extends the panopticon to encompass society – it is important to note that my use of panopticon relates to Foucault’s definition rather than Bentham’s conceptualisation of the ’roundhouse’ panopticon prison. In this context, the panopticon relates to surveillance – ‘one is totally seen, without ever seeing’ (Foucault 1995). Subsequently, the panopticon is presently associated with the potential to harm, exploit, take advantage, or discriminate against individuals, ‘impos(ing) identities from an authoritative point of view’ (Hoven & Vermaas 2007).

It has evolved a long way from being hailed the ‘utopian vision machine’ (Virilio 1994).

Whilst the Panopticon has limited usefulness in ‘understanding the complexities and nuances of contemporary surveillance’ (Boyne 2000), it does serve as an interesting visual to explore the balance of modern power relations. As Foucault points out – new information technology, increasingly unobservable or unsupervisable, ‘automatizes and disindividualizes power’ (Foucault 1995). Power that is lost as citizens and given to unseen corporations – For more detail Joey addresses this loss of power over privacy specifically when dealing with large corporations in blog post ‘Big Data: Corporations and User’

It is perhaps not surprising to discover that panoptic schemes tend to produce resistance rather than discipline (Alford 2000).

 Back in the 1980’s Shoshana Zuboff conducted an interesting experiment in the workforce to analyse the effect on power relationships when workers are introduced to informating technology. The results were as follows:

– Managers finding found they could discover everything you did ‘except for what went on in your head’ (Zuboff 1984), feared an erosion of authority as computers provided workers greater access to information

– Social relationships lost power as work became wholly centred on efficiency ratings

  • Workers, fearing scrutiny by their superiors, logged into their managers account and manipulated data entry to ensure good efficiency ratings.

Which unfortunately begs the question – in present day, how much has the ‘ambiguity of reciprocal interactions and subjective quality of behavioural data’ (Zuboff 1984) been replaced by a ‘black and white’ mentality.


Alford, C. F. 2000, ‘What Would It Matter if Everything Foucault Said about Prisons Was Wrong?’, Theory and Society, Vol. 29, pp. 125–46.

Boyne, R. 2000, ‘Post-Panopticism’, Economy and Society, Vol. 29, is. 2, pp. 285–30

Clarke, R. 1994, ‘Dataveillance: Delivering 1984’, Green, L. & Guinery, R. (eds), Framing Technology: Society, Choice and Change, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards, pp. 117 – 130

Foucault, M. 1995, Discipline and punish the birth of the prison, 2nd ed, Vintage Books, New York

Hoven, J. V. D. & Vermaas, P. E., 2007, ‘Nano-technology and privacy: on continuous surveillance outside the panopticon’, The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, Volume. 32, 3, pp. 283-97

Jarvis, J. 2011, Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live, Simon and Schuster, New York

Orwell, G. 2004, 1984, 4th ed, Penguin, UK

Raley, R. 2013, ‘Dataveillane and Countervailance’, Gitelman, L. (ed), “Raw Data” Is an Oxymoron, MIT Press, Cambridge pp. 121-145

Virilio, P. 1994, The Vision Machine, Bloomington, Indiana University Press.

Zuboff, S. 1984, In the Age of the Smart Machine, Basic Books, Inc., New York.