Accepted Papers:

Grounding public engagement in data: some experiments to 'issue-fy' vertical farming  


Laurie Waller (University of East Anglia)

Paper Short Abstract:

The concept of "vertical farming" has recently provided a focus for debates about the technology and infrastructure of sustainable food. This paper discusses some engagement experiments involving social media data and attempts to 'issue-fy' vertical farming as a concern for sustainable food publics.

Paper long abstract:

The concept of "vertical farming" has provided a focus for recent debates about the technology and infrastructure of sustainable food. In digital publicity - from news coverage to search engines to social media - vertical farming has been widely associated with images of plant-filled skyscrapers, stacked trays of leafy greens grown under intense purple LED lighting, and reports of high-profile venture capital investments. The sensational character of much vertical farming discourse, and the highly instrumental treatment of ecological issues in vertical farming media coverage, presents a challenging situation for researchers and practitioners experimenting with indoor growing environments. In controversies about vertical farming, it is not uncommon to find technology set in opposition to concerns of ecology and community and staged as a source of public antagonism over what makes food sustainable. This paper will discuss an on-going public engagement process in which, as part of a consortium of vertical farming researchers/practitioners, I'm attempting to use data gathered from social media research to map relations between vertical farming and sustainable food issues. I aim to explore the affordances of vertical farming data from different social media platforms for engaging publics concerned by sustainable food. The paper will reflect on the extent to which 'disruptive' technoscience publicity can be reassembled as material that can both 'issue-fy' innovation processes and ground a speculative concept like vertical farming in more earth-bound public problems.

Panel C16
Data worlds? Public imagination and public experimentation with data infrastructures