evolving ecological media culture(s)

SBB review


The following is a a summary of our class review of the “Seedbomb Burlington” class project.

What worked well

Overall the expressed consensus was that the project went well. Materials were easy to get and to work with. The use of media, especially social media (such as Facebook), was considered successful. Many people beyond the class participated in the workshops, with a wide demographic among those interested, and there were expressions of interest from schools and individuals for follow-up workshops. Community engagement — including donations from organizations and businesses — was high. And in the end several hundred — perhaps close to 1000 — seedbombs were created and disseminated. The sense was that we made an impact and that that impact will not have been in vain.

What didn’t work as well; lessons for next time

Time was our biggest constraint: we arrived at our project idea fairly late in the semester and did not have enough time to plan and organize it as well as we might have. Communication between task groups was sometimes difficult, and user participation was difficult to coordinate. There was an overall consensus that next time around the project should be started earlier in the course. That would allow for the development of a longer term strategy, with better final results, and for better integration with other class themes. We should also have set up a shared document, such as a GoogleDoc, for collective communication, updates, and so on.

Relationship to the course

The project bore an obvious relationship to many of the ideas we explored in the second half of the course, such as rewilding and guerrilla gardening, but, in fairness, these were added once we decided on the project. More generally, it related well to ideas of reclaiming the commons — specifically, reclaiming land (the physical commons) and reclaiming agency (our capacity to bring about change) and tools (our ability to access and make use of the various tools at our disposal, from media to seeds to our bodies and connections with friends and neighbors).

Here we also discussed the relationship between the project and the topics of locative media and “sentient cities.” This is where I felt the project failed, since it did not create much infrastructure for future work at the intersection of the mediated (online) and the immediate (place/city space) worlds. Future contributors to the “Seedbomb Burlington” project could be encouraged to add images, names/locations, and more information to the Facebook page or the project website. But we did not even agree that this was necessarily desirable. Some questioned the value of sharing something that was best viewed as a kind of surreptitious, guerrilla form of landscape intervention — something that may be better encountered on its own, by surprise, rather than through online documentation.

This issue was left unresolved. My own feeling is that online documentation, when done smartly, is generally a good thing. People are not likely to think much about a “weed” they see sprouting up somewhere. But if they see a sign (moss graffiti saying “SBB,” for Seedbomb Burlington) next to an interestingly designed landscape intervention, their curiosity might encourage them to look up “SBB” online. If there’s nothing there for them to follow up with, the effort will likely end there.

Next steps

The more immediate steps include sending thank-you cards to those who helped us and donated materials (Katie will be collecting names), deciding what to do with the seedball vending machine that’s been offered for our use, and ongoing seedbomb making and promoting activities over the summer. Venues where it was suggested that someone might follow up included the Friday music and food events at Bread and Butter Farm and the Thursday evening Summervale events at the Burlington Intervale.

The obvious longer-term step would be a follow-up class project. I hope to offer this course again, but since it is not a calendar course — just a “special topics” course — the next iteration may be different and may not have the same name. However, now that the idea is out there, it is ripe for the taking as a class project in other courses.

Other suggestions are welcomed below!

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