Beyond human (self-) care – Exploring fermentation as a practice of caring with humans, non-humans and the planet Earth
My thesis project dealt with the playful exploration of fermentation as a practice of care. Fermentation has a lot of positive impacts and can be seen as a practice of care in relation to human self-care, caring with human others, relationships to non-human beings, like microorganisms, and caring with the planet Earth. Based on the question ‘What can game design do to explore fermentation as a practice beyond human (self-) care?’ I developed an Online Fermentation Game and a corresponding Game Event. The game functioned as a conversational framework to explore together with co-creators the possibilities of more careful and sustainability-oriented food practices on the example of fermentation.
I strived to make a small contribution to my long term vision of a paradigm shift from the individualistic human benefit towards a notion of more than human care.
The global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that this project happened to be situated in challenged me in creating a safe and comfortable co-learning space. Therefore, this project focused on creating a digital- and home-based game experience. The digital interaction took place through the video conferencing tool zoom as well as the online collaboration tool MURAL. The displayed video gives you an impression of this experience. As part of our online graduation exhibition, I created an Interactive Care Mapping that summarized the associations to fermentation and care mentioned in the game events while enabling the visitors to add their ideas. To get a deeper look into how I care with and through fermentation, you can browse through my Diary of a Caregiver that accompanied me on my explorative journey.
In this particular project, design works as a change agent through the initiation and facilitation of the game event including the design of the game as a conversational framework. The focus lay on the environmental and social sustainability. The social relations to ourselves, other humans and non-humans, like microbes, on the one hand, the environmental system of the planet Earth which we are a small but impactful part of on the other hand. Even creating a co-learning space can be seen as an act of social sustainability. This project challenged the anthropocentric, normative view through creating a dialogue about more than human care in relation to food, in particular fermentation. Inspiring co-learners to question their relationships around food and discover which actors to care with. With this project, I strived to make a small contribution to my long term vision of a paradigm shift from the individualistic human benefit towards a notion of more than human care. This shift can make a huge difference regarding a more sustainability-oriented future of food.
My motivation for this thesis project lay in my curiosity about the future of food and what role fermentation can play in there. I might not be a fermentation expert, but as a designer, I can bring in an engaging visual language. Combining my passions for food and games with the ones of photography, videography and event facilitation. To hand over, other design practitioners and change agents can apply and transform the game as part of their fermentation projects. On a broader perspective, the concept of this explorative design game can be adapted inside but also outside the food sector. The project serves as inspiration for a playful and at the same time careful approach to design and change-making. Moreover, it shows an example of shifting community spaces provoked by crises.