Open Forest

Open Forest (OF) is a participatory artwork that explores different forests and forest data. It consists of various interactive installations, performative actions and speculative research instruments. With them OF invites people to explore forest data flows and reflect on and reorganize the relationships between citizens, sensors, environmental data,  climate crisis, scientists and trees in the forest. One aim is to expand the landscape in which stories about such entities can be told, and care about them enacted.

Right now we are building varios OF activities as an experimental production in collaboration with the Creatures project together with Marketa Doslejova (Aalto ARTS) Jaz Choi, Ana Tiquia and Cristina Ampatzidou (RMIT University). Together we are exploring various forests and diverse data about them through engagement; co-creating new forest data-sets and stories; and participating in creative workshop-style events. For this we are collaborating and playing with data and trees from the SMEARII Station in Hyytiälä forestry station (FIN), and with the Melbourne Urban Forest (AU).

In the context of Studio|Lab|Forest project, the Open Forest idea has an ontological/experimental interest. Based on the premise that in describing (and proposing new) relations between entities such as citizens, environmental data, scientists, and the trees in a forest, particular ways of being are created (Star & Bowker 2007, Puig de la Bellacasa 2014, Escobar 2018). For example research forests (in environmental sciences) are complex sociotechnical entanglements where scientists, through deployment of various instruments, tools and highly specialized research practices extract, read and interpret, but also create, process and share environmental data about the forest and its interaction with other aspects like soil and the atmosphere. A research forest already creates encounters between open data, scientists, differently located citizens, and governments in order to advance science (e.g our knowledge of climate change). At the same time, the research forest must also account for less visible – but still pervasive – elements such as trees, soil, gases and sensors that it mobilizes as part of these encounters. Scientific encounters and experiments are very focused and thus (understandably) limited in the ways in which they can explore these relationships. OF thus uses artistic and design research strategies to reframe what counts as environmental data, how it is produced, by whom, and whose concerns are taken into account; by enabling a collaborative more-than-human space to craft new kinds of relationships between these entities. 

Open Forest exploration – visiting Hyytiälä

Andrea Botero & Markéta Dolejšová  

On September 22nd-24th, we made a short exploratory field trip to the Hyytälä forest and its SMEAR station to collect first data and impressions for Open Forest. Besides walking through the old forest and the managed forest around the SMEAR station, we had the opportunity to chat with some of the scientists working with forest data at the station. We also learned a bit more about what is being collected as our visit was timed to coincide with a micrometeorology course that happened at the station. Our aim was humble – to get a sense of the place, collect stories from local scientists and others working at the station; and get inspiration for the first stage of our project. This “recognizing the terrain” was crucial specially for Markéta, who has never been to the station before.

Aside from these observation activities, we also collected various audio-visual materials and tried out an experimental storytelling walk-through in the SMEAR forest, while engaging remotely our fellow researchers located in Melbourne (AU) and Helsinki (FI). Andrea walked around the forest holding her laptop, running a Zoom meeting with the remote researchers and narrating introductory information and personal stories about the forest. Marketa, connected to the meeting via her mobile phone and using it as an extra camera, was capturing snapshots of the local forest environment to provide visual details of trees and sensors.

Marketa preparing for the walk

Hyytiälä forestry station is a fascinating place, and the open data that comes out of the local research activities, especially those situated in the SMEAR area with its monitoring mast and an array of sensors are perfect occasions to think-with, uncover and speculate on the types of data and stories that scientists, forests and others might exchange with each other. Drawing on our observations from the forest and in our collaboration with the Climate Whirl program (Thanks Ulla!), we will set up an interactive installation/ conversation piece to be showcased at the Research Pavillion #4 Helsinki in Hietsu Paviljonki during summer 2021

The work in Open Forest and Hyytiälä is tied to two existing ongoing research projects (1) the Academy of Finland (AoF) project “Studio|Lab|Forest – From the Lab, the Studio to the Forest, the Garden and Back” (2019-2024) where Andrea Botero is a principal investigator and (2) the EU Horizon 2020 project CreaTures – Creative Practices for Transformational Futures (2020-2022) where Markéta Dolejšová is a post-doctoral researcher.

Getting Participatory Design Done: From Methods and Choices to Translation Work across Constituent Domains

Authors: Andrea Botero, Sampsa Hyysalo, Cindy Kohtala, Jack Whalen


Collaborative arrangements between users and designers today are enacted in a broadening array of circumstances. These include extended, even years-long projects within corporations, the public and third sectors, as well as open-ended, peer-to-peer open design initiatives. Building on a literature review and analysis of four concrete participatory design projects, in this paper we argue that besides skills in selecting and implementing co-design methods, there is a larger repertoire of issues that need attention, if one takes the promises and limits of participatory design seriously. We elaborate on how these issues have purchase in the interplay of four interrelated domains: the strategic considerations that drive all those implicated, the mundane acts involved in co-design work, the choice of methods that is conditioned by strategic and mundane issues, and the producing of design outcomes permeated in turn by all the above. These domains co-constitute each other in such a way that one domain cannot easily be considered apart from the others. Participatory design understood from this perspective is not about facilitation skills, but rather skills to translate among strategic, mundane, method and design domains, and being aware of how they qualify and permeate each other in order to achieve results.

Full Text: PDF HTML

“In the beginning there were the marsh…” (Alussa oli suo”…)

Siikaneva is the largest unified marshland in Pirkanmaa and one of the most important mire conservations area in the province, which makes it also a nice place for birds. It hosts one of the SMEAR stations data collection points with a nice collection of sensors and a beautiful wooden plank path to explore it a bit.

In addition to the state-administered mire protection area, Siikaneva has a private nature reserve. More info form metsähalitus pages here

Heading to the forest (I)

Yeah! This is the first official “field trip” I am doing for this project! It feels weird to know that there are 5 years ahead to think on studios, laboratories, workshops, gardens, forests, kitchens, malocas and other spaces for world creation with some peace of mind and resources. What a better place to start than the forest? It is a fantastic place to feed the inquiry since 1) I am now in Finland and forests are quite important part of the shaped landscape of this part of the world 2) Forests are simply astonishing sites, bursting with life and death not to mention they have fascinating ecologies 3) Ever since I first came to Hyytiälä -while working on a research project on research infrastructures for the environmental sciences- I wanted to come back and look at it again with more calm and different eyes.

I am visiting the station at the same time that the course “Analysis of atmosphere-surface interactions and
feedbacks” is held. We agree that I can join some of the lectures and visits. I take it as a nice opportunity to learn more about the research that happens here , the type of data gathered and what questions are asked from the data and thus from the forest.

The forest around the SMEAR II station with some of the measuring instruments and sensors, a field lab for sure (Autumn 2019)