A series of essays and projects that comprise the Sentient City by Mark Shepard provide concrete examples around the argument that citizens can play as designers and participants in the unfolding techno-social situations of near future urban environments. One of the commissions that inspired me in my thinking on ubiquitous networks is “Natural Fuse”: a network of plants that will only allow a limited amount of energy to be expended depending on the amount of carbon dioxide that can be taken in by the plants that are growing in the system. They act as a natural break in the system, the same way an automatically operated switch would in an electrical circuit. What happens in the interaction with the users is that they are more engaged to cooperate on energy expenditure in order for the plants to blossom because if they don’t, the network starts to kill plants, which would diminish the network’s electricity capacity (who wants that?). So far, this project seems to be about a system of interaction where the solution to the problem is obvious. What is interesting for me in this system is the Catch-22 situation: there is not really a direct solution to the problem. The following questions were raised in the development of this project: What if the amount of carbon that a single houseplant can sink is much smaller than expected? What would you do? Use less energy? Or supersize the fuse? You might need 420 plants to offset your 50W lightbulb! And if a plant dies any carbon isolated during the growth period is eventually released back into the atmosphere. A zero-sum situation depends entirely on where the arbitrary boundaries of the system are drawn. What would you do with your plant? Eat it? Bury it? Weave it?
I want to imagine future interactions with objects be it in private or public contexts that trigger a debate of what kind of future cities or homes we might want. In this domain of design fiction, I want to take a leap of my imagination and believe that these technologies are going to have a great impact on us and on the cities as we know them today, re-shaping the urban fabrics and transforming our homes, the built environment and how we exist in them.
 Natural Fuse: Sentient City Blog Post by Mark Shepard | http://www.sentientcity.net/exhibit/?p=43