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Decentralising Digital: Artefacts from Hopeful Futures

Digital Farm Tool. Woven jondu grass pouch, recycled tin containing various electronic components, soil spike. 2032.
Digital Farm Tool. Woven jondu grass pouch, recycled tin containing various electronic components, soil spike. 2032.

Working with rural communities in Karnataka, India, Decentralising Digital is an ongoing research project seeking to co-create new narratives for decentralised digital futures.

We are exploring how developments in emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, the voice enabled Internet, machine learning and artificial intelligence might be harnessed to meaningfully support rural communities in India. We imagine that the work presented here can be adapted and used by other communities and stakeholders, in their own work in reimagining different, more sustainable futures for these communities.

We imagined a series of artefacts that might be found in these diverse futures. These artefacts intentionally adopt a visual and material language rooted in the knowledge of the people and the communities we worked with.

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Decentralising Digital: Exoskeletons

Farmers wearing locally produced exoskeletons made by the community and built from traditional techniques.
Speculative illustration and story by Yuvraj Jha as part of the Decentralising Digital research project.

It is widely understood that one of the hardest parts of farming is, to put it mildly, farming. Labour intensive, unpredictable, and in the long run, backbreaking.

And this is one of the primary reasons why the younger generation is moving to the cities for a better future. This has led to fewer people working in the fields, which means less food or more technology on our farms. Neither of which is a good idea. Even though tech and automation are good overall, in the long run the health of the farm depends on the health of the farmer. And the potential disconnect with the land proves to be extremely debilitating over decades. However, the back-breaking load of farm work over prolonged periods of time causes health issues such as hernia—issues that at the moment do not have sufficient solutions and continue into old age. This speculative illustration accompanies a short story on the lives of people in a village who have deployed exoskeletons on their village farms instead of drones.

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