Food science field trip

This week, for our food science unit, we took a field trip to Doc’s Artisan Ice Creams. DSC_0774

A big part of my research examines food as a platform for both everyday science and habitual sustainability. Last semester, working with Tina Santana and Elenore Long, I conducted extensive fieldwork and workshops with practitioners who routinely experiment with preserving, fermenting, brewing, pickling, foraging for, and healing with food. The practices we studied include making homemade beer, fermenting vegetables and fruit, foraging for local edibles, brewing kombucha and kefir, farming livestock, and encapsulating human placenta (as a dietary supplement), to name a few.

With this work, I am interested in alternatives to top-down production of both food and knowledge. Food is a widely-adopted platform for amateur science, whereby people learn about and perform a host of scientifically-oriented experiments at home. At the same time, these projects also engage with many critical sustainability issues: food preservation and security, human health and nutrition, and everyday scientific literacy. How is quotidian expertise scaffolded, and how are at-home food science practices positioned as a deliberate alternative to mainstream systems?

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Framing my interests in food science within the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), my research contributes to 1) citizen science, by examining how social, digital, and physical materials shape scientific literacy; and 2) sustainable interaction design, by engaging with practices that counter mass-consumption and work around top-down systems.

Sharing my research with my class and involving students as collaborators in DIY science (or as NSF would put it, “integrating research and education”) has been productive and fascinating. Being able to integrate all this with my passion for dessert is of course even better!

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Our site visit today served as an introduction to basic in-situ interview and fieldwork methods, as well as a foray into the study of everyday food science.

Doc’s is a unique place, not only because it boasts truly bold and experimental flavors (e.g., habanero-mango, grape-peanut butter, or lemongrass-coconut-lime sorbet), but also because making these products is seen as both an art and a science. Today’s discussion deeply engaged with how experimental practices of food preparation, selection, and storage draw upon art practice and scientific knowledge. This raises interesting questions about whether approaching this area as a science devalues the art of food and touches on complex intersections between science and art more generally.

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Coming from the School of Arts, Media, and Engineering at ASU, which spans the spectrum of creative practice, research, and computer science, these insights resonated with our own work and experiences.

Thank you Doc’s for your invaluable time, insights, and of course… the gelato and sorbet. Can’t wait to go back!

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