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Lincoln researcher celebrates award-winning Twitter garden

Doctor Duncan Rowland, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, has been praised for his work on a gold medal-winning, Twitter-responsive garden.

The Essence of Australia garden won a gold medal and ‘Best in Show’ at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Dr Rowland’s research into how Twitter can be used to control and affect external objects was used to regulate a water feature within the garden.

This follows the University of Lincoln’s Gold win at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2013.

The Twitter-controlled garden, Digital Capabilities, responded to live Twitter activity, enabling the public to directly influence how the garden appeared at any one time.

The Essence of Australia garden was designed by the Australian landscape designer, Jim Fogarty, for the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne in partnership with Tourism Victoria, Tourism Northern Territory, Qantas and leading UK tour operator, Trailfinders.

It tells the story of the Rainbow Serpent, an Aboriginal dreamtime story about a mythical creature that lived underground and created the mountains and the gorges.

Visitors could “wake up” the serpent by tweeting #EssenceOfAus. The presence of water in the Australian landscape is also an integral part of the design.

The garden celebrates Australian flora and contemporary design, evoking the relaxed feel of Australia and Australians’ love of outdoor living as well as celebrating the states and gardening landscapes of Victoria and Northern Territory as two key travel destinations for British holidaymakers.

Dr Rowland’s research focussed on engaging in creative practice to explore the human condition via relationships with digital devices and more traditional media.

He said: “It was fantastic to see Twitter activity controlling the water feature, which represented the waking of the mythical serpent.

“What is also nice on a personal level is that the curiosity-driven research I initially did on interfacing and Twitter has had such immediate utility.

“I began by simply turning my desk lamp on and off with Tweets and set up a Tweet-able webcam in my office window. The work developed and was then included in the Digital Capabilities garden last year.

“It’s great to be able to evidence the value of blue-sky research at Lincoln and it has been an honour to work with such well-respected horticultural talents again.”

Dr Rowland’s research is also used in the University’s STAN (Science Technology Architecture Networks) research project, which is exploring whether architecture is able to reflect and map human emotions.

The STAN garden has been touring events throughout the year, including the Lincolnshire Show.