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July 6, 2020

Fantastic(e)ating Food Futures: Reimagining Human Food Interactions

According to EAT-Lancet: Food is the single strongest lever to optimize human health and environmental sustainability on Earth. However, current food practices are threatening both people and planet. We need to develop more nourishing ways of eating. Digital food technologies: diet trackers, food sharing apps, smart kitchenware, etc., offer potential for efficient food lifestyles. Yet, can be techno-solutionistic, offering limited opportunity for imagining ‘fantastic’ food futures. In a bid to extend Human-Food Interaction (HFI) research, this workshop will investigate how to fantasticate nourishing ways to technologically support our food practices. Through scenario building, mystery food-tech boxes, Food Tarot cards, and a foraging walk-shop in local Eindhoven, we will feed our senses, fuel imaginations, seek HFI design possibilities and reflect on their potential to nurture healthy, sustainable human-food relationships. We invite researchers, designers, and practitioners interested in extending existing HFI research to join us in speculating desirable ‘fantastic’ food-tech futures.


The call to action of the 2019 EAT-Lancet report [7] is unequivocal: humans must urgently develop more nourishing ways of producing and consuming food. Technology increasingly permeates food cultures; we believe Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and DIS communities have an important role to play in shaping necessary changes in food practices and processes. While claiming that ‘food is the new internet’ [4], some food-tech proponents portray technology as a means to revolutionise food systems. In contrast, critics are concerned that digital food efforts are leaning towards technological solutionism – the misguided belief that technology design can fully solve complex societal problems [3]. We see a lack of critical Human-Food Interaction (HFI) design and research that supports imagination of future food practices that can nourish both people and the planet [1]. Our response to this challenge is to push the boundaries of HFI by including more imaginative, fanciful or fantastical approaches. 

The workshop is organized as part of a two-day program titled Experimental Food Design for Sustainable Futures; taking place on the first day, followed by the day-2 workshop Designing with More-than-Human Food Practices for Climate Resilience. The two-day program focuses on experimenting with food as bio-design material and socio-culturally potent, aesthetically rich starting point from which to critically reflect on social and ecological uncertainties.


This workshop seeks to extend the existing body of HFI research, to move beyond the possibilities and constraints of new technologies by fantasticating (making or rendering fantastic or fanciful) food-technology futures. The goal is to imaginatively explore ways to intertwine human and planetary flourishing through food-tech innovation. To ‘fantasticate HFI’, we will explore novel food-tech devices existing and emerging and enjoy thought provoking workshop activities informed by local and participant-informed contexts.

Throughout the workshop, we will approach food-technology practices as contested areas navigated by multiple stakeholders including human and non-human actors from the natural ecology and the technologies themselves. The aim is to critically unpack issues surrounding digital food technologies and interrogate: What are the advantages and challenges that digital food technology brings into everyday-life contexts? How can we incorporate perspectives that embrace the more-than-human? How can we leverage creative and imaginative design approaches to scaffold the development of fantastical but also sustainable food-tech cultures?

This workshop extends our prior DIS workshops [2,5]. Our long-term aim is to help nurture existing research into everyday food-technology cultures and develop a strong community of HFI scholars, while ensuring inclusion of fantastical elements such as food crafting, play, foraging, future speculations, and food-tech mystery boxes [6]. We invite a wide range of multi-disciplinary and intersectional contributions from food-oriented researchers, designers, (DIY) scientists, and practitioners concerned with food-technology issues. By fantasticating human-food interactions, we aim to foresee, and critically reflect on, future HFI frameworks and consider what diverse stakeholders might find meaningful. 

Main Themes

The workshop reflects on the implications of using digital technology for everyday food practices by reimagining or fantasticating food futures. The themes of the workshop cover (but are not limited to):

1. Personal implications: How can personal digital technology be reimagined to forge better HFI experiences? How can we use or repurpose existing food technologies to reimagine more fulfilling personal experiences? How might we design to best support the food-related health, wellbeing, and resilience of individuals and communities?

2. Socio-cultural implications: How do technologies affect traditional food practices and culinary techniques, and which of these are valued? How can we reimagine and thereby support improved social food connectivity and commensality? What might food communities of the future resemble? What roles might traditional food knowledge (e.g., foraging) play in fantastical food futures? 

3. Environmental implications: To what extent can digital technologies support sustainable food practices? What are the opportunities of digital technology in advancing users’ ecological connectedness? How can we design for playful, creative, and fantastical but also critical user engagement with sustainable food practices? 

4. Policy implications: What kind of data will be produced and shared via future digital food technologies, by whom, and to what ends? Who will be excluded from future digital food practices? How can we design to support a safe exchange of personal food-related data?

Full text pdf

Food Technology Mystery Box
©Hilary Davis


[1] Ferran Altarriba Bertran, Samvid Jhaveri, Rosa Lutz, Katherine Isbister and Danielle Wilde. 2019. Making Sense of Human-Food Interaction. In CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Proceedings May 4–9, 2019, Glasgow, Scotland UK. ACM, New York, NY, USA.
[2] Markéta Dolejšová, Ferran Altarriba Bertran, Danielle Wilde, and Hilary Davis, 2019. Crafting and Tasting Issues in Everyday Human-Food Interactions. Designing Interactive Systems Conference 2019 Companion ACM, 361-364.
[3] Evgeny Morozov. 2013. To Save Everything Click Here: Technology, Solutionism and the Urge to Fix Problems That Don’t Exist. Allen Lane Penguin.
[4] Kimbal Musk. (2016-2017). Food is the New Internet. Medium. Retrieved October 12, 2017 from
[5] Erica Vannucci, Ferran Altarriba, Justin Marshall, and Danielle Wilde. 2018. Handmaking Food Ideals: Crafting the Design of Future Food-related Technologies. Designing Interactive Systems (DIS ’18 Companion). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 419-422.
[6] Frank Vetere, Hilary Davis, Martin Gibbs, Steve Howard. 2009. The magic box and collage: responding to the challenge of distributed intergenerational play, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Vol. 67, no. 2 (Feb 2009), pp. 165-178
[7] Willett, W. et al. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Lancet 393, 447–492 (2019)