Grow Your Own Cloud (GYOC) is an art-science initiative storing data nature’s way – in the DNA of plants. GYOC explores the potential for truly green, carbon negative data storage, powered by nature and owned by the public rather than monopolistic corporations. With the data industry now emitting more greenhouse gas than global aviation, GYOC seeks to initiate discussion around ‘Data Warming’ through the creation of artistic experiences, looking to biology and natural systems for inspiration to reform human associations with data.

In 2018, GYOC developed the Data Flower-Shop, turning a flower shop into a biological data centre. People were invited to visit and upload data to a plant of their choice, while learning about issues related to the data industry, genetic modification and the climate crisis. The experience used the everyday setting of the flower-shop to transport people into a future where nature is a technology and data is something tangible.

In 2020, GYOC created the Data Garden for SXSW, developing a new way to download data directly from plants, through collaboration with the MISL, University of Washington. Visitors were invited to interact with the organisms and use the latest genetic sequencing technology to retrieve music, images and text files from plants in real-time.

These works reimagine the data cloud as a regenerative space, creating a new symbiosis between humans and other organisms. They probe at new pressures that arise from genetic modification, especially intellectual property, ethical and regulatory issues. They encourage reflection around political and environmental concerns pertaining to the cloud, employing the demonstrative power of art and realistic possibilities of science.

Grow Your Own Cloud (GYOC) seeks to create new types of data infrastructure; typologies which render data open and available to everyone, create new opportunities for green space, indoors and out, while subverting notions of the privatised digital information economy. Through initiating these sites of investigation, GYOC researches new scientific methods for working with biological data storage, a crucial emerging technology to help thwart the data industry’s exacerbation of the ongoing climate crisis.

GYOC has been the recipient of various international awards including the UN Summer of Solutions 2019, Prix BloxHUB 2019, Interaction Awards 20202, and Core77 Awards 2019. They have addressed audiences at the United Nations during the World Youth Climate Summit 2019, COP25, and various events at Davos 2020.

The core team of the project are the initiators Cyrus Clarke (UK) and Monika Seyfried (PL) designers and artists working at the intersection of science, technology and the arts. Collaborators include Jeff Nivala, Principle Investigator at the Molecular Information Systems Lab, University of Washington, Annelie Berner, Principle Investigator at CIID Research and abNormal Studios.

Cyrus Clarke is a Designer, Artist and Futurist with a background in economics and digital technologies. He is passionate about reforming human-nonhuman relationships by establishing new models of cooperation between people, ecosystems and technologies. Looking to the natural world for inspiration, he seeks to promote futures in which technologies are based on living systems through a deep partnership with nature.

His focus lies on seeking to promote alternative notions of nature and technology through the creation of artistic pieces ranging from film, mixed-media installations, fictions, live experiences and genetic software. In particular he is fascinated by data as a material, working with nature as a technology to reframe human relationships with the cloud and initiate discussion on the ethical, environmental, political and socio-economic implications of the technology filled worlds we are rushing to create.

He positions himself as a link between the techno-scientific communities and the wider public, to help bridge between potential futures and today, in order to inspire technological developments that enhance value, equity, justice, and the environment. To do so he works with emerging technologies such as machine learning, blockchain, mixed reality and biotechnology, to create immersive environments, physical installations, digital interfaces, near-future scenarios and science fiction narratives.

As an independent creative and futurist, he consults and develops work for commercial clients such as IKEA and World Expo 2020, as well as institutional initiatives for the UN and EU Horizon 2020. He is the founder and creator of the award-winning educational game What The Block, biological design initiative Grow Your Own Cloud, former co-founder of fact-checking service SIFT, and former Innovation Lead at L’Oreal Global.

His creative work has been recognised and exhibited internationally, most notably SXSW, World Economic Forum, Bio26 – 26th Biennial of Design Ljubljana, as well as solo shows in the United States and Denmark. He is grateful to be the recipient of many international awards including Interaction Awards 2018, Core77, BloxHub and the UN Summer of Solutions. Always keen to share knowledge, he leads dozens of courses and workshops each year around design futures and emerging technologies. Cyrus is a regular keynote speaker on a range of topics from value beyond money, to biological data futures.

Monika Seyfried is an Interaction Designer who works across the disciplines of science, ethics and futures. Her research focuses on how living systems and the natural world can help us to establish new perspectives on the future of technology and ecosystems. Monika’s focus lies in the role of ethics in the design process. In recent years she was involved in European Commission research projects that explored topics of Critical Heritages, Fusion Energy Futures and Ethics & Technology collaborating with institutions such as LSE, Newcastle University and IT University of Copenhagen.

Through her design work, Monika engages at the intersection of emerging technologies, digital media and the natural environment, creating sensory rich, interactive spaces. Her passion is to build immersive experiences; mixed reality worlds that blend the digital and physical, working with a speculative mindset and experimenting with design approaches. In her latest work she’s been exploring how design, art and science, in particular the field of biotechnology, can create immersive spaces for the creation of new futures.

Monika is an educator. Monika’s courses are based on her deep research and design work in the fields of futurescaping, ethics and climate, together with techniques of prototyping, data visualisation, storytelling, and exhibition design. Her approach to teaching is to create an atmosphere of open sharing and learning, whereby students and participants are invited to collectively contribute to shape and inform the course. She teaches at various institutions including Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, Design Academy in Eindhoven, Hyper Island and The Danish National School of Performing Arts in Copenhagen.