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Diving into the Pluriverse of Mahogany

The relational landscapes project aimed at mapping connections between Brandenburg and south american landscapes - understanding landscapes in a holistic ecological, economical and cultural sense. Within the class, we developed projects relating to a chosen boundary object that travels the network between both locations. The individual projects were accompanied by presentations and a symposium.


General information

In keeping with the course name, we dealt with the topic of Relational Landscapes between South America and Berlin/Brandenburg. Particularly enriching was the presence of the two teachers Andres Burbano and Thiago da Costa Oliveira, who gave us regular input in the form of presentations during the first weeks of the course. In combination with a high proportion of independent work, we developed both a content-related and methodological repertoire that we could fall back on in finding our own projects.

Exemplary compilation of contents in the pre-project phase

For example, we dealt with so-called boundary objects, which are viewed and used differently by different groups. These objects often travel a network that spans the entire world and partially connects Germany (specifically Brandenburg) with South America. The network lecture by Prof. Marian Dörk deserves special mention here, as he gave us a brief insight into InfoVis and the complexity and versatility of networks.

In parallel, we tried to find the connections of this world in our everyday life by looking for objects, edible and non-edible plants in Brandenburg, which have their origin in South America. And we didn't have to search for long! Through presentations, we looked not only at geographical, but also at political, cultural, economic and climatic connections in the different landscapes. In the course of this, we tried to develop our first sociogram.


For the project work, I teamed up with Jennifer Pilawa, as we both had a great interest in working on a specific boundary object right from the start.

In the following section I will describe our process of finding the object, researching it, working out a research question and the final implementation.

2.1 IDEA


An important impulse for our project was the excursion to the Dahlem Botanical Garden. Here we were given an exclusive, guided tour of the entire grounds, to gain a glance of the infrastructure behind the infrastructure. After that, it was clear to us that we wanted to work with a plant as a boundary object. Mahogany was quickly suggested. We liked the idea because this rare precious wood quickly evokes some associations (both negative and positive). We wanted to question these associations, which are strongly influenced by the West, and above all illuminate them from differentiated perspectives.

The symposium was also particularly influential, especially Arturo Escobar's lecture. Phrases like

We try to put life into silos, whereas the Pluriverse depicts that it's really a flow.
Our Pluriverse has been colonised by a universal strives.

remained in our minds and shaped our project idea.

Research Question

With these impulses, we asked ourselves how we could tell the story of mahogany from as many perspectives as possible without forcing a dualistic separation. As interface designers, we primarily asked ourselves how we could design an interface that makes multiple perspectives tangible and conveys the pluralistic idea behind it. This is how the project was born: „Diving into the Pluriverse of Mahogany“.

Impressions from the Botanical Garden Dahlem



We started by finding out everything we could about mahogany, reading papers and articles. We soon realised that even a concrete topic can grow enormously fast. We recorded all the relevant information on a Miro Board and gradually created an information backlog.

Our approach was to immediately record all found actors regarding Mahogany in a sociogram and to show connections between the individual topics. To support multiple perspectives, we divided the sociogram into an indigenous and an industrial perspective. With this arrangement, we quickly became aware of two problems.

  1. We are caught in a dualistic world view.
  2. Current civilization crisises are caused by western, capitalistic & white supramicy. We only know this perspective.



We decided to work out all the interesting, bizarre and, in our opinion, necessary topics as short, compact stories.

These stories are placed in a certain way in the sociogram and connect Brandenburg and South America. On the one hand, we highlight the sometimes absurd use of mahogany in Brandenburg in a critical and humorous way, and on the other hand, we try to tell „hidden“ stories of people living in South America.

Since we wanted to convey information as simply and accessibly as possible, we felt it was partly our responsibility to design our own graphics. A selection of these, as well as a compilation of the themes, can be found in the following picture gallery.

Ratio Dot Plot.pngRatio Dot Plot.png
Map Visualisation.pngMap Visualisation.png


Regarding our Research Question, this was our main focus.

Boundary Object

The framework of our interface was clear very quickly: we designed a mahogany tree as the interaction surface. On the one hand, this choice was thematically very obvious, on the other hand, the branches and roots of this tree are in a certain way a visually appealing form of a network.

Interaction Surface.pngInteraction Surface.png

Sociogram and Information hierarchy

Our goal was to transform the sociogram into the tree. We arranged the stories concerning Brandenburg in the crown of the tree and the indigenous stories in the root. This is to illustrate that from our western perspective only a fraction of the stories are visible, while a large part is „hidden“ under the surface. In addition, South America is the origin of mahogany, which again matches the root analogy.

At the beginning, the sociogram is still hidden and all the stories seem to float through the mahogany space as randomised points. Only in a subsequent interaction level does the tree grow a new branch that visualises the interconnection of all stories.

Transformed Sociogram.pngTransformed Sociogram.png

Participation - Growing the Pluriverse

Our interface offers the possibility to add own stories. In this way, we can integrate new perspectives detached from ourselves. For each story, the tree should grow a new branch.

Growing the Pluriverse.pngGrowing the Pluriverse.png

Interdependence - Pluriverse View

In the course of our work, we became aware that the sociogram, even though it allows several perspectives, does not yet represent a Pluriverse view, but only an interconnection. If one realises the Pluriverse, much more has to be integrated. In a first attempt, we added more trees as examples to illustrate that more species are linked to the mahogany tree.


Navigation - Diving into the Pluriverse

For a long time, navigation was a crucial point of our work:

How is it possible to view the different perspectives without unconsciously forcing a dualistic separation?

We tried to create different layers that could be accessed through buttons. In several iterations, we reworked the wording and gradually moved away from a too westernised style. But labels always support categorisation. We realised that this was completely contrary to the content of our interface. 

In the end, we decided to take the user along on the journey to understanding the Pluriverse. The journey starts with the view the average user knows, stories from Brandenburg, and leads to indigenous stories. Everything is supported by a scrolling interaction. Then the sociogram slowly crystallises and makes clear that everything is connected. The interface then expands into a Pluriverse. 

In summary, our interface is a journey from a westernised universal view to a Pluriverse.

Label Iterations.jpgLabel Iterations.jpg
Content interaction.pngContent interaction.png



Here we had the opportunity to present our current status and to ask questions to external guests. Our questions were mainly related to the pluriversal view.

What other possibilities do we have for visualisation? 

Final Presentation.pdf PDF Final Presentation.pdf



Finally, we saw two more areas of work:

  1. Creating more stories
  2. Based on the input of the externals, develop ideas that better visualise the Pluriverse.

Visual development

Here we broke away from all restrictions and designed a utopian visual concept.

More Species

At first, many more species should appear in order to clarify the pluriversal idea. For already the mahogany tree itself is a whole ecosystem. We deliberately looked for species from Brandenburg as well as species from South America and wanted to combine them in the interface. Due to time constraints, we have only included a few more tree species. However, we have already started thinking about possible further species.

more_species.pdf PDF more_species.pdf

Everything floats

In a Pluriverse, everything flows, nothing exists only in its respective entity, contours blur.

To illustrate this, everything flows together in our interface with further interaction. The pulsating togetherness gives rise to new forms. The stories remain as points in their most rudimentary form. When a story is selected, the entire interface shape changes. The story takes up more space and closely related themes also come closer spatially and express themselves through increased scaling.



If I had to describe this course in one sentence, it would be „Trust the process“. Because here I learned that through external input and my own research, a project can slowly develop, as long as you are open to new perspectives and approaches.

Since this course was initially advertised as a major course, it was way out of my comfort zone as a first-year student . Retrospective, I'm very glad I took this course. Especially since I was able to learn a lot from fellow students from the higher semesters and especially from Jennifer.

Several experiences were particularly formative for me:

  1. That a concrete topic has a high complexity in itself. For example, a simple type of wood can tell a thousand stories. .
  2. Good research takes time. I often underestimated how long it takes to read, find and handle sources.

I also think that we developed a really interesting research question that is worth thinking about in the future. In general, I will hopefully look at many simple items differently in the future and think more about the larger infrastructure behind i.

The excursion and the input from external people, whether it was presentations or feedback, were particularly helpful, which is why I am mentioning them here once again..

To wrap this up: I found the course sometimes out of my comfort but worth the effort.



Art des Projekts

Keine Angabe

Zugehöriger Workspace

Relational Landscapes


Wintersemester 2021 / 2022