Researchers from ECA’s Centre for Design Informatics recently attended the RGS-IB Annual International Conference in London, where one of their digital devices - Bitbarista - caught the eye of a BBC World Service journalist.

Bitbarista is a Bitcoin powered, semi-autonomous coffee machine, developed by researchers Ella Tallyn, Larissa Pschetz and Rory Gianni.

Described by the BBC as "a coffee machine with a life of its own, dispensing coffee to punters with an ethical preference", it was designed to explore the perceptions of value transactions using a novel Internet of Things device and serves coffee in exchange for a Bitcoin contribution towards its future coffee supply. The aim of this interaction is to create transparency around the process of engaging with coffee supply chains, with the intention of creating a positive experience of data sharing in this context.

The theme of this year’s RGS conference was ‘Decolonizing Geographical Knowledges: opening geography out to the world.’ The sub theme of ‘New Digital Geographies’ was a perfect fit to showcase Bitbarista, as it explored political, ecological and geographic implications of a new decentralised digital society, where technologies such as Bitcoin and Blockchain facilitate new ways of sharing and transferring value.

Bitbarista is currently undergoing a trial of long-term use which is revealing reactions to the machine's autonomous features, and about making coffee choices based on the dynamic, bigger picture of coffee production and supply, rather than immediate personal desires. Researchers are also exploring options for new research funding to examine how the Bitbarista could be integrated into the practice and business of growing and supplying coffee.

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