Revised What is a Community Garden in the Digital Age?

Brief overview of project

New York City is often known as a “concrete jungle.” While we envision a gray and black landscape, not many pay attention to the actual green foliage that quietly engulfs the city. During the Covid-19 pandemic the interest in green spaces heightened and highlighted the necessity of green areas for people living in New York in order to ensure their well being. One way to encounter and interact with green spaces are the many different community gardens spread all over NYC which have a long history dating back to the 1970s. But as the world progresses deeper and deeper into a tech driven society, humanity must do their due diligence in keeping up. This seems to be a contradiction given the wholly untechnical nature (pun intended) the point of these gardens hold. But how can we come to understand community gardens by exploring their digital presence? and what does this mean to the garden’s work? Those are the questions we hope to answer in our project. To complete this task we will look into data sets and information taken from already established websites such as GrowNYC and Greenthumb as well as data census’ on community gardens. Once we compile as much information as we can, we will visualize them through Tableau and upload our data vis models onto an interactive website. Our goal for this project is to not only make this curated data more readily available, but to also highlight trends and oddities that have gone unnoticed from previous data collection. Additionally, to create a project that also reflects the people of these gardens, we will also try to conduct a smaller ethnographic research study to better get an understanding of the importance of these gardens’ digital presence. Moreover, with the myriad of gardens available in NYC we anticipate the possibility of some not having info available on the web. Our project will also likely be an outlet for these “web anonymous gardens” to have a digital footprint. In all we consider our work to be data collection as well as an awareness project. Our end goal is to help both the gardens and those interested in learning or helping these gardens. 

The question/problem it helps answer:

In essence, we are aware there is already a  plethora of digital information on community gardens available. Our objective is focused on helping these gardens become even more digitally accessible in a way that is more engaging. The graphic representation we will provide will be an effective and easier way to communicate the vast data already collected. As mentioned above we will complete this task by looking into data sets and information taken from already established websites as well as a public data census’. Then we will scan the digital presence of each and every community garden in New York CIty and create a visual map of gardens that have a presence and those that do not. This map will have different components that will aggregate the data found in our research. We will also do a deep dive that showcases the different types of community gardens and how they label themselves. We believe that this can be beneficial to local residents who would like to know what the gardens around them have to offer as well as an indicator to divulge if individual info is available on a website/social media account. The omission of a web presence can bring awareness to the community and possibly provide an incentive for those involved to create one for their garden. This can in turn highlight potential new ways of engaging volunteers.   

Project audience

This project will be for those interested in getting a better understanding of what a Community Garden is, but we will mostly focus on people interested in joining a community garden. Our work will also be beneficial to future data researchers/digital humanists who wish to expand on the digital work centered around these gardens. 

Contribution to DH & potential impact:

We do not wish to recreate digital portals like GrowNYC and Greenthumb. Instead we hope to explore what is a Community Garden as digital humanists by looking at data available online. Our project will create a digital interactive map of NYC showing information about the different types of gardens, sizes, accessibility etc. It will be for anyone to explore what these gardens’ digital presence can tell us about what it means to be a community garden in New York City. This blueprint web resource can hopefully be a hub for those interested in learning or interacting with these spaces, and help create awareness for the community gardens. In addition we will re-engage dead or outdated websites and have their digital presence reignited. Our ethnographic research will attempt to find out the reason why some of these gardens do not have a digital presence established, among other unforeseen questions. Perhaps their answers will lead to the discovery of discrepancies within the community. As mentioned above this will also be beneficial for other digital humanists working with community gardens.

Feasibility assessment:

The data needed to create a proof of concept model for this digital project can be collected in the duration of a college semester. We are aware that our small ethnographic research might only be possible later, since many gardens are closed at the moment due to the winter weather and non public entry. 

What digital tools/methods/team member skill sets will be needed to realize the project?  Project Manager/Documentation: Faihaa

Will be the general overseer of the group and plan for steps to move along progress, will keep track of Google spreadsheets listing data that has been found thus far, Will keep track of all contact info, will be involved with collecting, organizing and analyzing data.

Developer/Designer/ethnographic research: Benjamin

Will design and conduct small ethnographic research with the targeting group, build a website (or other digital representation) and assist on researching

Documentation/Research– Nelson 

Will be able to collect data. Able to travel and communicate with community garden leaders. Able to research historical information regarding community gardens in NYC. Eager to learn digital tools in order to present data visually, either by graphs or maps. 

All team members will be involved with Outreach. Our project also counts as Outreach!


We are interested in using Tableau Online and creating a WordPress interactive website

Legal or technical barriers

  1. Communicating with community leaders at the garden. Possibility that they won’t respond or want to divulge information that can be made public. 
  2. The data we collect might not be sufficient enough to create a meaningful project.
  3. Time constraints might be too much .
  4. Unforeseen events: Weather, Covid restrictions, online tools become unavailable?

How will you tackle those potential pitfalls if your project is selected?:

  1. The team would have to find creative ways to collect data overwise, via already established information on the web or contacting people who do similar projects. 

2.Reduce and shift the amount of gardens that are being contacted. Possibly restrict the type of data that is being collected. 

3.The team would need to have the foresight and have conversations among themselves on how to lead this project in the most ethical way possible. 

 4.The team would need to react accordingly and be quick thinkers.

Final product (even if tentative):

It is our intention to build an interactive website/tableau/map to present the collected data that we hope gives a better understanding of the digital presence of community gardens and their accessibility.