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Artificial lawn people

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironment and Planning E: Nature and Space
Early online date16 Apr 2019
Accepted/In press22 Mar 2019
E-pub ahead of print16 Apr 2019


King's Authors


This paper explores a new artificial political ecology through a novel digital methodology. The emotional impacts of the replacement of living turfgrass landscapes with synthetic simulacra are researched via a netnography of animated and polarised online discussion. We investigate how the cultural use of domestic lawns has extended into the creation of non-living artificial lawns and how the environmental values of these new landscapes are debated. Synthetic polymer (plastic) grasses are increasingly being used as alternatives to turfgrass in domestic gardens, changing urban ecologies. We examine the emotional landscapes that are reproduced in online discourse. Paul Robbins showed that a certain suite of behaviours constitutes ‘Lawn People’. Here we demonstrate that ‘Artificial Lawn People’ act in reference to cultural expectations of a ‘good’ lawn to produce non-living, homogeneous, green and tidy gardens, yet their actions spark fierce criticism from others who do not value this new synthetic nature. Our research involved analysis of 948 online discussion posts, and introduces a secondary notion of ‘artificial people’ as our subjects were anonymous contributors to virtual public debates on the environment: generating impassioned polyvocal contestation. is a space of heated discussion between proponents and opponents of artificial lawns. We identify three topics: i) emotional responses: artificial grass is polarising, and its social value contested; ii) bio-physical affects: plastic fibres impact human and non-human life; and iii) environmental values: turfgrass replacement influences local and global political ecologies. The conclusions shed light on the dynamic relationships between the emotional values of living and non-living landscapes.

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