Enabling audience participation and collective content generation through urban media as a diagnostic method in urban planning

30 September 2015
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Interaction design is something perhaps few people think about. Yet it is one of our most important areas of research. The world is now changed every few years by information and communication technologies, and it is interaction design that has to make these changes work for people. In 2015, such changes involve computing’s return to the world at large— back “into the wild”. There are little slivers of computing everywhere these days, not only in mobiles and laptops, but also throughout buildings, in the urban environment, attached to natural objects, or even to us. A complex web of data networks links up all these slivers of computing. This is called the “internet of things” or “ambient intelligence”. The fullness of this ambient intelligence at work is hidden from us, yet it is also increasingly in close proximity to what we do.

Executive Summary

This 1-year Blue Sky project allowed us to establish a relationship with the Willoughby City Council (WCC), who have come on board as partner for an ARC Linkage Project proposal (currently under review). Based on the fruitful collaboration, WCC have further agreed to fund the upcoming Media Architecture Biennale as venue partner (valued at up to $40,000). The Blue Sky studies funded from the Henry Halloran Trust led to 1 book chapter, 4 conference publications, 2 workshop papers, and a digital handbook.

The project set out to study the use of so-called ‘urban screens’ for enabling audience participation in discussions around civic topics. For this purpose we partnered with Urban Screen Productions and the Willoughby City Council, who provided us with access to their urban screen at the Concourse in Chatswood. This screen posed a particularly interesting media platform for our research, since it is placed in a less than ideal position and in an unaccommodating environment.

The project involved the iterative deployment of a total of three audience participation platforms:

  1. A platform consisting of a) a small audio device with a gesture sensor to record votes and b) an iPad polling app for recording responses to polar questions.
  2. A platform consisting of a) the iPad polling app from (1) in Chatswood, b) the iPad polling app with a polar visualisation on the urban screen at the Concourse, and c) a full-body voting application, in which people could answer polar questions by waving their arms at the screen.
  3. A platform/setup consisting of an open response visualisation and iPad app at the Concourse in Chatswood in conjunction with a pop-up concept for engaging the local community into a civic discourse.

These platforms were deployed for a total of 9 days distributed throughout the second half of the project duration (3 days at the University of Sydney campus in July 2014, 3 days at the Concourse in July 2014, 1 day at the Concourse in September 2014 during the Chatswood StreetFair, 1 day in December 2014 at the Concourse, and 1 day in February 2015 during the Chinese New Year Festival in Chatswood).

The project outcomes include:

  • A project website (http://cityconcepts.org/) that serves as online repository for the research and findings developed through the project. The website includes an online blog that aggregates the state of the field, and which we will continue to populate with our findings and future projects in this area.
  • Two documentary videos of the platforms, their deployment, and the studies conducted.
  • Public lecture by CI Foth as part of the Urban Research Festival in March 2014, and presentations by CIs Tomitsch, Foth, Haeusler, and McArthur as part of the Digital Arts Symposium hosted by Urban Screen Productions in collaboration with UNSW Art+Design, in June 2015. 

  • A handbook developed for urban planners and local councils about the use of urban media for community engagement and published as a free resource online.

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Suggested Citation

Marcus Foth, M. Hank Haeusler, Luke Hespanol, Ian McArthur, Brad Miller, Andrew Murphie, Martin Tomitsch, 2015, Enabling audience participation and collective content generation through urban media as a diagnostic method in urban planning, Henry Halloran Trust, City Concepts, viewed 28 August 2016, <http://apo.org.au/node/61535>.

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