Citizen Volunteerism and Urban Interaction Design

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This presentation was delivered at Interaction10 in February 2010.

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  • Interaction design as a form of “ experimentalist” urban studies – pursue project-driven exploration of how technology can shape and inform people’s interactions within real communities and cities. Particularly interested in interaction design’s qualitative design research technique – ethnography, charettes and real-world intervention – and the power of such work to help actualize a city’s “identity.”
  • Another project that shaped my interest in design for urban living was for a design studio design without boundaries, for prof. casalegno and professor mitchell for the studio, I helped lead an ethnographic visit and encouraged design discussion around how youth could embrace sustainable living through their daily interactions with the city.
  • as physical computing technology enters all realms of life, designers begin working with the city and with non-profits trusted with public spaces
  • advocacy – making sure that the city’s actions match the values of the community self-organization – how cities
  • Cambridge Systematics – worked as a software ui engineer and interaction designer, conceiving of applications for the transportation industry. Typically an employer of urban studies and civil engineering folk - worked with federal and state transportation offices working on programs for planning, visualization, and integrating technology like GIS and police and road data into decision making processes.
  • frederick law olmstead, america’s first landscape architect, showed how cities could shape communities in ways that individuals couldn’t. top-down. paths from the park into all parts of the city
  • on the other hand, top-down also lead to controversy, and pleasing some communities at the expense of others. bosotn, central artery, cut through low-income housing in order to chase out poverty / support suburbanization and the wealthy (self-serving, corrupt.) lead to advocacy at the grassroots level, to combat top-down corruption
  • this building, the city hall at government center, was built in the 1960s – something of a reaction to the protests of the time, and built to all but ignore the people around it. the space even today is empty.
  • what makes public spaces work/not
  • seagram plaza, an example of a office park space that worked – whyte’s work proved why this space worked (wide ledges) and lead to the passing of local law in NY that insisted on spaces as effective as this one. when both sides listen to each other, advocacy can align a city’s goals to a towns desires.
  • self-organization – how communities organize and how cities depend on volunteer efforts to adapt to changing threats and opportunities
  • every-block – public info, news, discussion – gives “every block” its own digital community to support physical community. but these sites fall short – and are replaced with local blogs from people who truly know the area.
  • this is not a new phenomenon – companies typically try to use technology to provide the same “turn-key” solutions to all customers. as designers, we should recognize that not all communities are the same, and often, these “compromises” wind up cutting into a town’s identity.
  • 80% of american firefighters are volunteer. volunteerism drives society, and isn’t just feel good
  • basic infrastructure interacts with each other, forms a bridge. now the government can actually process feedback from people instead of becoming defensive about it. government uses software to help foster community of people who co
  • as designers, we will see governments beginning to focus effort and money on encouraging technical volunteerism. this is not just a “good idea,” but a way to move the conversation between city and community about what’s important to new mediums.
  • giving people the tools and rights they need to tinker with technology as the lines between digital and physical space get blurred.
  • Cambridge Systematics – worked as a software ui engineer and interaction designer, conceiving of applications for the transportation industry. Typically an employer of urban studies and civil engineering folk - worked with federal and state transportation offices working on programs for planning, visualization, and integrating technology like GIS and police and road data into decision making processes.
  • graffiti research lab
  • Cambridge Systematics – worked as a software ui engineer and interaction designer, conceiving of applications for the transportation industry. Typically an employer of urban studies and civil engineering folk - worked with federal and state transportation offices working on programs for planning, visualization, and integrating technology like GIS and police and road data into decision making processes.
  • what is public space? is this acceptable? how much flack can we allow experimentation in the public realm
  • Cambridge Systematics – worked as a software ui engineer and interaction designer, conceiving of applications for the transportation industry. Typically an employer of urban studies and civil engineering folk - worked with federal and state transportation offices working on programs for planning, visualization, and integrating technology like GIS and police and road data into decision making processes.
  • Thus, design methods are needed that reinforce this trust between cities and citizens. Both private planners and government share the burden of exploring how technology builds on and reinforces that trust. (that ensure interactions achieve tradeoffs of privacy versus community, trust versus transparency, and other aspects of a community’s collective “digital” identity.) -negotiating those tradeoffs requires new methods of creating public conversations about these technologies and being willing to take risks / make final decisions in the public's trust - which is what cities have been asked to do/has been the very defining role of city government from the very smallest communities.
  • Conversation through embracing misuse of data – letting citizen reaction determine how data is used… Tradeoffs of a Decentralized community’s right to privacy (8maps prop 8 donors)? Crash records – intersection safety versus medical privacy
  • Conversation through open hacking – Cities opening up platforms to encourage experimentation with existing systems (either directly or through non-profits) – work in constant citizen-government feedback loops, transparency, the like Cities encouraging the deployment of new systems – soliciting public digital infrastructure, which is maintained by non-profits in the way highways are cleaned by volunteers
  • Cambridge Systematics – worked as a software ui engineer and interaction designer, conceiving of applications for the transportation industry. Typically an employer of urban studies and civil engineering folk - worked with federal and state transportation offices working on programs for planning, visualization, and integrating technology like GIS and police and road data into decision making processes.
  • a future where with new means of self-production, kiosks calling for political action or inviting debate will be as cheap and common as poster paper.
  • 95 theses – printing press, revolutionizing how people can assemble their communties. as designers working with cities and community groups, today’s game-changing experiences will have to be co-created with conflicting elements in communities, as communities advocate, organize and explore how they want the game of public life to change. as designers, we need to embrace design as a form of dialogue, and learn from the arguments of the past over public space. truly public technologies are co-created by everyone, for everyone.
  • Cambridge Systematics – worked as a software ui engineer and interaction designer, conceiving of applications for the transportation industry. Typically an employer of urban studies and civil engineering folk - worked with federal and state transportation offices working on programs for planning, visualization, and integrating technology like GIS and police and road data into decision making processes.
  • Big Idea – Cities only exist as a matter of trust and mutual cooperation. The only way to establish that trust is through open dialogue. I believe interaction design can mediate the conversation in a city between citizen-scientists eager to redefine our lives through technology, and city planners and designers charged with defining a city’s overall identity. I hope that by rooting my work in urban redefinition through technology, I can eventually design as a technologist alongside non-technical civic planners and leaders, helping cities establish their overall identities in the face of an increasingly digital urban life.
  • Cities are changing in the face of technology, and more and more of our lives are online. Yet cities persist – and online interactions often evolve around cities’ needs/services, hopes and even arbitrary identities (say, online groups of Sox fans). Why? How can cities understand and preserve their identities in the face of technological change?......I’m especially interested in projects involving interactions between private citizens and public institutions such as city government and public services. To preview my punchline early, I suspect the answer for government lies in creating trust and communication with citizens – so I hope to encourage evolution of communication and trust relationships between people and the entities they create to support their ideals and identities.
  • Thus, design methods are needed that reinforce this trust between cities and citizens. Both private planners and government share the burden of exploring how technology builds on and reinforces that trust. (that ensure interactions achieve tradeoffs of privacy versus community, trust versus transparency, and other aspects of a community’s collective “digital” identity.) -negotiating those tradeoffs requires new methods of creating public conversations about these technologies and being willing to take risks / make final decisions in the public's trust – but this is what cities have been asked to do/has been the very defining role of city government from the very smallest communities. so to that end, I’m hopeful.
  • I first started exploring interaction design in public spaces with pitti.mobi, my thesis project at the MIT Design Lab under Federico Casalegno. For my thesis, I explored the role of 2-d physical barcodes – “QR codes” in a fashion tradeshow, Pitti Uomo, in Florence Italy. We deployed a system for conference attendees to help mediate their communications with over 40 brands, using a mobile phone application that syncs up with a web application for followups after the conference.
  • This work taught me how crucial ethnography can be to the evolution of a technology. As opposed to typical business card swap systems (marketing systems),pitti.mobi is designed to be a delicate tool, putting power and grace in the attendees hands. The prototype shots above show a typical usage – a trade show customer is interested in a brand’s clothing, but doesn’t want to commit to a full social contract. They “tag” the brand, record a note to themselves for later, and can use that note to kick off a social contact with that brand after the conference.
  • Event spaces is an addition on top of pitti.mobi, to try to imagine how people can create more subtle social groupings within a public, mixed use space. {explain system.} It is a expression of the decentralization of communities – and the need for a centralized body to support many digital subcommunities within a single physical space. The relationship between community and space is changing, and exploring how that change occurs will be crucial to the redefinition of cities with technology.
  • As part of this studio, I worked with an architecture student ,Zijilan Li (who did these drawings) to come up with a infrastructure platform that the city could conceivably adopt to encourage sustainable living .The platform involved a wearable bracelet, that plays on the idea of making sustainability part of one’s physical identity. It does so in two distinct ways - by letting youth show off environmental impact through LEDs, and by using the band as actual identification for digital municipal services.
  • The first part of ecowearables is creating a personal, public identity through ones actions. The bracelet would be designed to receive data about your environmental impact collected based on your heat and water bills, travel patterns and other heuristics – either through RFID or through wireless sensor on public transportation – and increase or decrease in brightness depending on your contribution. Different bands could corepsond to different environmental contributions you wish to improve.
  • This second part of the system is designed to let you use your bracelet as an identification device. The barcode inside the bracelet could be flipped out, and – the theory went – used to identify who was operating a particular touchscreen at a given time. That way, public displays would become interfaces for group environmental services – for instance, this ride sharing system conceived above.
  • This project is probably when I first started really thikning about technology in the public service. Private organizations, community planners and even regular citizens can and should be able to deploy positive technology into public spaces. Laundry and bathroom servers at MIT were precursors to this stuff and done as students helping others in a shared community. In this sense, technologies aimed at improve our communities can be considered acts of public service….. Cities should trust and encourage digital volunteers as much as they trust soup kitchens - Design technology as civic duty.
  • Intro BS and M.Eng in Computer Science here at MIT, started off in human computer interaction – studying the relationship between people and technology. I am now an interaction designer, interested in using technology as a medium for understanding and designing interactions between people, with a focus as of late on communities and colocated spaces
  • One thing I learned – bureaucracy is filled with individuals that are genuinely selfless and optimistic…tools like this budget tool above – that I had originally concerned people would conceive as a threat - were embraced, and *individuals* in government are genuinely trying to reach out. important to work hand in hand with communities - building reusable tools and design methodologies that leverage the reach and passion of community leaders. And, someday, without needing multi-billion dollar research universities to take all of the political flack
  • Cambridge Systematics – Another thing I learned - But no two are the same, leading to resistance to change – people say “well, that would never work *here*”…nor should it. (warhol-esque public project – change the color on the mass GIS?)
  • With these new technologies comes new concerns. One thing I’ve learned the most strongly through talking to people is that sometimes the luddites are right. Many of these concerns are not “fear of change”, but are real hesitations to the idea of technology applied without due consideration. For instance, governments are genuinely scared to release data on road speeds, crashes and the like, because when it is released, it is misinterpreted and misunderstood. We need tools so governments can release data without fear – and one way I have tried to allay that fear is with an annotation tool, letting data be released with comments and creating a dialogue through data.
  • Finally, while there’s a cry to make all government information free, we need to properly explore what the consequences on making information free to a community are. Just as a ballot has to be secret for a city to stay stable, other forms of information disclosure can affect free markets, political discourse, and other elements of society. Discussing the results of such openness can lead to Informed decisions – as opposed to the intense community rift and boycotts in San Francisco that occurred when information on Proposition 8 donors “leaked” recently.
  • All of these things are tradeoffs – and different techniques handle these tradeoffs differently. Like with urban planning itself (A Pattern Language), resulting “urban interaction designs” become a vocabulary for expressing ones digital identity. This vocabulary puts concrete names to best practices of individual communities, allowing a systematic dialogue within a community to discuss advantages and drawbacks of approaches, and will help different governments compare notes and learn from each other (scan in a page from a pattern language)
  • Big Idea – Cities only exist as a matter of trust and mutual cooperation. The only way to establish that trust is through open dialogue. I believe interaction design can mediate the conversation in a city between citizen-scientists eager to redefine our lives through technology, and city planners and designers charged with defining a city’s overall identity. I hope that by rooting my work in urban redefinition through technology, I can eventually design as a technologist alongside non-technical civic planners and leaders, helping cities establish their overall identities in the face of an increasingly digital urban life.
  • Big Idea – Cities only exist as a matter of trust and mutual cooperation. The only way to establish that trust is through open dialogue. I believe interaction design can mediate the conversation in a city between citizen-scientists eager to redefine our lives through technology, and city planners and designers charged with defining a city’s overall identity. I hope that by rooting my work in urban redefinition through technology, I can eventually design as a technologist alongside non-technical civic planners and leaders, helping cities establish their overall identities in the face of an increasingly digital urban life.
  • Citizen Volunteerism and Urban Interaction Design

    1. 1. One sentence version of this (title?) solomon bisker (@sbisker) / citizen volunteerism + urban interaction design today is february 7th 2010
    2. 2. hi. I’m sol, an interaction designer and computer scientist. I’m interested in using design and technology to reexamine and reimagine shared spaces
    3. 3. <ul><li>Brescia – Ride Link </li></ul>my background – software and mobile design for (and alongside, and inside) the city
    4. 4. what now? tangible computing and technology in our physical communities source: flickr, rene-germany
    5. 5. three ingredients for community-driven urban interaction design advocacy self-organization self-production source: flickr, makerbot source: flickr, seattlemunicipalarchives source: flickr, ivanwalsh
    6. 6. advocacy and activism advocacy city-wide values
    7. 7. urban renewal – rebuilding to celebrate community source: flickr, yourdon
    8. 8. urban renewal – maintaining community at the expense of community source: flickr, mit-libraries source: flickr, mit-libraries
    9. 9. where to start? look around you source: flickr, nostri-imago
    10. 10. holly whyte – an advocate for starting with people source: Whyte, “Social Life of Small Urban Spaces”
    11. 11. advocacy – understanding a community’s needs and how government can meet them source: flickr, adamgreenfield
    12. 12. self-organization and volunteerism self-organization community efforts
    13. 13. creating a digital community to support physical community
    14. 14. “ turn key solutions” – a continuously revisited compromise
    15. 15. volunteerism – providing essential service and establishing local identity source: flickr, tom adamson
    16. 16. extending volunteerism to the digital realm
    17. 17. top-down meets bottom-up – government-encouraged volunteer communities
    18. 18. self organization and volunteerism – cities supporting tech the way they do soup kitchens
    19. 19. open-software, open-hardware and building community technologies self-production individual tools
    20. 20. from open software to open hardware…to open infrastructure?
    21. 21. grassroots efforts at community engagement through open-hardware
    22. 22. disposable electronics = a willingness to tinker and contribute to the commons source: flickr, urban_data
    23. 23. art? or littering? exploring and establishing societal expectations source: flickr, adam.zethraeus
    24. 24. self-production – encouraging individual experimentation in a brave new world source: cnet
    25. 25. my work – applying these themes to design platforms for public computing advocacy self-organization self-production
    26. 26. learning from each other - using technology to “democratize” advocacy
    27. 27. self-organized volunteer engineering, self-production with off-the-shelf electronics
    28. 28. can people design their own technologies to observe and influence their world?
    29. 29. … and can more autonomous technologies engage public spaces for them?
    30. 30. something old, something borrowed, and something new. advocacy self-organization self-production city-wide values community efforts individual tools
    31. 31. individuals designing self-empowering technologies for use in the places we share personal public computing source: flickr, woodsfehr
    32. 32. personal public computing – interactions that belong to everyone source: flickr, keren
    33. 33. One sentence version of this (title?) solomon bisker (@sbisker) / interaction10 / citizen volunteerism + urban interaction design today is still february 7th 2010 thank you you can reach me at: sbisker@gmail.com / twitter: @sbisker www.biskerrific.com cheap plug: www.cmu.edu/mtid
    34. 34. Extra slides
    35. 35. cambridge systematics – applying design to institutional thinking and planning
    36. 36. failed top-down applications of technology to societal problems
    37. 37. Image: cdsphotos.com 17 more to go where is the line between a city and a community?
    38. 38. 1 more to go hypothesis (and hope) - cities have to have faith… …new design methodologies can reinforce community trust and dialogue
    39. 39. <ul><li>Pitti-Mobi </li></ul><ul><li>(diagram? Mirja shot?) </li></ul>16 more to go pitti.mobi - hybrid physical and digital interaction design for social spaces
    40. 40. 15 more to go understanding a community - delicate interactions for delicate situations
    41. 41. 14 more to go lesson - embrace space as a design constraint, not a design problem
    42. 42. 12 more to go ecowearables – making sustainability part of one’s physical identity
    43. 43. 11 more to go ecowearables – creating a personal, public identity
    44. 44. 10 more to go groupshare – using serendipity and technology to reshape brescia
    45. 45. lesson – encourage digital volunteerism like we encourage soup kitchens
    46. 46. this is me – aspiring interaction designer slash computer scientist…
    47. 47. 8 more to go batosi – building tools that leverage political responsibility and passion
    48. 48. 7 more to go lesson - no two bureaucracies are the same…nor should they be
    49. 49. concern – data overload leads to data misinterpretation 5 more to go
    50. 50. 3 more to go ” arbitrary” openness can redefine a community’s expectations
    51. 51. 2 more to go tradeoffs– interaction design patterns as vocab for dialogue about identity
    52. 52. 18 more to go … slash urban planner? reexamining and reimagining our communities
    53. 53. 18 more to go … slash urban planner? reexamining and reimagining our communities

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