As part of my master’s second year in Interaction Design, we were asked to write a thesis on the topic of our choice. The objective was to work on a design issue, drafting the project’s challenges and other directions, including a study of social and cultural context, commented bibliography, references, analysis, etc. We were asked to present our research, which should articulate a theoretical analysis approach; construct our reflections; and build a practical approach for experimentation. The main challenge was to present in this work different assumptions that explore, conceptualize, and fully materialize all the project hypotheses. In this essay, we had to formalize a reflection and creation process that articulates all the design steps together.
Beyond first glance, the daily habits of urban people can be seen as acts of resistance. The various forms of re-appropriation are acts that express a global participatory vision and a wish to live together. What is the “right to the city” concept? How far do the citizens have the right to appropriate the space where they live? Access to infrastructure for citizens is at the heart of urban issues. Therefore, the creation of a collaborative project involving people is a major issue if we want to value the city as a collective work thanks to a flexible network of social, artistic, ecological, etc., interactions. How might we involve citizens in participatory urban development?
Before designing the solution and to validate my hypotheses, I had to collect more qualitative and quantitative data. I had the chance to interview/send forms to more than 50 people with different backgrounds who may use the platform.
85% encounter difficulties finding specific/participatory events.
- Time-consuming research is a hurdle.
- Existing platforms are often too general.
62% find it difficult to get in touch with associations.
- Small budget/time allocated for communication.
- Multiplication of social networks.
74% wish they could to do more volunteering but are not aware of the possibilities near them.
Citizens may find it difficult to find organizations to get involved with because they are not aware of all the opportunities available to them. This shouldn’t be a hurdle; engagement needs to be easy and unencumbered. How could we facilitate the process of seeking volunteer opportunities in accordance with their focus?
The gathering of all the data extracted and collected so far allowed me to create three personas who are members of this urban network. The target group is very large, as it considers any citizen living in urban areas who are interested in being a dynamic citizen and volunteer.
A large number of networks coexist in the city (institutions, citizen networks, associations, etc.) and participate daily or punctually in improving our society. It is in this context that volunteerism-based and co-creative events emerge as tools to foster cooperation between these networks. Voluntary action must not be difficult, which is why we must work on identifying and removing these roadblocks.
Mission 1: Develop by co-creating
Improve public spaces by ideating with citizens on short operations or longer-term events and strategies at the scale of each neighborhood.
Mission 2: Create a citizen laboratory
Create a tool between town halls and city actors to sustainably install these dynamics.
Mission 3: Developing a responsible citizen’s approach
Develop a form of self-directed citizen engagement involving governmental institutions and locals.
Mission 4: Coordinate and facilitate collective action
The act of coordinating collective action and facilitating dynamics will provide access to new collective experiences related to volunteerism and a peer-to-peer approach.
Citylabstr : Urban experiences catalyst.
Citylabstr is a networking platform that provides easy access to urban and citizen dynamics through a participatory crowd map. The application allows users to track, locate, and create cooperative actions using a map and a geo-tracking system. Users can configure their profiles, get in touch with city actors, and consult their agendas and availabilities.
1. Localization and mapping
Collaborative map that documents a place or territory.
2. Engagement and networking
Propose local initiatives/events to make them visible by members and allow them to participate.
3. Creation and monitoring
Facilitate the organization/coordination of these events.
The goal is to create a simple journey and intuitive navigation with quick access to event discovery and creation. The digital product must have a clear hierarchy of information and fluid navigation that allows the user to have full control over the platform. One of my main concern was to enhance fluidity, I wanted to Remove all barriers to voluntarism and citizen engagement. The solution had to be accessible and adaptable, it must be suitable for the different uses, from novices to digital-natives.
After doing a lot of research and listing the different functionalities that the platform could offer, I first set up a weighted list to have a first overview of elements that are important for the platform. On this same list I have, thanks to my sectoral analyses, estimated the actual satisfaction for these features, present on various current tools. Simply subtracting these two data provided me an idea that presented potential opportunities for my platform.
This project was fascinating despite the tight schedule and the fact that all student were asked to produce many deliverables in a very short amount of time. This experience taught me to ideate and fail fast so I would be able to continuously adjust my process and hack methods to help me reach my goals, document my work and deliver quality content. The subject of inclusion into the city was dear to my heart and as a student I was proud of defending it to the jury and obtaining the best grade. However, I still believe there is many things that I would love to improve and validate so hope one day I would have the opportunity to take this project further.