Niels Wouters
Public space

Various forms of information communication technology are increasingly integrated in our public environments. At the same time, challenges arise to render such technologies locally relevant and meaningful. While electronic public displays can be found in various urban environments, still much is unknown in regards to their social and societal integration within the fabric of the city or a neighbourhood.

In an attempt to uncover the impact of deploying public displays in residential neighbourhoods, as well as expand the typical design space of public displays, we have involved individual households in the design, deployment and maintenance of a set of situated public displays. As a result, StreetTalk has indicated the potential of neighbourhood communication concepts that do not necessarily apply the traditional screen-based characteristics of public displays. In particular, as the cityscape is currently changing and qualities such as neighbourhood cohesion and communication are perceived to be under threat, StreetTalk proved successful in triggering social interaction in and around the neighbourhood where they have been deployed.

In what way does your proposal contribute to the open society?

In most cases, citizens are unable to participate in the design, maintenance and control of content on electronic public displays. However, they are promised to address 'everyone' and enhance people's experience of the city and its services. While StreetTalk aimed to develop public displays, the study started with a critical reflection on neighbourhoods, with the help of participating households. It helped uncover the latent needs and qualities for communication, which helped inform the design of three contextually relevant and personally meaningful alternative public displays. As such, we feel encouraged to promote such participative design process, also in the context of public displays that are aimed to address urban dwellers.

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