My research has focused on the study of technologies situated in public spaces, particularly when utilised to support communities and empower citizens. I approach this research through design-led interventions to explore the potential impact of new technologies ‘in the wild’, typically involving close collaboration with stakeholders. I am especially interested in the role that technology can play in civic engagement and democracy.
The Creative Exchange
Through the Creative Exchange hub, we are exploring the broad theme of public digital space: the idea that “anyone, anywhere, anytime can access, explore and create with digital content”. We will be working with academic, creative and commercial partners to build and investigate technologies that explore this space as a means of supporting knowledge exchange between academics and creative industries.
Despite a huge increase in the availability of information and new communication channels, many people feel more disconnected than ever from their local and national governments. Viewpoint explored how simple technologies in public places can allow people to participate in local democracy as they go about their daily business. Viewpoint was originally developed as part of the Bespoke project, and further developed for deployment in Newcastle.
The Department of Hidden Stories
This project explored how children could be engaged with creative writing and with books in libraries using a mobile app. The Department of Hidden Stories game prompted children to create a story using a character and a series of fortunate and unfortunate events. Fragments of this story would be ‘hidden’ inside books around the library, which could be discovered by other players.
The Bespoke project explored how citizen journalism could be used as part of a design process for creating highly customised digital interventions for a specific community. The project worked with the Callon and Fishwick areas of Preston over a period of two years, where several unique technologies were developed and trialled.
In 2012, Newcastle University hosted DIS 2012 and Pervasive 2012 conferences, each attended by around 400 delegates. During the conferences, we evaluated a suite of prototypes designed to augmented the conference experience, including interactive tables and public displays, each showing an array of content creating both before and during the conference. We explored how this affected the experience of attending a conference and what this means for future conference technologies.
Byker Heritage Table
The Byker Heritage Table was build in collaboration with Northern Architecture as part of a project aiming to celebrate the unique history of the Byker estate in Newcastle. Installed as part of an exhibition space on the estate, the table was designed to allow residents to define what they saw as the important and defining characteristics of the estate’s history, by bringing their own photos, videos and audio content to pin onto the map.
BinCam was designed to explore how social networks could influence behaviour, specifically in relation to food waste and recycling. Cameras installed in kitchen bins took a photo each time the lid was closed, which were then uploaded to a Facebook app. This second phase of the project aimed to investigate how users could be better engaged with the app, using characters, challenges and achievements.
Community Displays in Wray
My PhD research explored the use of public situated displays to support communities by making community-centred content visible in public spaces. Over a four year period, we developed a series of prototype displays with residents in Wray, starting with a simple display for sharing photos and evolving into a digital noticeboard for sharing local content ranging from historical photos to upcoming events.