Spacemaker: Empowering young citizens to take part in shaping the future of their city
Participatory urban planning is a crucial aspect of fostering local democracy, as it empowers residents to take an active role in shaping their urban environment. In recent years, technology has been increasingly utilized to promote greater citizen participation, marking a shift away from traditional analog methods. Despite the expectation that this shift would result in greater diversity and inclusion, the target demographic for participation has largely remained unchanged. Notably, young people under the age of 30 have been particularly underrepresented in the planning process, despite their growing interest.
After an intense research phase, I realized current participatory planning methods need to be rethought in order to attract young citizens and entice them to participate in the planning of their city. This project explores the potential of technology to create a participatory culture that is more adaptable and inclusive, with a particular emphasis on involving young, tech-savvy urban residents in planning processes.
Spacemaker is a mobile application that leverages flexible, situated, and lightweight interactions to enable citizens to reflect and comment on their given surroundings. By taking advantage of emerging technologies such as augmented reality, citizens are enabled to participate in engaging ways and experience urban projects through visualizations in context.
Learning about urban change and participation opportunities by walking around the city. Simply scan the App Clip, explore the project on location and start participating.
App Clip: In-situ Experience
Spacemaker App: In-depth Experience
Cities are in a constant state of flux. They are dynamic entities that evolve in response to various factors, such as economic growth, climate change, and cultural shifts. Therefore, creating inclusive cities that represents its citizens' many perspectives, desires, and aspirations necessitates careful planning that takes those perspectives into consideration.
As I delved into my research on urban planning, I learned that traditional methods, which have been relied upon for decades, may not be enough to engage the diverse range of people who call our cities home. While digital approaches were expected to bridge the gap and attract a broader, more diverse, and younger audience, it turns out they have been falling short as well, reporting low levels of participation. I realised that instead of translating traditional methods to the digital realm, current participatory planning methods need to be rethought in order to be more accessible, attract young citizens and encourage their participation in the planning of their city.
The initial research focused on immersing myself in the topic by reading numerous articles, blogs, magazines, and books about urban planning, its history, and challenges in order to gain comprehensive understanding of urban planning and participatory planning, as well as its future visions.
As the project's goal should be valuable to both the municipality and citizens, I had to examine both of their perspectives. I conducted various expert interviews to gain a better knowledge of the experts' work, regular urban planning processes, and municipalities' processes for considering city-dwellers' perspectives in city planning. I also conducted several interviews and workshops with diverse citizens living in big cities such as Tokyo, Berlin, and Munich, as well as in smaller towns. All-in-all, I talked to around 30 people representing 12 countries. An additional survey drew a large number of responses from people all across the world. In order to obtain early insights from the residents, as well as to simply explore alternative methods to gain valuable insights, I performed several experiments in the city of Umea, where I was located.
Ideation and Prototyping
After synthesising my findings into relevant insights, I conducted several co-creation workshops and feedback sessions, to narrow down the concept to 3 directions. In this phase, prototypes were developed and tested, and the final design proposal delivered.
Spacemaker is a mobile app that offers a two-part experience. Its primary objective is to raise awareness about urban development, provide detailed information about current and future projects, and enable users to explore and express their opinions and ideas to the municipality. Thus, the app allows the municipality to gather valuable insights from citizens' polls, providing a non-expert and co-owner's perspective of the city.
App Clip: The Contextual Experience
The App Clip offers a seamless and engaging on-site participation experience. Users simply need to scan a code on a poster located in a project site, which informs them about the opportunity to participate in the development of the location. Through the App Clip, they can access various features without downloading the full app; they can get an overview of the project, and explore new projects in augmented reality. Moreover, users can vote for their favorites, leave comments and feedback for the city government, and even check how their fellow citizens have voted so far. This way, the project promotes transparency and encourages citizens to make their voices heard.
Spacemaker App: The In-depth Experience
The app offers an overview of all ongoing urban development projects in a city, enabling users to explore and engage in participatory projects without the need to be on location. Users are able to gain more detailed information, follow project developments, and receive notifications about milestones for projects they are interested in. Additionally, the app provides a platform for dialogue where users can share their ideas, suggestions, and complaints with the municipality and their fellow citizens.
This project addresses the need to rethink participatory urban planning methods and create new approaches that engage young citizens to participate in the process. Spacemaker aims to create an inclusive city that sheds light on both the municipality's and the citizens' perspectives and opinions. Instead of replacing traditional methods, this project aims to complement them by providing a flexible and engaging entry point to participate in planning opportunities and create transparency. By empowering citizens to express their opinions, it instills them with a sense of ownership and responsibility for their city's development. With this project, I want to highlight the need to rethink and revitalize participatory planning methods in order to build more equitable and sustainable cities for the future.
By including more citizens' perspectives, we can create cities that are not just functional and aesthetically pleasing, but also reflect the diverse needs and aspirations of those who live there. Spacemaker makes your city a place where everyone feels home.