PuBliC: Future Everything

PuBliC: Future Everything one day living labs (x2)

Article written by Chris Speed

During the Future Everything festival February 2015 Design Informatics were invited to develop and deliver a 48 hour workshop for the festivals Future Lab strand. Our proposal entitled PuBliC originally intended to offer a platforms across which Pedestrians, Bikes and Cars (or other road transport) could cooperate toward better travel experiences. In the end we concentrated on Bikes and developed daylong workshops that explored the barriers to a better cycling experience. The overarching concept for the workshop was the development of a cooperative investigation into the frictions of cycling in Manchester involving three phases:

Participants would be loaned bicycles to explore the city, whilst also gathering qualitative and quantitative data through the use of smart phones attached to handle bars.

A paper would be written throughout each day and published at the panel authored by participants, members of the academic team and delegates to the conference. The paper would featured material gathered automatically from the smart phones and a questionnaire filled in by participants.

Reflections, findings and thoughts would be returned to a panel to be held at the end of each day at the Future Everything conference venue involving the research team, participants and invited guests.

Developing a framework in which the gathering of data, analysis and publication could be bound and involve participants and the research team within close connection was the aim. The methodological routines of design research have turned into a formula in which an ethnographic study is a chance to gather a few choice quotes to explain how a prototype fulfills the intentions of the designer. As Ingold says:

“Disguised as social scientists we enter this world either by stealth, feigning invisibility, or under false pretences by claiming we have come to learn from teachers whose words are heeded not for the guidance they have to offer but as evidence of how they think, of their beliefs or attitudes. Then, as soon as we have filled our bags, we cut and run. This, in my estimation, is fundamentally unethical. It is to turn our backs upon the world in which we live and to which we owe our formation. With all the data at our fingertips, we think we know what can be known: yet knowing all, we fail to see or take our counsel from the world itself.” Tim Ingold Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture. 2013 p.5

Part living lab and part critique of participatory research, the two one day workshops were a chance to explore how the dissemination of data could be kept as close to the people who produced it as possible.