Engaging a Divided Urban Community with Public Visualisations and Voting Technology: A Case Study in Cambridge

In an ideal world, members of an urban community would be cohesive and equal. However, in reality many communities have to cope with socioeconomic differences that can cause tensions. In our case study, we challenged a community’s perceptions and the reality of one such divide demarcated by a railway bridge in their street. We designed and deployed a novel combination of interactive voting technology, placed inside shops, and public visualisations of the gathered data. These visualisations were created with chalk graffiti and located on the doorstep of all participating shops. This novel combination elicited unspoken views, opinions and attitudes about aspects of the community. Our findings show how this low-tech and playful approach of gathering and visualising local data not only successfully provoked discussions amongst community members, but also evoked curiosity and challenged peoples’ perceptions of the community they live in.

In our talk, we will describe the design process, implementation and in-the-wild evaluation of our approach to designing urban technology and discuss the merits of using it as a mirror for a community to look at itself. We will conclude by providing a set of design recommendations for the creation and deployment of interactive voting technology and public visualisations in urban communities.