CASA’s focus on urban planning and design is intimately bound up with public participation, particularly with using the techniques and tools that we develop in the community.
Our work on virtual cities is tied in with the quest to develop media and interfaces to design in cities that enables not only better understanding. We also are exploring ways in which groups and individuals less expert than ourselves can influence their local environments, communities, and public representatives through digital interaction.
Our early work began with Andy Hudson-Smith's work with the Hackney Building Exploratory, a community based project in East London designed to raise local awareness of the community amongst school children of different ages. Our work with the Woodberry Down Regeneration team and with the Architecture Foundation extended this focus which was brought to fruition by funding from EPSRC under their Partnerships for Public Understanding in Science in 1999. Much of this work informed our early development of Virtual London but it also led to a major initiative in low cost community mapping and reporting which initially was located in our own location of Bloomsbury.
Sonja Curtis, our web designer and administrator, worked on the Bloomsbury Association website which was designed to activate the local community into environmental action. As part of this, the idea that the Association might interact through a site which enabled them to report issues about the environment was crystallised in a project called Community Alert in which a website was designed in Flash for the reporting of local incidents in Bloomsbury. This site, launched in early 2005, involves reporting issues relating to crime and degradation of the environment. This site is managed by the Bloomsbury Association which informs the relevant authorities of the incidents.
Community Action has been adapted to other local issues focussed particularly on the late night licensing in the community which was introduced in late 2005. The Community Alert site is based on Community Action in terms of its design but reports different types of incident where the user can see local detail of the environment in which the incidents occur. This site was funded by the Richmond Police and is managed by them.
In many senses, these two sites are representative of our interest and conviction that user-friendly interfaces are required which enables non-expert users to interact with systems that deliver information to them about the local environment as well as provide a means of reporting such information, thus establishing the link forward and backwards between the public and relevant authorities.
- Sonja Curtis
- Andrew Hudson-Smith