Day 3 kicked off like all the others; with lectures filled with students trying to bounce back from last night’s mistakes, their struggle given away by the fact that there are more take-away coffee cups than people.
The excitement and energy of our first speaker, Judy Ling Wong, was way more effective. Her campaign to make London the world’s first National Park City made me think about how different labels impact on the way we treat our urban spaces and how they can affect us in turn. In particular, how we share these spaces and spend time in them – “linger” was the key word.
This idea of sharing the spaces was backed up by the following lecture on ethnicity and diversity, delivered by Dr Nikolay Mintchev. The bad news was how high levels of diversity are usually linked with a lower level of safety and confidence; however London was, as always, the exception. It seemed that as diversity reached a tipping point, no one group was able to dominate. By no longer having a single, exclusive community who would seem to be the “owners” of the space, a much wider group felt at home within the space.
This idea of safety and belonging is key to the social responsibility of public spaces. Dr Tim Waterman took us back in time, allowing us to see how spaces such as Oxford Circus have changed over time. I felt that the most valuable point of his lecture was how inclusion in a space allows a group to value and protect it. The complications of gentrification, and how attempts to improve community spaces can alienate the community, illustrated flaws in our systems for urban regeneration and the difficulties that local councils face.
In the afternoon we finished off our crash course in Human Centred Design. I rediscovered my pipecleaner skills; unexpected high fashion skills emerged in the prototyping of an Umbrella Helmet.
The day before we really committed to the philosophy of no bad ideas in the pursuit of improving the commute of our avatar Rocky; at this point we had to realise that they were mainly crap. However we stuck with the spirit and brain stormed wow. Since you can’t really prototype the prime solutions of living in a bin, or becoming less poor, we eventually designed and prototyped a brand new idea. This masterpiece was the Basket Bag Bike. Transforming from a bike fully in a box; into a bike partially into a box.
Some of the other groups had legitimate ideas; in particular 2by2, an app using communities volunteers to improve pedestrian safety in dark, dangerous areas such as Finsbury Park, showed great promise.
Once it came to the roleplaying, we all bloomed like the wonderful butterflies that we are and poured our hearts into the presentations. It was great to see the passion that was developed in just a few hours, and how deeply people imagined the lives of their avatars.
Hopefully the next few days will continue to involve spaghetti construction.