Digital District workshop

Andreas Hammer Uncategorized Leave a Comment

This weekend (24th and 25th of January) I participated in a workshop revolving the Digital District initiative by Aarhus municipality and Alexandra Instituttet. You can find more information about Digital District here, and Alexandra Instituttet here. The whole thing is set in motion under the Smart Aarhus campaign, which you can read more about here.

About 20 people partook in the workshop. Everyone was randomly put into four teams, and I was assigned to a team that consisted of people studying anthropology, information sciences and an architect. Four districts in/near Aarhus was then introduced to us, and one district was assigned to each team. The districts were

  • Øgaderne
  • Tilst
  • Harlev
  • Åbyhøj

My team was assigned to Øgaderne.

In short, the task was to design a concept to engage the inhabitants in their neighbourhood, and facilitate communication between the inhabitants and the municipality.

The first day we spent walking around the neighbourhood and interviewing inhabitants and noting which places the community revolves around. In doing so, we identified three archetypes of inhabitants

Inhabitants

Creators Participators Passive
Resourceful Families Temporary inhabitants
Politically attached Must be invited in order to attend activites No children
Extremely passionate Uses common areas Do not participate in activities
Historically attached Mouth-of-word communication Often tenants
Initiating Grow roots Often college students

We used these archetypes to make generalizations about how we should design our concept, and how the different types of archetypes use their neighbourhood. What we set as our goal was to try to engage the passives in their community, in the same way the creators and participators are.

Through interviews, we were able to distinguish the key qualities that the inhabitants think describes their neighbourhood.

  • Beautiful architecture
  • Small gardens and parks between the building blocks
  • No tall buildings
  • Limited traffic

These qualities were mentioned by the majority of interviewees.

The concept

Due to the nature of the workshop we had limited time to brainstorm and develop our concept. One requirement for the concept was that it should be a physical installation to be put up somewhere in the neighbourhood. We found, however, that the different groups of inhabitants lived in clusters of likeminded people. So it would be hard to try and engage all types of inhabitants with only one installation, as it was uncommon for inhabitants to walk to other types of inhabitants’ neighbourhood. That made us quickly decide on designing something that could have multiple installations spread around the district. We made quite a few sketches of different ideas and initiatives, and ended up going with Fremtidskikkerten (danish for “The futurebinocular”).

Fremtidskikkerten is meant to be installed in 4-5 different places around the district. It’s a physically rooted binocular, mounted on a stand. When you see through the binocular, you’re able to look around and view the city where the beautiful old architecture has been replaced by new, modern buildings, and the small gardens have been replaced by parking lots. A button on the binocular will switch views over to a more positive view, that shows the different activites that sometimes take place in the streets of the district. There’s also a third view, which takes its images from user-submitted photos on Instagram, allowing users to take pictures of what part of the district they like, and show it to the people looking through the binoculars.
The goal of the concept is to put up a dystopian view against the utopian view, and also show what kinds of qualities the neighbourhood currently posseses. It aims to highlight the districts key qualities to the younger crowd – or the passives – in order to instill passion about their neighbourhoods well being.

A panel of judges chose our submission to be the best, and Aarhus municipality will continue to work with the Alexandra institute in order to develop our concept and finally implement it in the district. The prize for winning was a ticket to the Northside Festival in Aarhus.