Golant Innovation partnered with Furtherfield, “London’s longest running (de)centre for art and technology,” and Wolf in Motion, a design studio specializing in immersive technology, to design and deliver an R&D project exploring the ways that immersive media can be used to enable people, communities and businesses to understand and influence the use of public spaces.
Public spaces have immense economic, social and natural value, yet there is a disconnect between the 'owners' of public space and the people that use (or should be) using them:
- Local councils have limited funds.
- Diverse local populations are not engaged in public consultations.
- Developers and their advisors communicate in ‘expert’ language and forms.
- There are conflicting priorities between park users, land owners and developers.
Getting consultation, planning, visioning and participatory processes right has the potential to release and increase community, public and commercial value – reducing barriers to development while at the same time ensuring that development is appropriate.
So Golant Media Ventures, Furtherfield and Wolf in Motion worked together to win a grant from the Innovate UK Design Foundations programme for an R&D project using Finsbury Park as a test case to look at the potential for immersive media in envisioning the future(s) of public spaces. We brought our expertise in human-centred design; Wolf in Motion shared its own design thinking approaches; and Furtherfield brought its experience in using game-inspired practices and processes from socially engaged art to engage diverse people.
Despite our experience, we were surprised by the results! An intense cycle of prototyping and user testing led us not to Virtual Reality, as we were expecting, but to two very different prototyped solutions – a wooden map paired with ‘augmented reality’ audio, and an app allowing users to sketch their ideas directly onto aerial video footage of a place. Both of these prototypes allowed members of the public to engage their creative and develop their thinking in different ways than they might have done in (for example) a standard planning consultation.
We have now applied for a patent for the results of our research. Our partnership is taking forward conversations with architects, local authorities, placemaking experts and others, aiming to develop our prototype solutions further in the future.
Making places resilient and outward looking depends on creative activities of all kinds – in our professional and personal lives, in the local economy and civil society.
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