IIT Institute of Design, Chicago Citizens to Explore Ways of Improving Urban Life

Communication in the world’s growing cities is at the core of current problems and future successes. A leader in the consideration of these issues has honored IIT Institute of Design with a $10,000 grant to explore ways of improving the flow of information in urban environments through digital technology.

“We are delighted to have been selected as the inaugural recipient of the Urban Communication Foundation’s White Paper Proposal grant,” said Laura Forlano, ID assistant professor and project lead. “The UCF has been a longstanding supporter of research focused on the role of media and technology in cities.”

The award-winning team of researchers, including Forlano, ID Assistant Professor Anijo Mathew, and Kheir Al-Kodmany, University of Illinois at Chicago associate professor of urban planning and policy, are initiating a series of three hands-on workshops with policy makers, community leaders, academics, and entrepreneurs.

The workshops will focus on interfaces such as urban screens, mobile applications, websites, QR codes, and Wi-Fi routers and networks, and how these technologies might be embedded in urban spaces to improve the quality of city life.

In their proposal, Forlano’s team outlines topics they hope to address: “How might transparency, sustainability, and resilience, which are increasingly relevant for the design of cities and systems, be incorporated into the design of digital technologies and public policies? How do emergent hybrid spaces of connectivity in urban areas shape our experiences? How do they limit or expand our sociability with others? How might they prevent or enable opportunities for citizens to express themselves?”

All workshops will use design methods such as roleplaying, storytelling, prototyping, and scenario planning and will be documented with audio, video, and photography.

“We believe that there is a significant opportunity to employ methods from design research in order to explore the possibilities of digital technologies for citizen engagement,” Forlano said.

The workshops will also build on projects from Forlano’s and Mathew’s ID classes in which graduate students built prototypes to explore how urban screens and mobile applications can be used for cultural, social, and political engagement with the citizens of Chicago.

“We expect to inspire participants with the possibilities that digital technologies offer for citizen engagement,” Forlano said. “In addition, we will inform policymakers, entrepreneurs, and community leaders about the need for public policy to help shape the ways in which digital technologies are being used in the city of Chicago and around the world.”

Results of the research will be completed by May 2013.