Visual conversations on urban futures : understanding participatory processes and artefacts

Pollastri, Serena and Cooper, Rachel and Dunn, Nick and Boyko, Christopher (2017) Visual conversations on urban futures : understanding participatory processes and artefacts. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Visualisations of future cities contribute to our social imaginary. They can, and have been used as speculative objects for imagining new possible ways of living as communities (Dunn et al., 2014). However, future cities are usually represented through coherent scenarios that only tell one story (or one version of it), and rarely express the complexity of urban life.How can the diversity that characterises the city be represented in visions of the future that give voice to different, diverging ways of living and experiencing it? How do these visualisations contribute to inclusive design and research actions aimed at envisioning, prototyping, and reflecting on possible scenarios for liveable cities?My research focuses on ways of visualising possibilities for life in future cities that include and valorise plurality and agonism (DiSalvo, 2010), rather than present (as usually happens) only one story. For a lack of existing terminology, I am calling this approach “Visual Conversations on Urban Futures” (VCUF).Although there are no definitions or structured descriptions of VCUF, some prototypes can be found in design, art, and architecture. These examples show the great variety of methods and media that can be adopted in participatory processes of imagining futures cities.As a designer, I have chosen to adopt an action-research methodology (Kock, 2012; Rust, Mottram, & Till, 2007) to conduct, document, and reflect on a series of design experiments (Eriksen & Bang, 2013) that enhance my understanding of what it means to make pluralism explicit when producing visions of urban futures.The four main design experiments that I have undertaken are:-Living in the city. A first experiment in visualising future urban scenarios from a collaboratively written text.-Envisioning Urban Futures. Speculative Co-design practices: designing spaces for imaginary explorations and mapping them in an Atlas that makes visions readable and explorable-Sharing Cities. Conducting situated conversations on the relationship between social practices and urban futures: co-creating scenarios of sharing cities.-Birmingham Parks Summit. Visions designed to be unpacked, reworked, and developed into actions.The main contribution of my research is the proposal of a set of design principles, including a definition of the design space of VCUF. The design space outlined in the dissertation is a framework that can be used both as an analytical lens (to understand existing processes and artefacts of VCUF) as well as a design tool.Visual Conversations on Urban Futures could offer a significant contribution to the early stages of scenario building processes for possible futures. Manzini and Coad (2015) describe scenarios as “communicative artifacts produced to further the social conversation about what to do”. This way of imagining futures is ultimately about building alternatives to the dominant order by “making possible what appear(s) to be impossible” (Lefebvre, 1970, cited in Buckley & Violeau, 2011).While in times of urgent change seeking clarity and agreement might seem a much preferable route, I argue that articulating divergence is a necessary step to explore truly radical solutions. Stepping back from a solution-oriented approach allows us to visualise and better understand underlying tensions, and to critically question assumptions about what futures are or should be desirable.

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Thesis (PhD)
?? information visualisationparticipatory designspeculative designurba futuresfuture citiesvisualisations ??
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18 Oct 2017 11:08
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 05:39