The city calls for a smart citizen

“Designing for Smart Citizens” – the conference held at the Danish Architecture Centre brought many interesting perspectives on the smart city in relation to the social aspect and how technology can help to create meeting places, play and urban life. Sam Hill was one of the spokespersons at the conference and drew examples on how to make the city more liveable by integrating gamification.

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Photo: Sam Hill, Pan Studio 

The playable city

Sam is an experience designer and co-founder of design practice PAN Studio - producing interactive objects for installations and immersive theatre, and creating experimental objects designed to find new ways of enriching everyday living.

The creation and sharing of memories

Sam has spoken internationally about the value of experience in design and how it relates to memory and can improve our future cities, including the project "Hello Lamp Post", which won the Watershed's first Playable City Award in 2013. The inspiration to the project came from an interest in the city, infrastructure and how people use public spaces.

hello post kollage høj kvali

Photo: Sam Hill, Pan Studio 

Hello Lamp Post invites people to talk to familiar city objects using the messaging function of mobile phones. It is a new city-based communication platform which connects citizens with each other and with the city by starting conversations that share memories of the city through its physical infrastructure. One of the observations for the project is the relation between memory and space. Returning to places can trigger memory from when you were there before, and in this way the city can function as a physical diary. The work of Sam Hill contributes with an emotional approach to the smart city - making it more liveable and vibrant.

>> Read more about the conference here

Q&A with Sam Hill

- How do citizens benefit from your ideas of making the city more liveable?
Firstly - it helps them rediscover the city around them. Rather than being a zone to navigate through on the way to other places, public space can be transformed by play into somewhere that the citizen lingers in and enjoys. They can find new corners and passageways they didn't known about before. They can interact with their neighbours in ways they didn't previously think possible.

Secondly, it changes the emotional relationship the citizens have with the city around them. Playing can reduce the inhibitions a citizen might have towards the space they play in. In turn it can make them feel more invested in the city, and more caring towards it.

- How do you ensure an engagement and interaction between city and citizen?
Firstly it's important that citizens know an engagement mechanic exists - they need to see, read, or hear about it - via promotional channels, endorsements from friends, social media or news sources - or it should be clearly visible in the public realm, in areas with high footfall.

Interactions have to be compelling to citizens, with an invitation to engage that offers some kind of reward. "Satisfying a curiosity" might be enough of a reward. Ideally users should have some sense of what else they stand to gain - do they learn something? Will they be entertained? What is the novel emotional / sensory offering?

It should also be as intuitive as possible - ideally self-explanatory, or requiring very little on boarding. There should be minimal required steps - even a straightforward app requires finding it in a store, downloading, creating an account, agreeing to terms etc.

Once theses initial conditions are met it's important to consider how to keep citizens engaged. There needs to be a continued benefit of use - for example the potential to explore and learn further, or to better develop a skill. Social mechanics can also be valuable and keep an interaction fresh and engaging.

Finally, making the interaction easy to share can help increase engagement with new groups of people.

- Have you thought of integrating your ideas about gamification with technical/functional purposes?
Often our games have social benefits to some extent - whether they encourage physical activity, or attempt to change the way people feel about their local environment, or each other.

But we've not yet built a game around practical information exchanges - for example getting players to report issues, or to communicate information on public services. This may be because it's harder to find a compelling proposition for players.

We try to make a distinction between gamification and games-with-benefits.
Gamification has generally come to mean a very certain set of strategies for incentivizing activity - offering token rewards for reaching milestones. It has been demonstrated as an effective strategy for behaviour change.

However, we feel as a concept it underplays many other valuable attributes of gaming - the development and refinement of skill, social competition and collaboration, immersive agency-driven narratives, creative expression and exploration.

Sidst opdateret d. 26. januar 2017

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