One page response – Digital placemaking and everyday life

One page response – Dr Shawn Sobers, UWE

“Digital Placemaking can improve the way people feel about the places they live, work, and visit.”

Digital Placemaking Fellowship document

The other day I went to a beautiful funeral in the Foxhill area of Bath. The deceased was a man I had never met, but I went to support his son, who I have worked with at Fairfield House, (a place I will explain more about later), also in Bath. Here I will map some of the experiences from the day, from the context of digital placemaking and everyday life, and code my interests within that analysis.

1.     My mum rang me to confirm what time I was picking up her and other colleagues from Fairfield House, (where she is Chair of a senior-citizens day centre charity).
CODE: >Convenience >Reassurance
2.     I used Google Maps to get us there. I know Foxhill, but not that particular church. I knew some of the ways it was telling me to go was slightly long winded, but I trusted the map, not enough time to improvise and ramble. CODE: >Trust >DevolvedKnowledge >Context
3.     Turned off phones when entering the church. Getting out the car, the Director of the charity said even though she always puts hers on silent, she’s still scared it will make noise anyway so always turns it off as well. CODE: >Mistrust >Paranoia >Control
4.     Before the service began, they were projecting a video of the life of the man, which included family photos, quotes about him that the family had received in messages, and low-level music. The video presented a parallel history of which I was previously completely unfamiliar. CODE: >Culture >Archive >RepurposingArchive >MixedMedia >SpreadableMedia >SocialMedia >Convergence >Nostalgia >Story >Narrative >ParallelHistory
5.  One of the speeches during the service was read out from a mobile phone instead of paper. CODE: >Convenience >Tool >Functional
6.     In a tribute speech, the grandson spoke about the family Whatsapp group, and about the funny messages his granddad sent. CODE: >Intergenerational >Communication >SocialMedia >Convenience >Platform
7.     Later in the evening I took my mum to vote. At the (usual) Polling Station, we found out the boundaries in Bath had changed, and she had to vote elsewhere. The woman at the Polling Station asked for my mum’s postcode, using an app on her phone, was able to tell us the correct place to go to vote. As first we just gave the house number and road, but she said the app would only work by inserting the postcode. CODE: >Convenience >Tool >Functional >EventBased >ShortTerm >DevolvedKnowledge
8.     Driving to the Polling Station, I connected my phone to the car stereo via the aux cable, and we listened to Imperial Voice Radio, a community internet radio station that I set up as part of an AHRC funded research project. The radio station is based at Fairfield House, which is the former residence of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, where he lived in exile from 1936 – 1940. CODE: >Entertainment >Educational >Media >Community >Communication >SiteSpecific >Story >Narrative >ParallelHistory >AlternativeHistory


These eight glimpses are examples of how digital placemaking (and our response to digital devices relative to the place we are in), is already seamless in our everyday life, which tells us about the past and hints at the future. I believe the close study of everyday life is essential, to understanding the meaning of these seemingly mundane instances, to gain insights to the meanings and behaviours of the future.  For my research I propose, in part, to develop a show for Imperial Voice Radio as a methodology for exploring such themes ‘out loud’, and create a public platform for dialogue.

With design and digital innovation projects, I often feel that they don’t start from where people are already at and how things are already used, but rather chase innovation to produce what they feel people could want or need. I am interested in mundane innovation, and bringing innovation closer to lived experience, rather than the user having to learn a whole new set of languages, behaviours and practices, which are often short lived and erodes after the project has ended.  Everyday life is already coded to innovative practice – we just need to pay more attention.

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