Sunday, February 19, 2012

Social Cities of Tomorrow 2012 - Workshops

Amsterdam Aerial Mar08-2
Amsterdam aerial from my flickr photos.
The Mobile City and Virtueel Platform organized a workshop and conference titled Social Cities of Tomorrow. The program took place during the week of February 13-17. It was a great event in every way from organization to the keynote speakers to presentations of different social media projects from throughout the world. Not only that, but it was fun and there were lots of great people doing great work to meet.

This post describes the workshop results. I describe the Social Cities of Tomorrow Keynotes and Social Cities of Tomorrow Project Showcase on other posts. Sorry for any errors or misrepresentations, feel free to add corrections or more information to the comments!


The workshops consisted of four groups of people from throughout Europe trying to apply social media techniques to real world planning problems. The format of placing 5-7 people from different backgrounds, who don't know one another beforehand, together to solve real problems can lead to some interesting ideas and this was also true here. The teams presented their projects at a special presentation on February 16 (and also an abbreviated version at the conference).
Amsterdam Bikes - 1
Amsterdam Runstraat canal bridge from my flickr photos.
Three of the four projects were essentially redevelopment projects that needed help in one way or another. The workshops are described in detail at Social Cities of Tomorrow Workshops.

Team 1: TEMPLot took up the challenge of what to do with land that was scheduled for redevelopment but the redevelopment was delayed due to the economic crisis. The city of Amsterdam owns the land and the "client" wanted to find a way to do something with the empty land temporarily (5 - 10 years) while they wait for the economy to bounce back. Team 1 developed ideas for a series of applications that the client could use to auction off land parcels and create a community out of the temporary settlement (bulletin board, messaging, land auction, etc.).

Team 1 also developed several interesting on the ground planning ideas such as the idea that 25% of the rented land must be devoted to some sort of "community" purpose. For example four parcel renters could pool their community land shares and create a common swimming pool area. This idea was designed to foster a sense of community, a key goal of the entire social cities of tomorrow project.

Team 2 had the challenge of involving the public in redevelopment planning of an old industrial area in The Hague. Many redevelopment plans have been prepared for this area, but the economic crisis has prevented them from being built. But also, most of these plans simply bulldoze the area although it current houses lots of small businesses. Of course the people living and working in the area don't trust the planners anymore and there is little dialogue. Team 2 developed a series of ideas for building trust and improving communications. Importantly they came up with ideas for real as well as virtual platforms for discussion (quite important here since many of the people are not into high tech social networking, some don't even have internet service).

One quite cool idea developed by Team 2 was the "Lunch Bus". This would be a bus that served lunch and allowed people to discuss plans for the area in a real and non-formal way. For example the latest plans could be drawn on table cloths, people could mark them up etc. The information would later be placed on line for everyone to see. Local government planners would also attend these lunches to answer questions and provide assistance. Since I am a big lunch fan, this idea really appealed to me!

More details for teams 1 & 2 from the Social Cities of Tomorrow workshop reports part 1.
Amsterdam Harbor September 2011 - 01
Amsterdam harbour ferry from my flickr photos.
Team 3 had the challenge of a redevelopment area in Endhoven which was a former Phillips Electronics plant. The area is being redeveloped into a mixed-use area for creative types, but they want to increase the amount of social activity in the area to make it more attractive and interesting.

Team 3's idea was to make the area a "play space" (my word) using games to encourage social engagement. They developed ideas for an application that would allow people to:

  • propose ideas for projects in the area
  • negotiate with others about the projects
  • get support from others about the projects
  • assist in implementing the projects

The basic idea was to apply gamification techniques to the process of holding events and projects in the space. The idea needs development, but the client is interested in working with the team to explore the option further - a real success I would say!

Team 4 had the least concrete challenge: how to help the Amsterdam Civic Innovative Network increase participation by residents in suggestion innovative ideas for improving the city. The team explored many ideas and identified many problems with the current structure. For example the difficult in sustaining programs that provide feedback to project participants and updating of applications developed through things like hack-a-thons.
Amsterdam Harbor September 2011 - 13
Amsterdam harbour ferry after PICNIC 2011 from my flickr photos.
Team 4's products were less developed than the other teams, but they succeeded in raising the important issues and I think that their work will be helpful to the city of Amsterdam as they work to improve their social media and involvement process. By the way, it seems to me that Amsterdam has an excellent program already, and just the fact that this type of conference and work is being done in Amsterdam says a great deal about the city's openness to new ideas.

More details for teams 3 & 4 from the Social Cities of Tomorrow workshop reports part 2.

See also my take on the Social Cities of Tomorrow Keynotes and Social Cities of Tomorrow Project Showcase by clicking the links.

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