A digital intervention to make public spaces inclusive and equitable.
The Storywall is an expressive public installation that emphasises the experiences that people share despite having different identities and life stories. It encourages people to share short personal anecdotes anonymously. These submissions are displayed on a public screen in the physical space they frequent. Users respond to a pre-defined set of questions. The goal is to foster the physical presence and interactions between strangers in public space, “so that you can relate to other people, but you’re not instantly exposed to them”.
Public spaces are important for fostering civic discourse and connections in communities, by providing the opportunity for people who may not otherwise interact, to meet. This ‘social friction’, that arises from the physical presence and interactions between strangers in public spaces is crucial to placemaking and the creation of inclusive and equitable spaces.
The Storywall has more in common with an interactive artwork to be displayed in public than a product to be designed and evaluated for use. The research project involved design, realization and evaluation in sufficiently realistic contexts of use. The metaphor of ‘hacking’ is relevant here, with an emphasis on learning by doing. The project was also a study of the role of digital media platforms in placemaking.
The prototype was developed in an iterative manner in phases — background research, literative review and precedent analysis, visioning and implementation. The Analysis-Synthesis bridge model (Dubberly and Evenson, 2008) was instructive to the development of the concept.
Personal stories are at the heart of the Storywall. Over the course of the research and development, it became apparent that stories work extremely well as relational artefacts that make us think of "the other".
They contain perspectives of people we may never meet.
They work at individual and collective scales.
They provide room for personal style and expression.
A prototype of the application was deployed at the University of Sydney over a period of 3 weeks in two different conditions. Users and members of the community viewed the application positively, and reported that it provoked moments of contemplation and curiosity. I also conducted longer user interviews to further understand and develop the concept.
Semi-structured interview followed by a questionnaire
Application deployed in a smaller display typically used for announcements to the university community.
Application deployed on a large screen using a projector at a common area.
The interviews were transcribed and anonymised before analysis. An open coding approach was adopted and the transcripts were coded line by line.