Concrete & Pantopicon
MIOS is an original service platform aiming at adding significant value to the human and cultural richness of the inhabitants of city’s streets. In order to do this, it implements and develops a very engaging interaction enabling the inhabitants to express themselves, so to spark social conversations among the others.
The remarkable feature is that MIOS aims at achieving this in a very poetic and inclusive manner. The service, being accessible, intuitive and low tech, appears to be quite scalable and feasible, too.
The overall presentation is high quality, very clear and well structured.
Museum In Our Street, MIOS, is a toolkit designed to invite and stimulate fellow neighbourhood members to share something about themselves in a visual way, in order to allow others to engage in conversation. This is achieved by providing a non-permanent adhesive frame, allowing citizens to create a small museum behind their street window. When people do this collectively on street level, a 'street museum' is created, providing citizens with a platform for communication. Using the provided tools, people can express their appreciation and leave notes for others. The eventual goal is to organically enhance social tissue on street level.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
The decline of social cohesion in many cities of the industrialised world poses challenges for the future. As we strive to build resilient communities in order to face current and future challenges, many envisioned solutions depend on the quality of our social tissue. It forms an important foundation as such. Although the uprising of virtual communities should not be overlooked, it is appalling that in many neighbourhoods, people increasingly do no longer know the names or interests of those living in their immediate surroundings.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
From the outset of the project, the intention has been to trigger and stimulate simple encounters between people living in each other’s immediate surroundings, at street level. Constraints were that our design intervention needed to be low-cost and flexible to implement and applicable in any city. In order to go beyond the many already existing street-related activities organised by local authorities or neighbourhood committees, we challenged ourselves to design an attractive product, service or experience that would stimulate people to engage in a social activity. It would invite rather than force them to participate and work in bottom-up kind of way.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
At the start of the project, there was a clear focus of the topic area but there were few ideas of what the ‘solution’ to the problem could be like. Hence, a constructive approach was taken, positioning key stakeholders, i.e. street inhabitants as the primary source of insight. Their insights would provide a source of inspiration for idea generation and concept design.
In essence, a participatory process was designed, placing emphasis on various moments of interaction between the design agencies and neighbourhood inhabitants. This allowed active stakeholder involvement during the creation of concepts. The process consisted of six steps, i.e. Field Research, Cultural Probing, Concept creation, Concept testing & Reflection, Concept refinement & Prototyping, Testing & Validation.
With the help of Opsinjoren, a local grassroots initiative supported by the city of Antwerp, focussing on neighbourhood initiatives, a selection of five streets was made to involve in the project. In order to get a better understanding of the context we started by observing 'streets'. The research team positioned themselves as “flies on the wall”, trying to be as unobtrusively present as possible, while taking in the environment and observing the events taking place on the streets. After the exploratory field research, three people in every street were invited to adopt a probe- or interview-kit. These kits -inspired by cultural probes (Gaver, 1999)- were attractively ‘packaged’ and contained self-explanatory working materials which enabled respondents to perform certain tasks independently. Based these activities, the involved researchers and designers were able to look and experience life “through the eyes” of their subjects.
Based on the insights derived from the field research and the probes, the project team organised an internal brainstorm about possible interventions by which encounters and social contacts at street level could be stimulated. The concepts aimed at social tissue development that were developed during the internal brainstorm were presented as storyboards or customer journeys, that illustrate the envisioned product or service in a story-like way, showing how people interact with the concept in a certain context. These representations have functioned as a seeding bed for further tweaking by a target group of inhabitants.
In order to verify the results of the internal brainstorm, a total of six storyboards were presented to a stakeholder group during an interactive workshop. The goal of this workshop was not to select one concept, but to figure out which concepts or conceptual elements were interesting and worthwhile to further elaborate upon. Since the project’s focus was on social encounters in an urban context, it was decided beforehand to assemble a very diverse group of stakeholders. Besides the collection of the reflections of a diverse group of inhabitants it was equally important to hear the opinion and to learn from the experiences of representatives of existing neighbourhood initiatives. Additionally, local policy makers were involved to get feedback on organisational and political level.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
The final result of the project has been tested at three locations. Two of these trials were part of the actual project, and acted as a way to verify the designed concept. In the streets in which MIOS has been deployed it has definitely had an impact on the amount and nature of simple encounters between people living in each other’s immediate surroundings. The street exhibitions did not only serve as a catalyst for conversation between exhibitors and spectators. Also amongst mutual spectators there has been quite some interaction: sometimes ephemeral, between accidental passers-by, sometimes more debate-like, amongst family members or groups of neighbours making their rounds along everything displayed. In the days prior to the street exhibitions one could notice an increased degree of interaction between neighbours as well.
One concrete example of how MIOS made a social impact was through brining together a musician and a band looking for new players. Both people lived in the same neighbourhood, had clear mutual interests but did not know each other before. It are these kinds of small, but often very meaningful, moment of social engagement that we wanted to catalyse with MIOS.6. Did the context of your project change throughout its development? If so, how did your understanding of the project change?
MIOS starts by one or more people expressing their interest to organise a 'museum' in their street. Depending on the location and infrastructure available, this can be done through the local council or other public service providers. After this request, the local service provider delivers MIOS kits to one or more central people in a street. These people take up responsibility to hand out the kits to fellow street inhabitants.
The initiators of MIOS in a specific street start of the street museum by putting up their museum first. There is no structured or predefined way in which others should participate, this is decided upon by the community. This was a deliberate choice, which allows the people participating to 'tweak' the product to their specific context. Globally, however, there are four main scenario steps:
1. People motivate each other to participate by posting MIOS cards, thereby creating buzz in the street
2. Those that decide to participate are invited to use the provided material to create a framed object and stick a description besides it.
3. People can react using appreciation stickers on other people’s windows.
4. Additional cards are provided to enable participants to further engage in dialogue with those neighbours with whom they share a common interest or by whose contribution they are triggered to start a conversation.
The initial identification of leverage points was done by a series of expert interviews with established public service providers and community workers. Additional to these interviews, street observations were done in very diverse regions of the city of Antwerp. These street observations were, at this stage, done via a 'fly on the wall' technique. The combination of both analysis results led to the identification of design spaces wich we could use to create a service that would improve the social tissue on street level.
In order to evaluate these domains further, we set up a cultural probing kit which was distributed in six streets in the city of Antwerp, Belgium. The creative exercises in the created probes gave us further insight in how social contact takes place on street level. After each probing session, an individual interview was organised with the participants. This allowed us to verify earlier assumptions, and eventually resulted in six different product/service scenario's.
To determine the mix of interventions, we further evaluated the created scenario's in a co-design session. In this session we invited council officials, community workers and inhabitants to critically reflect on the created ideas. Using the feedback from this session, a prototype of MIOS was created and tested 'in context' in two streets of Antwerp. Using feedback from this first trial, some elements are currently being redesigned in order to integrate better in the context of use.