Detours and diversions in the city - digital archives as provocations

The project kick-started in mid October with a meeting between all partners, where we discussed  ways to explore the potential of situated digital content to provoke debate that may lead to socio-political action about the built environment and social practices in the city.

The T. Dan Smith archive threads the city council leader Dan Smith’s vision for the city in the 1960ies, through the revelation of an ambiguous political process and descriptions of the interventions that re-designed part of the city’s build environment as we know it today. The archive brings to the fore questions about the values underpinning visions and decision-making around the production of cities, and about who might retain the ability and right to imagine and produce certain city’s futures instead of others.

The urban landscape comprises of layers, narratives and codes revealing the symbiotic relation between traditional politics and everyday socio-political and cultural practices in the city. However authorities, professional and publics rarely engage in situated reflections and debates relating to place and place-making.  To this end, we are developing a performative walk to enter in dialogue with the built environment, explore the multiple meanings attached to particular sites and reveal codes of practices, whose familiarity might render them invisible to the city dweller. The T Dan Smith digital archive alongside other digital content, will serve as provocation to elicit responses and debate in relation to present issues and future planning in the city, which will be documented and recorded in a variety of forms.

In November, Graeme Rigby from Amber Films and Lowri Bond from Northern Architecture devised and delivered a walk based on the archive and controversial sites in the city to CX researchers. The walk was filmed and audio recorded and will be utilized as a base for the development of the walk prototype. CX researchers have concurrently mapped out other contested and controversial sites in the city through ethnographic research and interviews. The initial test of the walk prototype, will take place in January 2014 and will inform the development of both method and situated technologies, which will comprise a toolkit aimed at provoking publics into reflections and debates that may lead to socio-political action in relation to social issues and the build environment.