Grassroots heritage: how can digital technology empower people to take control of the places that matter?
This research project investigates the role(s) that design and digital technology can play in the socio-political arena of the city, product of historically and culturally situated practices.
It will explore this field through the lens of unofficial everyday “heritage” practice, understood as a kind of 'social action', something that people create and actively use to maintain the connections between themselves and other places and things.
The advent of Web2.0, mobile computing and locative interaction have created opportunities for creative expression, online deliberation, mobilisation and activism. However, questions about who gets heard and to what end, whether networked culture “may be only used to mobilise like-minded individuals” and the significance of the transforming notion of place, where increasingly the virtual and physical juxtapose, come into focus.
Previous and current research explored the use of design and technology for civic engagement through the preservation and sharing of personal stories and showed how these processes can engender opportunities for collective enquiry, that may lead to change. However, these efforts have also highlighted how digital and cross-media platforms rely on a critical mass of users for the development of meaningful civic engagement.
This project explores unofficial heritage practices, as the expression of people's values, and mechanisms to engage communities, whose voices are not currently heard, for civic enquiry and action.
Sociologist Arthur Frank points out how stories are powerful means that can affect how people see reality and that can engender change. However he also argues that “a social system is assembled and reassembled from the dominance of some narrative representations of reality over others.”
What role can design and technology play in fostering unofficial heritage practices and empower people to take control of the places that matter?