Interfacing With The City

Thursday 12th May 2011:

from the FutureEverything website:

This workshop will address future interactions between people and the urban environment, exploring the emerging behaviours of extreme technology users as indicators of tomorrows norms.

Urban spaces will soon be saturated with both visible and hidden technologies that gather and transmit data. How we as physical beings connect with, interpret and shape the increase of this data residing in our environment will be a significant challenge for designers. Today’s urban experience is enhanced by media that increasingly enable simultaneous existence in both the virtual and real worlds. The workshop will seek to explore the ‘bleed points’ where the physical and virtual worlds connect – or  disconnect – by focussing on the small ideas that underpin the ‘big questions’ that too often overwhelm researchers.

The workshop will address questions such as: What form will the new information landscape take? How will people adapt their behaviours as increasing amounts of information are overlaid on the physical environment? What new products and services will be available given the increase of targeted information aimed at specific communities and interest groups?  Will this result in an increase in segmentation and fragmentation, leading to multiple experiences of the same physical space?


Participants will undertake a collaborative data gathering activity. The workshop will employ (very) rapid ethnography as a means of gathering rich visual data about the urban space in which we engage. These images will form the basis of a ‘digital scrapbook’ that will be transformed in real-time into a visual presentation to be used as a stimulus for participants’ discussion and debate of the emergent themes.

As the background of the organisers is in the field of Interaction Design, they have a research interest in how personal technologies are used and appropriated to record and share thoughts and experiences. Participants are asked to bring mobile phones with cameras if possible – but not essential!

The workshop will be led by:

Michael SmythIngi Helgason

Centre for Interaction Design, Edinburgh Napier University, UK

Write up from a workshop participant:

The City in Cinema: How popular culture can influence research agendas

Session at FET11 ::

Where can researchers find inspiration for the transformative applications, concepts and infrastructures that they believe will characterise the next decade? One approach to predicting the future is to reflect on the visions of the future that have been proposed in the past, and question how these visions are actively shaping our present. This session looks at the way in which cinema’s portrayal of the future city has been a source of inspiration for scientists, technologists and commentators.


- Michael Smyth, Edinburgh Napier University, UK
- Ingi Helgason, Edinburgh Napier University, UK
- Ivica Mitrovic, Arts Academy, University of Split, Croatia
- Gianluca Zaffiro, Telecom Italia, Torino, Italy

Date: Thursday 05 May, 16:00

Scientific and Technological Challenge

The explicit challenge of the FET programme is to predict the future. Currently, researchers are working on the transformative applications, concepts and infrastructures that they believe will characterise the next decade. But where do they look for inspiration? One approach is to reflect on the visions of the future that have been proposed in the past, and question how these visions are actively shaping our present.

The power of cinema is that it has the capacity to immerse an audience in worlds that do not actually exist.  Film can act as a provocation by projecting us into different possible futures, causing us to reflect upon current concerns and their potential trajectories.

Major initiatives such as Smart Cities and the Internet of Things demonstrate that one of the major challenges facing the scientific community currently is the rise of global urbanisation. Today, for the first time in human history, more than half the world’s population lives in cities – the city has become an integral part of human existence. It is in the ‘cinematic city’ where we find some of the most potent embodiments of our concerns about this emergent environment. Film allows an exploration of what it might mean to exist in a particular place and time. Indeed, Vidler (1996) has stated that film is ‘a sort of laboratory for the exploration of the built world … of architecture and the city’.


The aim of this session is to draw together individuals from across disciplines in free-flowing debate, in an accessible and engaging manner. By bringing a range of research perspectives to this open forum, it is intended that discussion will inspire thinking about new research directions. By the end of the session, a list of high-level themes and practical  ‘next steps’ will be generated that can be used to inform future research and networks.

Target Audience

This session should appeal to researchers, industry practitioners, policymakers and those who are tasked with mapping the future European research agenda.


Michael Smyth, Centre for Interaction Design, Edinburgh Napier University Edinburgh, UK

Ingi Helgason, Centre for Interaction Design, Edinburgh Napier University Edinburgh, UK


Vidler, A, 1996, “The Explosion of Space: Architecture and the Filmic Imaginary,” in “Film Architecture: Set Designs from Metropolis to Blade Runner” by Dietrich Neumann, Prestel Publishing

DIS2010 – Informing the Design of the Future Urban Landscape

17 August, Aarhus, Denmark

This work was undertaken with Ingi Helgason, Centre for Interaction Design, Edinburgh Napier University.

The workshop attracted both creative practitioners and academic researchers who were drawn together by the mutual desire to better articulate the issues that designers and technologists will have to address as they shape the interactions within the media-rich urban landscape.  Taking inspiration from ethnographic design research methods, the workshop took an experimental approach to the recording of activities. Participants used a rapid ethnographical approach to document the ‘bleed points’ where the physical and virtual worlds connect or indeed disconnect. The aim of the activity was to encourage the participants to adopt an attitude of curiosity as they sought to unpack the nature of peoples’ rituals, habits and priorities, focusing, in particular, on the potential for behaviour associated with existing technologies.

The collected images formed a digital scrapbook to stimulate the subsequent debate of emergent themes. The group worked through 3 concepts that explored the following themes:

The city as shelter from interaction :: mobile, re-configurable shelters the provide inhabitants with momentary restbite from the demands of interaction.

Shared spaces :: multiple viewpoints of the urban environment, depending on context and role, the tourists’ and inhabitants’ gaze.

Kinetic Crossing :: harvesting energy from pedestrian movement as a source of power and as a driver for ‘just in time’ signage.

More information about these workshops and subsequent network activity can be found at