Up & Running
How can digital methods enhance an Urban Room?
There are many ways in which digital forms of engagement can be used to enhance the in-person activities in the Urban Room. Being ‘on- site’ is an intrinsic aspect of the Urban Room methodology, i.e. being physically present in the location that is being discussed. This physical connection to a place cannot be created through digital means solely, however, digital methods can enhance and sustain an Urban Room while in operation and after it closes.
The use of digital methods of engagement has escalated as a result of the covid pandemic and many more people are used to working and socialising online. This opens up clear possibilities to create hybrid Urban Rooms that exist both in physical and digital space, making the most of the engagement possibilities of both.
In considering accessibility digital engagement methods are often assumed to be more accessible than access to a physical space. However, we need to be mindful that many people, often from already under-represented groups, do not have the technology, connection
or digital literacy to engage in this way. Both in-person and digital approaches pose challenges to access and a hybrid approach can help to alleviate some of these challenges.
We also need to be aware that digital and in-person engagement is not the same - people express themselves differently online than when they are in a room together. The Urban Room methodology is to open up conversations, share knowledge and ideas, and explore collectively and creatively the past, present and future of a place - our experience shows us that this happens best in-person, on-site.
Here are some digital methods that can help to enhance your Urban Room (some of the applications listed have free versions but most require subscription):
the use of social media, website and online newsletters can improve levels of engagement, especially if they are well designed and communicate the richness and creativity of the UR through images, films, audio etc.
the use of QR codes within the UR and window display is a useful way for people to access further information
digital survey tools, such as Mentimeter, are useful to gather data and gauge participants opinions on local issues
digital whiteboards, such as Miro, are useful for online workshops and to share ideas, precedents and designs
digital models such as VU City and Digital Urban visualise in 3D the topography, buildings and infrastructure of a place
digital mapping platforms such as Commonplace and Mapping for Change offer collective mapping of physical, cultural or social aspects of a place
online meeting platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet are useful to invite remote speakers to contribute to UR activities
Further knowhow from Urban Room Network members:
digital tools can enhance your physical UR - consider how you can display digital models, mapping and creative activities within the space to engage people further
using digital tools creates a real-time archive of conversations and activities - this can be very helpful in sustaining your UR once it has closed or is in transition
some digital tools can be expensive but there are lower cost approaches that you could take, e.g. using open-source software. Are there any groups or individuals in your networks with expertise in this area that can help you?