Modelling Digital Public Space: a sandpit event

My experience as a facillitator in one of the breakout groups in the latest Creative Exchange sandpit event was full of ideas and great potential for collaboration.

From my perspective, our theme for the day was an exploration of concepts of modelling. As a means of structuring understanding of digital public space, models of all sorts became starting points for discussions about structures of growth. My contribution at the start of the day was a series of common models in computational fields, ranging from viral, haystacks and evolution, to the 'map-reduce' like behaviour of Mumbai lunch delivery services.

We divided in to smaller groups to shift from discussing models to building them. Playful physical modelling can provide a framework for inventive thinking. I structured my session around varying media and scales. We drew diagrams of models and re-appropriated them, then made three-dimensional structures that could be projected on the walls of the room. All of these activities were designed to trigger tangential conversations, and draw out the differing experiences and perspectives of the participants.

Two ideas emerged from our group towards the end of the day to be taken forward as project proposals. Walk in the Park suggested ways of thinking about personal data and digital public space in relation to public parks. We talked about desire lines, flower beds, monuments, serendipitous meetings, privacy in the crowds and social norms. The park model emerged from discussions around personal data stores, and how they might be used collaboratively – how someone might 'take their data for a walk'. The second idea to be drawn together from the strands of our conversations was Hashtag Radio. Here we proposed taking the well understood structures and affordances of a radio station, and consider how these tools would work in a hyper-local community setting. What would a radio station look like if it was as light-weight as a hashtag? Emerging as needed around a temporally brief interest and community. Here the model of established tools, helped us to look at what digital spaces do particularly well, which is to reduce the cost of connecting (in time and energy as well as financially).