InvisibleCity: FOSTERING PARTICIPATION IN THE DIGITAL AGE

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The launching of La Marina Living Lab has inspired the adoption of an innovative online application for citizen engagement. The app, called InvisibleCity, was originally created and piloted by Western Sydney University (WSU) and it runs upon the notion that memories, experiences, emotions and aspirations (in other words the invisible aspects of a city) are just as important as the visible ones when it comes to understanding and imagining our urban environment in new ways. The novel app allows users to create location-specific emotion reports, which capture their feelings and their opinions about a particular site. Built-in features prompt users to upload images and comments in order to construct a more holistic depiction of the space and the common sentiment it evokes.

Today, as a result of the partnership between Consorcio Valencia 2007 (CV07) and WSU, a desktop version of InvisibleCity is made available to the visitors of La Marina. All of its content and features have been translated into Spanish and a mobile version is scheduled to be released promptly. In addition, CV07 is working to add an extra perk to the online tool, which would allow visitors to not only see and “paint” the emotion map of La Marina but also read brief passages about the historic significance of the buildings they are strolling by. According to Western Sydney University researcher, Philippa Collin, “How we feel in a place influences our relationship to that place – whether we want to visit, work or invest in it. This also creates a relationship between our individual and collective wellbeing and the vitality of the places themselves. InvisibleCity is open and anonymous making it possible for people to visualize in real time their own – and collective – experiences of a place. But more than that, InvisibleCity can be a powerful, inclusive tool for communities to understand, analyse and co-design places to improve wellbeing, social and economic vitality.”

Some of the very first users of InvisibleCity were the teenagers from SUREM La Marina. During one of their last weekly sessions, the young enthusiast embarked on a collective exploration of the waterfront’s key areas, leaving behind a digital trace of their feelings and impressions. As the number of InvisibleCity emotion reports grows, so will CV07’s understanding of the intricate aspects that make public space appealing or sometimes – unattractive for visitors. A comprehensive emotion map informed by hundreds of individual reports can show patterns of common sentiment and greatly enhance the development of La Marina’s urban space.

InvisibleCity has appealed to SURA’s group of tech-savvy adolescents, but the app’s simple and easy-to-navigate interface makes it possible to reach a much more diverse cross-generational audience. At the end of the day, it is a powerful way of gathering quick, honest feedback from the public and in broader terms – a tool for open, inclusive and democratic co-creation processes.

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