Where We Started

A LIVE URBAN PROJECTION EXPERIMENT

We began our project with this question:
How might we activate unused spaces around Pittsburgh and invite the community into this process?

After extensive research, we became interested in urban projection as a way to invite community involvement into the process of imagining futures for their own spaces. To test this idea, we hosted a live urban projection experiment during the First Fridays festival in Garfield, a monthly event that brings art, music, and other events to vacant spaces along one of the neighborhood’s main avenues, Penn Avenue.

A LIVE URBAN PROJECTION EXPERIMENT
A LIVE URBAN PROJECTION EXPERIMENT

What We Did

FUTURE FRIDAYS

Our learning from this experiment pushed us to ask ourselves: “how can we make this experience more accessible and scalable? And, for who?” Based on our research, interviews, and the incredible response of Future Friday’s youngest participants, we identified a need and opportunity to bring this to children as an applied curriculum. This prompted us to consider the design of a Future Voices Toolkit, which we will develop and pilot with a partner organization as an independent study next semester.

How We Did It

THE TECHNOLOGY

The technology included a light box and web-cam which captured the drawing, a computer which processed the footage, and a projector which projected the video footage of the drawings into space. In addition, we structured the physical space to facilitate rich human interaction.
•  The public was invited off the street by the visible projection, the enticing prompt to “draw their vision for the future of the space,” and our team members positioned at the street;
•  Participants would approach the drawing tablet where they would draw their future for the vacant lot;
•  Their drawings were projected onto the wall in real time as they watched from their seats;
•  People gathered to wait in line and interacted with passerbys, leading to interesting conversations and further activating the space.

THE TECHNOLOGY
THE TECHNOLOGY
THE TECHNOLOGY
THE TECHNOLOGY

WHO PARTICIPATED

INTERACTION

we decided to use a local festival First Fridays and the captive audience it would offer, as a platform to experiment with projection mapping as a design futuring tool on a vacant space along the festival’s main drag.
Started with a prompt "Draw your vision for the future of the space," Futurefridays is a participatory projection mapping event that gathers crowd-sourced visions for the future of vacant spaces and projects those visions onto the space in real time.
The event succeeded both at engaging the community in active generation of the future of the vacant Garfield lot as well as triggering conversation between people, some strangers before the event, about the neighborhood as well as their visions for the future.

INTERACTION
INTERACTION
INTERACTION
INTERACTION
INTERACTION

WHAT THE IMPACT IS

REFLECTION

though the responses we got were more playful self-expression that specific visions for the future, we look forward to iterating upon our prompts to see how we might more effectively elicit the specific future visions we are after, which also highlighted the learned nature of design futuring and the need to teach it.
Meanwhile, we were excited to see that our youngest participants were some of the best at the futuring exercise. They were both delighted by the activity as well as excited about the prospect of imagining the future.

INTERACTION
INTERACTION
INTERACTION

HOW WE GOT HERE

DESIGN PROCESS

Our process was not exactly linear, but throughout our twists and turns we remained rooted in insights from research.

DESIGN PROCESS

HOW WE GOT HERE

DESIGN RESEARCH

To kicks-tart our project, we conducted 4 exploratory interviews with designers, community activists and local residents We attended 3 community events and spent a day getting to know the neighborhoods of Wilkinsburg and Homewood, both struggling with vacancy and contending with rapid development.
We were inspired by a range of projects and people working in participatory design, light and projection as well as engaging the public in futuring. In particular, we referenced the work of Ali Momeni, Candy Chang, Stuart Candy, and Adam Frelin and Barbara Nelson.

DESIGN RESEARCH
DESIGN RESEARCH
DESIGN RESEARCH
DESIGN RESEARCH
DESIGN RESEARCH
DESIGN RESEARCH

HOW WE GOT HERE

BRAINSTORM

Struck by the incredible presence these vacant and unused spaces had on the neighborhoods we explored and the people who lived and worked in them, we wondered how we might take vacancy on as the focus of our design intervention.
After debriefing, organizing, reorganizing, discussing and debating, we arrived at key insights that we found reflected in our conversations and observations and from there we defined a set of principles we could design to.

DESIGN RESEARCH
DESIGN RESEARCH
DESIGN RESEARCH

HOW WE GOT HERE

SYNTHESIS

based on our research, and to help us structure our ideation, we developed a framework to think through how we might activate unused spaces in Pittsburgh. We considered:

   •    Gather - How might we bring people together to support local business, exchange ideas, and challenge conceptions about safety and community?
   •    Inspire - How might we visualize possibility, make abstract futures concrete, inspire people to build the communities they want to inhabit?
   •    Empower - How might we empower residents and community groups with information and tools to take control of their spaces?

SYNTHESIS
SYNTHESIS
SYNTHESIS

HOW WE GOT HERE

INITIAL CONCEPTS

Taking our framework as a guide, we developed initial concepts to test with experts Light your own way explores interactive light installations as a way to activate vacant space.
• The first exploration involves interactive light-boxes that display user generated content across their surface. Content displayed would relate to prompts or questions about the neighborhood, and would be gathered from users via text message or mobile phone.
• As another iteration on the concept, we explored how motion sensing lights might draw attention to vacant spaces, make them feel safer and more alive, and invite gather.

INITIAL CONCEPTS
INITIAL CONCEPTS

Crowd-sourcing the future is a a series of concepts exploring a range of playful ways to collect and display user input about a neighborhood.
• The first concept involves human sized lego being placed in vacant lots across the city. This playful physical prototyping tool would activate spaces.
• A second iteration looks at digitally crowd-sourced content, proposing an interactive booth to collect ideas, ask questions, and invite contribution from the community.

INITIAL CONCEPTS
INITIAL CONCEPTS

HOW WE GOT HERE

CONCEPTS REFINEMENT

We took these concepts to community experts for feedback. We spoke to: Jennifer Salmans (one of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation) and John Wallace, (Professor of Social work at UPitt, Pastor at the Bible Center Church, and community activist in Homewood).
While both offered valuable perspective we were particularly inspired by John, his work and vision for the community of Homewood and its residents. This initial meeting was the start of a fruitful ongoing relationship, which we will discuss in more detail in a few minutes.

CONCEPTS REFINEMENT

WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO

NEXT STEPS

Based off the learnings from Futurefridays - that children are natural futures, that futuring skills need to be nurtured, and that urban projection seems to be a promising tool for this activity - we conceived of Future Voices. Future Voices is an a open source toolkit for educators designed to equip children with critical and creative problem solving skills. Rather than an abstract set of methodologies, a conversation with Kristin Hughes a CMU professor and long-time community activist, prompted us to consider our role in designing the future of learning. What does education look like when we don’t know the challenges we’ll face or the tools we’ll need to address them? This is the basis from which we’ve imagined Future Voices.

The content of our toolkit will likely evolve as we engage in a co-design process with our partner, John Wallace, but as of now, we’ve imagined the Toolkit will have three main components
   •    a hands-on curriculum using community issues and spaces as context for design projects
   •    tools to support these hands on workshops
   •    a guide to support educators in finding resources and engaging the community in issues central to the Future Voices curriculum - vacancy, de-centralized community city-making.

NEXT STEPS
NEXT STEPS
NEXT STEPS

Future Voices will be a open source toolkit for educators designed to leapfrog children into the future by equipping them with critical and creative problem solving skills. The Toolkit will have three main components

   •    a hands-on design thinking curriculum;
   •    a set of relevant tools to help educators teach the applied design thinking curriculum;
   •    a guide to community engagement to help facilitators identify resources and engage the community.

NEXT STEPS

WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO

CURRICULUM

The Future Voices curriculum will walk children through design projects grounded in familiar problems and spaces. It will be divided into three modules, focusing on three design skills. The structure of the curriculum loosely correlates to phases in the design process. Each workshop will be associated with the construction of a tool, which will support the workshops main activity. We will pilot each of the three modules over the semester. The three modules we propose are:

   •    Discover — capture voices from a community, document existing realities and unearth opportunities for change
   •    Future — transform those opportunities into possible futures and bring them to life in physical space
   •    Reflect— reflect on the impact of those futures and imagine possible consequences (both positive and negative) they might bring

CURRICULUM
CURRICULUM
CURRICULUM

WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO

CURRICULAR PILOT

For our pilot, we have partnered with the Makers Clubhouse in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. We will be able to use a Bible Center Church and relevant context as material for our futuring workshop. Through various prompts and the construction of a small handhold projector, we’ll encourage children to identify opportunities to intervene in this space, imagine alternate futures and then project those futures onto the building’s surface.
Because of our current work with projection as a collective futuring tool, we plan to launch our curricular pilot with the future module, taking on vacancy in Homewood as a focus. This curriculum will build upon our existing research and experimentation with projection, bringing this technology down to an appropriate scale for use in a classroom. We have been prototyping different construction tools and open-source instruction guides to find the most appropriate projector for our workshop. It is our hope that by working with projection as a medium, we can make abstract futures more concrete and facilitate dialogue and imagination around the potential futures for unused or underutilized spaces (i.e. vacant lots, buildings, businesses etc.).

CURRICULAR PILOT
CURRICULAR PILOT
CURRICULAR PILOT
CURRICULAR PILOT
CURRICULAR PILOT