Ladders to the Cloud

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Edinburgh College of Art


The Community 2.0 Project introduced a critique of the rhetoric of the Big Society and Gov 2.0 that identified the selective qualities of each programme. Westminster's ideas of the Big Society and the American concept of Gov 2.0 embrace a vocabulary drawn from the success of network society in which sharing, reciprocity, social networking and communication were all constructive elements that would contribute to a new paradigm of local governance.

The practical dimension of the Community 2.0 project developed an extremely simple approach to capitalise on user-generated and service based resources by bringing them 'down to earth' and providing a physical portal that allowed people to both read content about a place and more importantly, contribute to it - a 'memory pole' that is to be installed at a geographically and socially important location in Wester Hailes. The pole, designed and carved in collaboration with Scottish artists features QR barcodes that are gateways to cloud based material relevant to the location of the pole. People can scan one of the labeled tags and access and contribute to historical photographs, stories, video and audio clips. The intention is that pole will act as a social resource to help build connections between the people and the place, as well as drawing upon online resources. The pole builds on recent research such as the Talking Poles project developed by Moulder et al (2011) that transmitted local narratives by members of a community in British Columbia from a physical pole. Whilst the Talking Poles project was successful is was 'read-only' and the Ladders to the Cloud project offers the critical dimension of 'writing' as well as 'reading'.

Planned Impact

Three key groups are going to benefit from this project:

1. The community in Wester Hailes - who will gain considerable development to the platform that was introduced through the first grant: Community Web 2.0. The new platform will offer further channels that will be designed by the residents to connect to cloud services or services that are yet unidentified. Some of these services may be personal and specific to minor groups, others may be more generic and simply offer 'help' or 'communication' with others. Those involved most closely with the project will also gain literacy and ICT skills.

2. Community development and regeneration practitioners - will benefit from the project in two ways. The platform will be made demonstrate to other neighbourhoods and communities the value in situated interfaces to cloud services. The evaluation findings will also demontrate methods to encourage like minded communities to adopt a similar role for digital media.


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Description In order to tie the physical 'nodes' including the totem pole, code book and wall plaques together, a virtual platform was needed. This became known as the Digital Sentinel and continues to take the form of a community newspaper that is developed by local interest groups but also links to local Facebook pages and totem pole to offer hyper-local information. The technical infrastructure has been developed by Amy Guy (University of Edinburgh), whilst the editorial make-up of the platform is led by Alison Reeves (WHALE Arts) and Jennifer Jones (consultant employed by WHALE to facilitate community engagement through journalism).
Key features as defined by Alison and Jennifer through a community workshop are:
1. The core will be a 'news' element, with articles, photos stories, video and audio created by trained citizen journalists, reporting news of direct relevance to the local community from the perspective of residents.
2. A 'community noticeboard' element, with a 'What's On' guide, RSS feeds from local agencies, small ads, notices and special offers - some of this content will only be available to view by connecting to the site via a QR code on the Totem Pole.
3. An 'archive' element, with articles highlighting social history work in the area and links to sites hosting social history collections to projects created in response to archives.
4. Anyone who lives or works locally will be able to post content. Training will be made available for people who would become a core team of citizen journalists.
The platform is complete and ready for the community to build, and as of winter 2012 an editorial framework has been established and workshops are being organised by WHALE through the spring to begin use.

During the project Peter Matthews (Heriot-Watt) designed and managed a Community Engagement Evaluation programme to better understand the success of the project. The programme involved Amadu Khan (University of Edinburgh) interviewing five of the key community stakeholders in the work in Wester Hailes covered by the "Ladders to the Cloud" umbrella - WHALE, Wester Hailes Health Agency, Prospect Community Housing Agency, Wester Hailes Library, the Dove Centre and a local community activist.
Exploitation Route The Digital Sentinel continues to be a community news website for Wester Hailes, in southwest Edinburgh. The content is created by residents who report news, opinion and events which is relevant to people living here. Any resident is also able to submit and comment on content. This project received additional funding from the Carnegie Trust and WHALE arts continues to support its activities.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description Core to the Ladders to the Cloud project was the development of infrastructure to operate as a platform for community engagement. Through a series of design meetings at the outset of the project it was decided that the platform would consist of a range of physical components: 1. The totem pole, 2. The code book, 3. Wall plaques for buildings, and that all three would be linked across Wester Hailes to an online service that would come to be called the 4. Digital Sentinel.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism
Impact Types Cultural,Societal