Communities within spaces of flows

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

Abstract

The Communities within Spaces of Flows project is situated in a period of public sector spending cuts in which services are stretched and there has been a government call for a return to localism to address well-being needs (Localism Act, 2011; The Scottish Government, 2009). This idealistic desire to involve people in local decision making and community empowerment is at odds with the evolving concept of community where the place related connectivity of traditional communities has been replaced by more dispersed social networks maintained by technology and new mobility patterns. The networks of interpersonal ties that provide sociability, support, a sense of belonging and social identity are now less likely to reside in place and are less able to react to local need. At the same time there is growing recognition of the importance of integrating digital technology and health (Tinder Foundation, 2011) and a need to find new mechanisms to support an ageing population with increasing accessibility needs (Musselwhite & Haddad, 2010).

The Connectivity and Conflict in Periods of Austerity project has illustrated how those with access to network capital (i.e. the resources, such as cars and mobile technology, needed to sustain and generate social capital) are best placed to exert influence on their localities while others remain excluded. This provides the grounding for this follow-up project with its revelations about middle class political activism and its effects on public services while other groups are marginalised. This poses fundamental questions about public engagement and people's ability to take control of their own well-being. This application for follow-up funding therefore explores important questions about technological interventions and their role in community well-being, fostering responsibility for place and local connectivity. The project will reflect on the fit of a combination of AHRC Connected Communities funded technologies, in addition to a collaborative travel App developed by the Sixth Sense Transport project (EPSRC Digital Economy funding, EP/J004650/1) (Davies et al. 2012), to extend and enable place based community support networks to obtain health and well-being gains. The project builds on the previous good working relationship with Wester Hailes and considers how the work of the Connected Communities groups might complement the more traditional patient/GP relationship and help produce measurable improvements in health.

Planned Impact

In addition to the academic community (see academic beneficiaries) it is envisaged that the following groups will benefit from this research:

Local community groups and residents:

The main impact beneficiaries of this follow-on project will be the Wester Hailes Healthy Living Centre and its other partners (including Dove over 65's club, WHALE Arts Centre, West Edinburgh Time Bank, Prospect Community Housing and Gate 55). The project will work closely with the Centre and associated partners in aspects of recruitment and engaging and retaining users. This will give community partners and the participants a sense of empowerment as they are actively involved in shaping new apps and systems. They will assist in identifying how the existing smart phone applications that have been developed across a suite of AHRC and EPSRC projects can aid community well-being. A secondary impact objective is for the academic and community teams to identify with residents their understanding of the affordances of the various apps/systems in an inclusive manner such that users are able to put forward new understandings and recommendations for app use in a health and well-being context. We also expect users to help us identify the scope of benefits that could be gained and how future participation can be widened (e.g. which apps work, how they work and what they would require for improvement).

Participants will benefit directly through their involvement in the project which will enable them to undertake activities to increase well-being e.g. collaborative travel and collaborative shopping. It is anticipated that some will learn ITC skills through their engagement with new technologies. It is valuable to not only reach the public, but for the public to consume the ideas through workshops and experimenting with prototypes; the ensuing sense of community, empowerment and achievement may last longer than the project.

The nature of the apps deployed in the project provides users with a tool to bring the community together and reduce potential feelings of isolation through visualising various social networks.

Policy makers and planners:

It is intended that there will be a benefit to policy makers and planners. This follow-on project will explore how individuals might take control of their well-being through technology and collaboration. If communities are empowered to take responsibility for their own well-being it could help relieve pressure on existing public services during a time of public spending cuts. In addition, this project will enable health partners to begin looking forward and better understand which systems bring most benefit to communities. This will pose new research questions and raise opportunities that would extend the established recommendations offered by the NHS (http://apps.nhs.uk) and provide the grounds for a series of technical briefs for software developers to begin exploring. If successful, an outcome of the project would be to use the apps to enable communities to be self-reliant and supplement the public services currently available. The practical and theoretic outputs of this research have the potential to influence future policy and enhance quality of life and health within communities.
 
Description The findings of the Communities within spaces of flows have been used in a series of ways that correspond and extend the initial aims of the project:

The project involved a substantial study in the Wester Hailes area of Edinburgh. Historically identified as a deprived area, the study involved working with residents to rebrand an existing iPhone application developed on the Sixth Sense Transport project (EP/J004650/1) and deploy it as a collaborative tool for sharing resources across the community.

Key findings from the study revealed that:
1. Social networking / logistic applications require a critical mass to work in order to foster models of reciprocity. (Dickinson et al (2014) Fundamental challenges in designing a collaborative travel app. Transport Policy)

2. The trial of a rebranded logistics application for tourism showed promise with regard to community users communicating with one another and sharing information. (Dickinson et al (2015) Collaborative Travel Apps, Reciprocity and the Internet of Things, UTSG)

3. There was a significant bias in the community to offer help rather than ask for help. However altruistic, this bias inhibits the flow of sharing within a network. (Dickinson et al (2015) Collaborative Travel Apps, Reciprocity and the Internet of Things, UTSG)

4. Incentive schemes can fail if there are perceived conflicts in the value of participation. The trial worked with members of the community Time Bank scheme who were upset by introduction of financial incentives which in conflict with the ethos of the Time Bank. (Hibbert et al (2014) Exploring incentivisation in design, NordiCHI14)
Exploitation Route 1. Reciprocity: The trial corroborated evidence that the team has identified in the Sixth Sense Transport project (EP/J004650/1) that when offered a platform for sharing, communities in the UK are extremely keen to offer help to fellow residents, but deeply reticent to ask for help. This finding offers a critical finding to inform the development of digital projects, services and platforms that rely on a model of reciprocity in which asking for help should be equal to offering help.

2. Incentives: In an effort to instigate more offers of help, the team introduced an incentive scheme that would reward participants (both helper and person in need of help) if a transaction had taken place. Whilst evidence of financial incentives had proven their effectiveness in other field studies, the use of money to promote exchange was found to be insulting to the participants who had signed up to the trial though the local Time Bank. It was felt that financial incentives were not in the spirit of the project, and peoples time and involvement were based upon the ethos of the Time Bank. This finding proved valuable at the Exploring incentivisation in design workshop at NordiCHI14 and will be explored further though a subsequent publication that explores how the design community should consider how to design through value (ACM Interactions, Spring 2015 in preparation.)
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare

URL http://www.communityhacking.org
 
Description Although the project was comparatively short (6 months) the field study and subsequent findings have proven critical for a series of next steps: 1. The research revealed a difficulty in fostering reciprocity in social networking platforms that involve material / physical exchanges. People tend to feel indebted to others and prefer not to enter such a debt. This has critical repercussions for the Internet of Things 2.0 which anticipates a social dimension to the objects that will become connected to the internet. This finding has informed a series papers and workshops to explicate this condition. (Dickinson et al (2014) Fundamental challenges in designing a collaborative travel app. Transport Policy; Speed et al (2014) Locating the Flow, ISEA 2014; Dickinson et al (2014) Communities within Spaces of Flows: a breakout session using the LinkLocal smartphone app to move objects around the city. AHRC Connected Communities Festival 2014, Cardiff 1-3 July) 2. To better understand the background for the problem of reciprocity within social material networks, design work has begun on exploring how the apparent agency of objects within an Internet of Things might be attuned to deal with this problem: perhaps objects can identify that we need help, and will ask for help on our behalf; designers should better understand the social values at play within a social value constellation to understand how to promote engagement. This question was a guiding force in the development of the Exploring incentivisation in design workshop at NordiCHI14 involving participants from a wide variety of fields including STS, HCI, Architecture, Design (Speed, C. et al (2014) Exploring incentivisation in design. NordiCHI 2014). 3. The challenge of developing digital platforms that are informed by a social value constellation that affords a model of reciprocity has become the focus of a responsive mode grant to the ESRC entitled: Reciprocity in the Internet of Things. With a focus upon communities where people need help but find it hard to ask. This will include health groups and communities. The project would explore reciprocity in everyday practices using design interventions involving objects and people as actors. Submission before end of 2014.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Transport
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Title Link Local 
Description LinkLocal is an iPhone app that borrows much of the functionality of 6ST Travel and allows people to share resources. The app has been trialled across the Wester-Hailes community in Edinburgh to better understand how it can support sharing within the community. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact Dialogue is currently underway with a British Motorsports Society (beermountain.com) to trial the Linklocal app at the Le Mans event in France. 
URL http://www.sixthsensetransport.com/mobile-apps/linklocal/
 
Description CoGet Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Future Everything Festival, Manchester, March 2014

Varied discussions with delegates around topic
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://futureeverything.org/events/coget-things-move-people-around/
 
Description Speed: Designing Through the City as Database. Designing Smart Cities : Opportunities and Regulatory Challenges, CREATe: RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. 31st-1st April. 2015. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Designing Through the City as Database. Designing Smart Cities : Opportunities and Regulatory Challenges, CREATe: RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. 31st-1st April. 2015.

Speed introduced research across transport and IoT to explore the implications of designing within smart cities.

Warmly received and led to further presentations and conversations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.create.ac.uk/blog/2014/11/06/designing-smart-cities/
 
Description The use of incentives in collaborative travel app trials at NordiCHI workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation by Julia Hibbert at NordiCHI workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Time of the City, workshop for CityLink Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Time of the City, workshop for CityLink Festival
The City Link Symposium 2015 was a celebration of cities and the people and activity that shape them. They brought together speakers who in different ways have studied, considered, altered or impacted the urban environment.

Speed ran a workshop that reflected on the temporal issues running through the departments research.
Very positive engagement that identified time as a core issue within the digital economy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://city-link.org/event/city-link-symposium-2015-democratic-renewal/