< BACK


Index


Hacks and Probes

Playful, fast-paced and intense ideation sessions are an important tool within urban laboratories, allowing for concentrated discussion and speculative thought that ideally functions as a conceptual provocation, as well as a way to gain insights (both logical and spontaneous) that help point the way forward towards established goals. Dynamic group exercises to propose and conceptualize possible solutions that are imaginative and engaging lets participants start anchoring previous theoretical discussions into practical realities, without losing the freedom that comes from imaginative and highly intuitive thinking, exploring the outer edges of ideas and paradigms.

As part of the London-Mexico collaboration, the binational, multidisciplinary team held several of these sessions, proposing “hacks” and “probes” informed by the investigation of Legible Policy, sparking discussion among the team members about concept implementation. This idea session was not meant to propose finalized ideas, but rather serve as a space of joint reflection and bridge-building among disciplines, in addition to being part of the methodology to register initial thoughts so that teams could later identify common interests in projects to be further developed and scaled in the future.

First the team chose five problematics faced by modern cities on which to focus, listed as follows:

• GOVERNMENT SPENDING AND ACCOUNTABILITY This topic concerns how the government spends its budgets, how those decisions are communicated or represented to citizens and how the processes can become more transparent.

• VISIONS OF THE CITY This encompasses the concept of the city as a whole seen through the eyes of its citizens.

• HOW DO PEOPLE MAKE DECISIONS? This topic explores the reasons and behaviors that influence how the population makes decisions, and experiments with creating changes in those patterns of choices.

• WHAT KIND OF USER AM I? This area seeks to understand the behaviour of citizens, their daily habits and how can that information be used to better the function of the city.

• COLLECTIVE DISCUSSION ABOUT TRANSPORT Here we thought about how citizens can effectively communicate and share their transport experiences with each other in order to promote the usage of public transportation over personal automobiles.

With these these topics established, Anab Jain of Superflux led the exercise, separating the participants into small groups charges with inventing hacks and probes for each city problem: ideas that proposed new ways to fix them. The suggestions from each group ranged from highly practical to highly utopian, and after discussing the feasibility and utility of each suggested hack and probe the group voted on the most promising or implementable options, generating a list of potential projects explore in future collaborations. Below is a list of some of the most promising ideas that came out of this exercise.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 4.58.01 PM

DEFINITIONS

HACK:

THE DESIGN OF SMALL CHANGES OR THE ADDITION OF A PLUG-IN TO AN EXISTING SYSTEM, CAUSING IT TO WORK IN A DIFFERENT WAY OR ADDING AN EXTRA LAYER OF PARTICIPATION OR ENGAGEMENT TO THE SYSTEM.

PROBES:

THE INSERTION OF MICRO-EXPERIMENTS IN A SOCIAL SPACE, CAPABLE OF TESTING SPECIFIC OR PARTIAL HYPOTHESIS AND GATHERING QUALITATIVE DATA THROUGH OBSERVATION OF ITS RIPPLE EFFECTS (“WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF…”)

 

GOVERNMENT SPENDING AND ACCOUNTABILITY

HACK

Inputs and outputs

Use parking meters to display information about ways money collected from parking fees is used. Allow users to understand clearly where the resources end up. Make physical elements of infrastructure communicate with the public.

PROBES

Bugging the Government

Place anonymous survey stations within government offices and civil service buildings to measure how much government staff actually knows about expenditures and responsibilities. For example, put up a poster with a photo of a nearby park and ask the question, “How much does it cost per month to maintain this park?”, or inquire if people know how many mobile law enforcement units are on the street. Rotate the questions asked to cover different branches of city government and responsibilities.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 4.58.27 PM

VISIONS OF THE CITY

HACKS

Mini-Model

In the office of each city delegation, make a scale model of the area that citizens can use to mark issues, problems, events and other information to be shared with fellow users and local government.

PROBES

Pop-Up Survey Shop

A mobile pop-up stand or kiosk where the public can go to ask questions, request solutions or propose alternative visions for mobility. Its location changes every day of the week like an itinerant market.

Vote with your Feet

Host a massive event in a public plaza where the public can express their preferences about issues affecting the city by participating in large-scale, life-size graphic representations. People can show their support for different policy decisions and solutions by standing in bar charts or other formations that track different proposals. Take aerial photos to observe what proposals receive the most support.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 4.58.56 PM

HOW DO PEOPLE MAKE DECISIONS?

HACKS

Bike-cessories

Have bike-sharing programs offer accessories that adapt the way you can use a bike, so that a wider range of users can participate. Offer car seats for children, baskets or small trailers to transport heavy objects, and other accessories whose use can be tracked to identify what kinds of users borrow bikes. Free Transit Host free transportation days when users don’t have to pay to encourage more people to adopt public transportation. Alternatively, offer random incentives for using public transportation like having free ticket winners or a lottery that metro users can win.

PROBES

Amazing Race

Make a game for the public in which participants gather at one point and are asked to travel to a different part of the city. The first to arrive wins a prize, but all the users have to track their routes using an app that registers their movements and use of transportation, allowing organizers to examine how people make choices about getting around and which routes are the most efficient.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 4.59.29 PM

WHAT KIND OF USER AM I?

HACK

Good Citizenship Tracking App

Distribute a free app with which citizens can post their good civic deeds, from carpooling or choosing to bike instead of drive to voting or attending neighborhood meetings. Allow users to see what good deeds are happening in their vicinity and in other parts of the city.

PROBES

Work on Your Way

Offer free WiFi on public transportation, but to access it each user must register anonymous information about his or her profession in order to understand what types of users choose different modes of transport.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 5.00.02 PM

COLLECTIVE DISCUSSION ABOUT TRANSPORTATION

HACKS

Water Cooler Transportation Maps

Place maps and dry erase boards near office water coolers so that employees can share the routes they prefer to use to get to work or advise their colleagues about potential delays due to obstructions. Help people identify with whom they could carpool or share their commutes with.

PROBES

City Travel Hacks

Create an app that gathers user-generated data and incident reports to make recommendations of how to best use public transportation to get around the city.