30 Jun 2015

Workshop debrief: Some Things in the Air


Londonair quality, citizens, pollution, workshop

Participants around a table sketching their ideas

29th June 2015
Future Cities Catapult, Urban Innovation Centre

Air pollution isn’t new to our cities, but we are just now starting to understand in depth of its devastating effects. Even if invisible, particulate pollution is estimated to have caused 29,000 premature deaths in the UK during 2008 and an average loss of life of 11.5 years. This year in London, we already experienced two air pollution episodes. The immediate effects at the time were severe asthma attacks and an increase in hospital consultations, but the long term effects will be more pressing.

Citizens think this is the price to pay for living in a city. However, OrganiCity wants to empower citizens to create the improvement our lungs need. Future Cities Catapult ran the workshop “Some Things in the Air” to capture ideas around urban data, air quality and experimentation that can change our cities for the better.

To start the workshop Gyorgyi Galik, from the Insights Team at Future Cities Catapult, presented insights around the effects of air pollution. She introduced this research in order to help participants understand the challenge and to inspire, with some examples of radical and visionary potential solutions.

Gyorgyi Galik from Insights team presenting cases

The participants then put their heads together to come up with suggestions to tackle a wide set of challenges, such as: using city data and connected things to change behaviours; helping people extend their five senses to feel the pollutants; making pollution prevention personal in order to take individual responsibility; or helping people protect themselves from the effects of air pollution.

Board with a challenge and a few Brainstorm Sketch sheets

The idea boards began to fill up with brainstorming sketch sheets that inspired more ideas to solve these design challenges. Gyorgyi, John Lynch and Anastasia Vikhornova, all from Future Cities Catapult, assisted the teams.

Once they had generated as many ideas as possible, the teams started developing more robust concepts using the OrganiCity Futures Canvas. This tool helped to synthesise and structure a direction by creation more specific future scenarios. The ideas ranged from buses with a reactive skin to visualise air pollution, to pay-as-you-go driving.

The diversity of the participants created a fantastic flow of ideas and a cross-fertilisation among disciplines and their different London communities. Thanks to these sessions, we now have a better understanding of the technologies that we have to build in order to help the kinds of experimentation citizens wish to develop as part of OrganiCity.

What’s next? During September we will be asking London what other challenges should be our focus, and what are the practical concerns when it comes to building IoT experiments in the city. This will help us design a relevant and provocative open call for experiments, due to happen in January 2016. We want to hear from a variety of citizens, so please get in touch if you are interested in taking part.

OrganiCity Futures Workshop 29th June 2015 from Future Cities Catapult on Vimeo.


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