Prior Iterations: Lisbon and Tempe, 2011

Last Updated: June 25, 2013

Finding Futures: Lisbon and Tempe

So far, researchers on RTTA-3 (CNS-ASU’s Selin, Gano, Davies, and Lim, in collaboration with Pereira of the European Commission) have carried out two ‘Finding Futures’ tours. These tours, which seek to attune participants to new ways of seeing the city and to use these gazes to enable reflection on technological futures, consist firstly of a loosely guided walking tour around a segment of an urban environment (in the first tour, Lisbon, Portugal, and in the second, Tempe, Arizona). Within this first stage participants were asked to be attentive to, in the words of the guide provided to them, “what these pasts might become … Spot signs of the times … [Identify] the future breaking through”, and to take digital photographs (on smartphones or cameras) capturing these moments. Participants were thus asked to look at the city with an eye to its temporal dimensions as well as to the ways in which it is structured – perhaps invisibly – by technological systems.

In a second stage, after the tour ended, participants were asked to annotate the photographs they have taken – with a tag that identifies the relevant tour (‘lisboafindingfutures’ or ‘tempefindingfutures’) and a caption which explicates the significance of the image – and to upload them to the photo-sharing website Flickr. From here, they can readily be pulled together into a ‘Finding Futures’ group which enables their viewing as a composite entity. Specifically, we used a customised version of the JQuery plugin ‘Supersized’ to pull participants’ photos from Flickr and display them in a slideshow that simultaneously rolled each image’s caption across the bottom of the screen.
The third stage, involving display, consolidation, and discussion of the images and experiences each tour had resulted in, differed between the two tours. In Lisbon, the images were viewed within an installation environment and participants asked to reflect upon the contrasts and themes they presented. In Tempe a more structured environment was used, with a workshop format enabling a number of different activities (including the development of timelines and sketches of the worlds they suggested) around the images. In both cases the viewing of the images, collected by different people at different points within the walking tour, in a collective environment enabled shared reflections on the trajectories that technologies within a particular city were and should be taking.
The Finding Futures tours were experiments, and as such it is important that they are viewed in terms of the learning developed through them. Finding Futures Lisbon was evaluated through an interview protocol, and has been written up as an analysis of a new type of art-science interchange (see Davies et al forthcoming). Taken together, the tours have enabled RTTA 3 researchers to experience some of the practicalities of drawing on the visual as a component of deliberative engagement. Their implications – for instance in terms of the value of fostering a ‘new gaze’ on a familiar city, the need for structure within deliberation, and the technical requirements in developing this approach further – will be applied to plans for the FutureScape City Tours and to the Phoenix-based pilot (2012).

The project

The results of the experiment were published here: Finding Futures: A Spatio-Visual Experiment In Participatory Engagement