September 24, 2013

Using Interactive Media to Engage the Public for Urban Sustainability

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Findings from a major Vancouver-based study are showing how interactive media can help keep the public conversation around municipal sustainable policies going.

The Greenest City Conversations (GCC) project, lead by researchers at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia, has completed its comprehensive assessment of social media, multiplayer touch games, visualization, mobile computing and other media in engaging thousands of Vancouver residents in conversations on a variety of sustainability policies.

Sponsored by GRAND, the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS), BC Hydro, Envision, Mitacs, and the City of Vancouver, the project was created to facilitate public discussion, while evaluating these different modes of engagement. Though the analysis focuses on participants’ views of sustainability issues in Vancouver, the study provides a best practices case study applicable to other jurisdictions across Canada.

The results of the two-year project were the focus of a free public lecture on September 18th, 2013 at SFU’s Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue given by GRAND PNI Dr. Alissa Antle (SFU), former CNI Dr. John Robinson (UBC), and other members of their research team. Several researchers in GRAND have been a part of GCC under the research project GRNCTY, lead by Dr. Robert Woodbury (SFU).

Dr. Antle is an Associate Professor in SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology. She has been designing new interactive tabletop applications that promote public participation in discussions around sustainability.

Her Futura: the Sustainable Futures Game, funded through GRAND, PICS and SSHRC, is a multi-touch tabletop game designed to help children discover the complexity of sustainable development and land use planning. Futura was installed at Surrey's Holland Park during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics in a field study to gain insights and reveal issues into the game’s design. Antle is in talks with Science World, the City of Vancouver, and UBC’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability about hosting the game in other public spaces.

“Understanding how to design effective means to learn about sustainability is critical for a country like Canada – where development and resource planning ensure economic productivity for generations to come,” said Antle. “My sustainability tabletop applications research informs the Canadian and international public about the complexity of this domain in ways that are engaging, accurate and accessible.”