The City Listens – a platform for cultural data
The City Listens is an interactive installation designed for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), to support Chicago’s 2012 Cultural Plan initiative. The City Listens gives Chicago a new tool to collect data about the various cultural needs of its diverse population, and citizens a new channel to participate and interact with the government.
In addition to supporting the cultural plan our installation had to be placed for over a month at the Old Town School of Folk Music (OTSFM).
Our objective was to use interaction design to connect citizens with the plan in a radical new way. We embarked on a mission to study our unique location by focusing on its diverse community of people from all over Chicago. Our goal was to give people at the OTSFM a channel to capture their thoughts on different cultural issues and the ability to share their stories with the community, city and beyond.
To achieve this, we created The City Listens as a two-part system: A primary interface, to be used as a ‘recording station,’ and a secondary interface, serving as a ‘listening station.’ At the primary interface, participants could use a large touch-screen and a microphone to record their response to a question featured prominently on-screen. Participants could choose to share their response in one of three ways: I remember, I feel, or I wish. At any time during recording, participants could pause, stop, or review and submit their responses.
Once a response was received, it would be accessible online or through the ‘listening station’—a secondary smaller installation—where participants could use an iPad to hear other people’s responses, give a thumbs up/thumbs down or comment on the recordings. This interface was also available as a website—extending the reach of the physical installation. In addition, responses become part of an audio loop playing softly in the background at the primary installation, serving to pique the interest of passersby. Ultimately, these responses were compiled, grouped and shared with DCASE, where they enriched the larger conversation about Chicago’s Cultural Plan of 2012.