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Monday, February 14th, 2011

So what’s the answer to all this? As the hot dog vendor said to the buddhist, “Change comes from within”. Even if hypothetically, I could go into the markets with an enormous budget and solve all of the problems with the built environment, it wouldn’t solve the ownership/citizenship issues. In fact, it would probably reinforce them. So the solution? Revolution!

Albeit a small, nice, polite one.


Can I create the Links

Monday, February 14th, 2011

The theme I will be looking at  is the lack of Linkages

Some of the Lack of  linkages are between:

  • community groups
  • working community
  • living community
  • Garda
  • Dublin City Council
  • Youth Groups
  • vacant warehouses/buildings

To develop this further we pulled out all of the ideas that each team had developed around the street engagement process, we also went back to our 100ideas that each team member had created at the start of the project (everything comes back around and links in) we then had time to take as many ideas from each  board that we felt linked into our theme.

We each  presented  our theme and chosen ideas to the team after which we had a conversation about the theme. The team then helped to give each person ideas on how to further develop their theme. 

The next stage is to develop a  prototype on the theme. The thinking behind this is for each of us to  develop a prototype that will  will  plant  a seed in the area and overtime this will blossom and become sticky.

So this week is all about research, going over the theme and really looking into it and planning who it is we each need to talk to.

Deep Listening

Monday, February 14th, 2011

We have further distilled all the information we have gathered during our street engagement process. We each presented our findings from the street engagement and site process. Then each team member wrote on a post-it what they heard with regards to the struggles/challenges of the Area. 

After each team  member had presented, we then grouped all of the issues into different themes that we felt represented the core of the collective issue.They are called  The Lack Of’s.

We have  11 in total.

  • Lack of Identity /vision
  • Lack of navigation
  • Lack of knowing the system of area
  • Lack of fun/lightness
  • Lack of safety
  • Lack of  diversity/vibrancy
  • Lack of communication
  • Lack of facilities
  • Lack of ease to start a business
  • Lack  of linkages
  • Lack of ownership /citizenship

Each team member then selected one of the above.We then had to further analysis the  chosen theme. We done this by by taking the  time to ourselves to think about all we had heard ,we then wrote on a post what issue/challenge fitted under that theme.

A map was also created to show the way we thought communication happened in the Area.This was developed through the many chats we had during our street engagement process.  

The Markets Area – Distilling the info

Monday, February 14th, 2011

So now we have ALL this information, we gotta digest it all so as to understand what people are saying and see if we can address the issues people are bringing up as challenges for them in the area.

Again with the pinning up on boards, all our photos of the people we talked to, questions asked and answers got, up they went.

We then presented these findings to the group, who also did their own similar work, and out of this we have made a definitive list of challenges, which can be nicely called   “Lack ofs….”

Key relationships and 11 challenges in Markets area

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Having concluded our site studies and street conversations with stakeholders using the markets area, we have distilled down our insights and identified the core relationships in the area and 11 key challenges to work on:

1. lack of identity/vision
2. lack of navigation
3. lack of knowing the system of the area
4. lack of fun and lightness
5. lack of safety
6. lack of diversity/ vibrancy
7. lack of communication
8. lack of facilities
9. lack of linkages
10. lack of ownership/citizenship
11. lack of ease to start a business

These themes were synthesized using a bottom up evidenced approach based on primary research – that is, what people told us.

We will each take charge of a theme and seek to fully explore and understand it over the next week. We will be looking into how this theme fits into the larger scheme of things and how it should be approached in the long-term view while determining appropriate methods to test and prototype that in the short-term.

Where is all the fun and frolics happening in the City? The Markets!

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Where is all the fun and frolics happening in the City? The Markets!

Well…no…apparently not.

Many people that we spoke to on the street felt that the Markets Area was “empty”, “quiet”, “shabby”, “industrial”, “officey”, “functional”, “dreary”…not exactly a fun place to visit then!

As part of our distilling processes (ie where we review what people had said to us on the streets or as we went around visiting them at their workplace), we noticed 11 main themes. These were (in no particular order)…

  1. Lack of Identity / Vision
  2. Lack of Navigation
  3. Lack of Knowing the System (of the area)
  4. Lack of Fun and Lightness
  5. Lack of Safety
  6. Lack of Diversity and Vibrancy
  7. Lack of Communication
  8. Lack of Facilities
  9. Lack of Linkages
  10. Lack of Ownership / Citizenship
  11. Lack of Diversity of Businesses

I’m looking at item 4 above…lack of fun and lightness in the area.

Wish me luck! :)

All Aboard The Owner-ship

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Each of us is taking one of the ‘lacks’ as a basis for prototyping in our area. Mine is:

In a way this is the key lack, not just in the Markets area, but in Ireland in general. Possibly even throughout Western society. The heading is split into smaller issues;

1. “Lack of understanding of civil rights.”

In theory the council/political system is there to ensure the best care for the citizens of Dublin, but whether or not services and schemes are utilised by citizens depends on their understanding of what is available to them and how to go about availing of them. For many people, knowledge of the system is simply absent. Do you know who your local councilor is? Can you name all you TDs?

2. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease – selfish use of civic voice.”

Conversely, some people are very au fait with where the political system touches their lives and how they can influence it, but a minority can have a very negative influence on local issues, selfishly pushing their own agenda rather than looking at the greater good – classic NIMBYism.

3. “Tacit permissions”

This point relates back to an unspoken – almost subconscious – understanding of what you are/are not allowed to do in a public space. In general, the presumption is to automatically err on the side of actions in public being overly restricted. Possibly stemming from a societal structure riddled with ‘don’ts’ (No parking, no loitering, no ball games, post no bills, etc.) the implication stretches even to the presumed prohibition of positive interventions in public space.  A good example of this is the fact that even planting flowers in a public place is a borderline radical act . There is no easy solution to rectifying this deep-set mindset, but it is obvious that unspoken permission must be given for people to feel that they can take ownership of their local environment.

4. “Learned helplessness”

Low internal locus of control, enabled passivity, there are a few ways of framing this particular mindset. In any case, it is closely related to the above point, but is more pernicious. It is clearly visible in social groups who have been subjected to a certain amount of nannyism.  If a person is not offered control or responsibility for their own well-being, eventually the lines of what they are or are not permitted to do become blurred.  For example, if you are someone who rents a house, you are not generally allowed to make permanent (or semi-permanent) changes to that house. If the landlord won’t let you paint a room or put up a shelf, then that denial of responsibility and control filters through to other elements of your relationship with your rented home. If your tap was leaking or your gutter was broken and it was your own house, you would no doubt fix the problem, if it was within your capacity to do so. In a rented house, the tendency would be to complain to the landlord to fix it.

5. “Me & Mine – responsibility ends at the door”

Again, a similar point, but on a slightly different scale. A person may be extremely house-proud, but this pride in their surroundings ends at the front door. Their sense of who they have responsibility for extends to their families but not to the community beyond. This is another extremely difficult problem to address, but the co-operation of neighbours and the building of tight communities is a step towards solution.  In some ways, people must worry about what their communities think about them. If the individuals in a given society are fragmented or do not communicate, then why should one care what the neighbours think? A community need not be extremely local or small. A good example of this collective responsibility/judgment can be seen in New York, where if you had the audacity to let your dog poo on a public street, there’s a good chance you will be verbally assaulted by passersby. In contrast, Irish people so rarely pull each other up on their inappropriate behaviours that this man’s actions were unusual enough to warrant being posted on youtube;

<iframe title=”YouTube video player” width=”640″ height=”390″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/-tVKbURRlLg” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

6. “Collective Good”

When we don’t know our neighbours, we don’t really care about them. Hence we think about what’s good for us as individuals, not what’s good for us collectively. We need to collective;y think about the bigger picture and realise that our dealings with others can be a non-zero-sum game; we can all win.

7. “Power/Responsibility – You won’t take responsibility if you’re offered no power”

The core fundamental point. Governments an councils may be frustrated that their citizens won’t get up and do things for themselves, but where’s the payoff for them? Power and responsibility are two sides of the same coin and nobody will take one without the other. Of course, citizens in Ireland actually do have a lot of power, but may not understand how to wield it or even realise that they have it – see point 1.

8. “Individualism vs Collectivism”

It’s important to hit a balance with this one. It’s not all or nothing, ideally we want a society with the best of both; citizens who can stand up for themselves and take a can-do DIY attitude, but still understand their place within a collective society, can band together and look out for the collective good.

9. Autonomy

Fundamental to anyone’s satisfaction within society. Self-control and self-governence – independence. Even if only within a limited, personal sphere.

10. Wizard of Oz

Ah, the Wizard of Oz. Sort of a metaphor for the whole mess. DCC is like the Wizard; he might make you jump through hoops, but if you’re lucky, he’ll help you learn that you had the power all along. Click those ruby heels together!

11. “Improved conditions vs stability”

Just a small side note on the problems of no having control over your surroundings. If a public housing scheme needs renovation, then the tenants are temporarily or permanently re-housed elsewhere. While renovation may be necessary, the trauma of a forced move should not be underestimated. After all, it may be unscientific and subjective, but moving house is consistently listed in the top ten most stressful life events.

12. “More Power Than You Think”

Self-explanatory point here. You really do have more power than you think.

I realise that some may view these points as contentious. Feel free to retaliate in the comments section.

Tricky, Tricky

Monday, February 14th, 2011

All of our conversations with the stakeholders in the Markets area have been simmered, reduced and distilled down to a series of key ‘lacks’, some of which are shown below. We know it’s unusually negative of us to frame issues as a ‘lack’ but it helps to see the challenge clearly and get y’all riled up.

The Markets Area – Street Engagement

Monday, February 14th, 2011

So back out onto the streets we went, engaging with the users of the markets area in the pursuit of a further understanding of the area.

Myself and John headed out, with a card board table under our arm and a sign asking people

“Can you help us design a better markets area?”

We positioned ourselves in a few different places over two days, and got a huge level of interest and amount information from the people we talked to, at times we had a queue of people waiting to talk to us!

Our aim was to engage people in a conversation about the area, to find out how it is they find and use the area. This was so that we could find out more , understand the challenges people have, and what their needs are in the are, and then also to get out any ideas they have for the Markets area.

These people came from a range of backgrounds and were there for all sorts of reasons. From trading and retail, to just-passing-through and don’t actually stop for anything within the markets area.

We also had a map of the area where we could plot their common routes through the area, and they could point out where their favourite spots were.

We got SOOOOOO much information, and from this we have started distilling everything and pulling out challenges and information.

The trick to our work is to get it all up on boards around the room so that you can look at it all and then see the next move to pull out challenges and ideas.

Project question

Friday, February 11th, 2011

And they’re off! Out Louders are now galloping towards the finish line. First hurdle — the project question. The team are really sticking their necks out here. This evenings meeting was devoted to tackling this first obstacle which meant, you guessed it, asking more questions!

As a starting point, all of the work done to date was put up on the wall so each Out Louder could see their work to date; this included the 50 questions, the street engagement and the 10 international examples. Each team member was encouraged to think about the goal of each of their individual projects and challenged to come up with their project question – on the spot!

By the end of the evening, we had 4 fine project questions:

How to change people’s behaviour towards public space?
How can we invite people to interact with information?
How can we make energy consumption fun, sexy, more accessible?
How do we grow pioneers for the city?

These questions will now act as guides, helping each Out Louder to navigate the exploration process they have now embarked on. Bon voyage Out Loud! We look forward to your return.