Last week we split into teams to get out on the streets and ask some questions, using the titular 10 easy ways to engage people in conversation we had developed over the previous week. On Thursday, Ciarán and I hit Ha’penny bridge with approximately 2 bajillion cyan ribbons, which we attached to the bridge.
We then asked friendly passersby to write the one great thing they knew about in the city – that not many people know – on the ribbons.
We got some amazing answers (and some slightly not so amazing – the Spire isn’t a hidden gem, people! Though to be fair, it’s difficult to come up with something on the spot). We’re busy rifling through them, even now, to pick out the juiciest ones to share with you.
Friday was a little more difficult. The weather was nothing short of heinous and stopping someone for a chat in the middle of the bridge would just have been cruel, so we moved on to other locations, including the arch at the entrance to Trinity and Mercheants Arch, directly in front of the bridge. Even in these more sheltered spots, people were eager to get out of the awful rain, so for the afternoon, I chatted to wonderful people behind the IFI, who told me all about the wonderful places, things, groups and people they knew in the city.
Extremely belated post here, but better late than never.
On October 13th, we ran our first interview process. In attendance were; Nessa Darcy, representing OWLS; Diana O’Connor, who works with youth Theatre; Mervyn, a social worker; Jenny O’Leary, an architect who volunteers with Smithfield community gardens and Tom Stewart from The Exchange in Temple Bar. An ad-hoc addition was Moira, who thought what we were doing looked interesting and so joined in the interview process.
Segment 1 – Introductions
We welcomed everyone into the space as they arrived and tried to make them feel comfortable by offering them tea, coffee and cakes. We explained a little about what our plan for the day was and what Designing Dublin was about. We then asked them to pair off and find out a little about each other. We then sat on some sofas arranged in a square (we referred to it as the squircle). Everyone introduced their conversation partner, describing what they’d discovered about them. Then everyone was given the choice to add anything else they’d like to say about themselves or make corrections, but everyone was content with how the other person had summarised them.
Section 2 – First round of discussion
Initial warm up questions revealed that two of our group lived in the city. Another two in addition stated that they visit often. We asked them what their last good experience was, or to talk about any good experience they’d had in the City in the past.
Jenny told us of an experience she had at the central bank where a group left musical instruments around so as people could try them out. Even children tried it with tambourines.
Mervyn spoke about the humour of people. He also spoke of the pull of the City when he returned home after living abroad.
Nessa told us of the twilight sun shining along the Liffey on the recent culture night. It was a golden yellow and created a sense of beauty along the river.
Diana spoke of the music she hears walking about.
Tom spoke of the blood bond in the City, he loves the sense of this.
This tended to drift into some of the negative sides of the City as well.
Tara expressed a wish to explore this later.
The conversation then moved to community but tended to leave Diana out.
John steered the conversation so as to include youth as a community.
Section 3 – Ideation and Voting
Tara handed out markers and small pads to the participants and asked them to write down one change they would make to the city if they had a magic wand and explained there would be a vote to determine which one the group thought was the best.
When this was done the participants hung them on the wall and were asked to pitch their idea and to explain why people should vote for their idea. The vote was held by placing small stickers on the voter’s favourite idea. The most popular were;
“Listening Posts” – an initiative to have quiet sections in bars, without loud music, etc., where people could have an opportunity to chat.
“Hug Dublin Monument” – an idea to either hug a pre-existing monument or to build a new one specifically to be hugged to act as a focal point for the city.
“Celebrate Without Alcohol Abuse” – an idea to hold festivals, parties, etc, without alcohol.
“Public Pride in the Environment of the City”
Section 4 – Discussion
We then placed these four post-its on the wall next to the ‘squircle’ where all the participants could see them. Tara asked if there was an identifiable thread running through the four chosen ideas.
The consensus appeared to be ‘We are not very proud of Dublin’. Some discussion took place around this;
Jenny stated that we need a focal point like the Eiffel tower in Paris.
Diane felt there was a very negative feeling toward the spire and maybe we should focus on Molly Malone.
Moira spoke about the lack of pride in Dublin amongst her friends, yet John was of the opinion that she was very proud of the City but maybe felt it lacked a focal point. She also noted that Dublin had a draw on the citizens of Ireland and that globally the move is towards the City.
Mervyn asked how can we harness the pride of Dublin. (This again made me feel there is real pride but we can’t see it)
Tom spoke about the difficulties he had with the council(DCC). In attempting to establish a venue for all-ages, alcohol-free gigs, he had been aided by one department in the council while the planning department refused to grant them a license, illustrating a severe lack of internal communication and joined-up thinking within the council.
Section 5 – Short Project
Since the theme of the day was about empowerment and pro-activity, we felt it would be appropriate to prototype or actualise one of the ideas.
Since the conversation had revolved around loving Dublin and having a pride and affection for the much-maligned city, we decided to prototype the Hug Dublin idea.
As the spire was too far away for our time constraints, we decided to ramble into Temple bar and hug the palm tree seat. Some giant chalk was sourced and we walked down Temple bar and drew an invitation on the ground for people to use the tree to give dublin a hug.
We then continued on towards the ‘money tree’ outside the Central bank. Again the chalk was used to write an invitation on the ground and we had a hug for Dublin around the tree.
Nessa noticed a post box close by and decided it looked lonely so we gave that a hug. We then walked back to the Exchange building talking and looking for some hidden gems along the way. (Which we did find). When we arrived back we collected e-mail addresses and gave out our cards.
We also explained that the photos taken of the process would be placed on flickr and on our blog.
After our intensive week of ideation and research, we discussed our findings and pitched our project ideas. Everyone in the group voted on their favourites from other people’s ideas (it was limited to the Storytelling and Spirit ideas for the purpose of this particular exercise). Based on which ideas went down particularly well with the group, we quickly prototyped a project which could be implemented in one morning. Speedy stuff!
I chose my “Positive Protest” idea. The concept was based on the idea of inverting the meaning of an everyday trope with a view to provoking thought and reflection in viewers regarding the norm of that action, through gentle subversion. In this case, the goal was to invert the usual associations that go with the idea of ‘protest’. A protest is, by definition, the act of expressing disapproval or objection to something but for my protest, I made up placards which only made positive statements. Then I stood outside the Dáil and had a little happy picket.
I was hoping that people might get annoyed at me (wannabe agent provocateur that I am), but (unfortunately?) all the passersby seemed to really enjoy it and got quite a kick out of our shenanigans. Although we only protested for an hour over lunchtime, we attracted a huge amount of attention, were photographed by a journalist and later that evening I was asked to give a radio interview on ITT Radio. A resounding success all round!
The particular reasons why I picked this specific idea were mostly down to practicality (easily made over the course of a morning) and there was no need to rely on public interaction. Anyone who wished could join in on the protest (I brought spare signs and sign-making materials for just such an eventuality), but the success of the project relied only on people’s reactions, not their participation.
Here are my ideas on the Theme of Spirit (not quite 20 yet. By this point I think my spirit was broken, ho ho!);
1. If you find a really good coffee/bar/gallery, stick a sticker outside that says so.
2. Nomadic Dublin cheerleaders
3. Rent a car park space for an hour. Put an armchair there and relax
4. Favourite book exchange machine
5. Ignore a rule you think is stupid.
6. Bring back soap boxes
7. Camp in Stephen’s Green
8. Protest on behalf of someone who wants to but is incapable.
9. Paper over ads.
10. Lamps in dark allies.
11. have people from bigger cities diss Dublin to provoke reactionary pride.
12. Have a positive protest.
Here are my ideas on the theme of Interaction;
1. Sample city sounds & mix & play them back as music.
2. Digital billboards show anonymous texted-in messages.
3. Tiny speakers whisper the history of a place.
4. Patterns on footpath are revealed when it rains.
5. Turn a caravan into a gallery. Park it wherever you want. Don’t pay rent, just parking costs.
6. Display blogs on digital signs in bus stops. Daily updates.
7. Extend the seating part of park benches to make communal sun loungers.
8. Take 100 people. give them eye-tracking glasses. What do they look at?
9. Have a spotlight follow one person in a crowd.
10. Hack digital road signs to display something glibly pacifying.
11. Sling hammocks between poles.
12. Travellator streets.
13. Swings everywhere!
14. Dig up O’Connell street. Plant a forest.
15. Colour in every street you visit on a map of Dublin.
16. Paint all the footpaths in Dublin so when it wears off you can see exactly where people walk.
17. Take a wall and cover it in post its. Each post it has an idea for something to do. Also, the post its are layered in different colours.
18. Playgrounds (sorry… “gyms”) for adults in parks.
19. Light switches on lamp posts (yes, I know, stolen from S.I.)
20. Have conversations with CCTV cameras.
21. Put a frame around your bike that makes you as big as a car.
22. Mirror the paths so when you look down you see the sky.
23. Plant fruit trees.
24. Smell trails – lead ‘em by the nose
25. Very informal version of heritage plaques. Just posters.
26. Railings of different heights play tunes when hit with a stick.
27. Climbing walls on the side of buildings.
28. Rubbish bin slot machines
29. “Billie Jean” light-up footpaths.
Here are my ideas based around the theme of Society;
1. Give guided tours of deeply mundane sites in Dublin.
2. Have singles’ nights in supermarkets, galleries, etc.
3. Give whatever you have to hand to the first person you meet.
4. Official signs have a random name on them so that one person feels very engages.
5. Give guided tours to just one person. Actually just bring them on a date.
6. Have a secret flash mob where no-one does anything unusual.
7. Stand on the street with a clipboard. Ask deeply personal questions.
8. Stalk someone different every day for a week.
9. Have a café on the LUAS.
10. Walk around in a burka.
11. Send a text to a random number.
12. Have a jumble sale. Give away everything you own.
13. Street parties!
14. Start a chat on the bus.
15. Public pot-luck lunch – random seating
16. Have a secret restaurant in your house.
17. Giant Connect 4 all over the city.
18. Giant skipping rope.
19. See-saw benches – cooperation!
20. Disco in public places.
21. Public pianos.
22. Set up lots of very niche clubs. Limit membership to 150 (Dunbar’s number) so everyone gets to know each other.
23. Have people display their rental cost in their window.
24. Bring your own lunch café. For people who bring lunch to work but don’t want to eat in the office.
25. Event guide in bus stops.
Here are my ideas based on the theme of Entrepreneurialism;
1. Tax free for 3 years for Irish start-ups (usually takes that long to start making money anyway)
2. Give real start-ups businesses as online presence projects to digital media students.
3. Bartering system/network between start-ups (e.g. new studio gives desk space to web designers in exchange for work)
4. Instead of paying taxes, invest the equivalent money in your choice of infrastructure, scheme, etc. If it raises Gross National Happiness, you receive a dividend.
5. Make it easier for people on the dole to start up companies.
6. Dragon’s Den for social entrepreneurs.
7. Free adverts on TV for start-ups (part of RTE’s public service remit)
8. Voluntary business mentors.
9. The Long Tail. Sell nothing but hundreds of exotic fizzy drinks.
10. Combine allotments with a market (can’t get more local than that).
11. Give empty shops to start-up companies rent free until a paying leaseholder is found.
12. Network for entrepreneurs & designers and Irish manufacturers and craftspeople.
13. Have a shop which sells only one item. Replace it with something completely different when it sells.
14. Grants to cover public liability insurance for one year for low-cost, low-capital start-ups.
15. Help a ten-year-old set up a REAL business, no matter how small.
16. Speed dating for investors and entrepreneurs.
17. Branding campaign/network of Irish start-ups (support local!)
18. Convince big retailers to stock local products (like Waitrose in the UK do)
19. Micro-investment website. Own 0.001% of a business for a tiny investment.
20. Open a public fab-lab so people can manufacture their products in small batches.
21. One day a week, remove the necessity for street-trader licence.
22. Roof in streets to make arcades (it rains A LOT here)
23. Co-op entrepreneurs. 5-20 people rent a shop together to sell their work. Split costs and work.