Mapping Atlanta’s North Avenue

How do we know and characterize a city, a street, a neighborhood, a community? How do we understand the issues, problems, and possibilities that mark its current and future trajectories? What are grounds for design-oriented actions that might (re)shape such trajectories?

These where the questions we aimed to answer in a project lead by Dr. Parvin at Georgia Institute of Technology. Our goal was to explore the interrelated issues of knowledge and power, data and judgement, understanding and representation, facts and values through a hands-on design research project.

 

Brainstorming session

As a initial step on the journey of mapping North Avenue, we had a brainstorming session to get going on the ideas of the group.

Two ideas that I contributed with was one of the commissioned art/murals in the city and their

geographical positions as a way of understanding the street/city and dialogues carried out on social media (hashtags, geo-tagging etc) that could unveil stories and voices of the city.

 

Patterns, lines and colors

My group consisted of myself and Human-Computer Interaction graduate student Alana Pendleton. On our first meeting after the brainstorm session, I pitched the idea of commissioned art/murals again which she too found interesting.

We divided the work which lead me going out on field to take photographs of the eastern parts of North Avenue while Alana researched the west parts as well as the commissioned art, artists etc.

We chose to put together a map for an interim presentation. We presented patterns found on each side of a line that appeared through our observations. This line had a history behind it; as a new Atlanta citizen I am made aware that there is a “untold rule” telling people to avoid walking far beyond the west parts of the line (where the railroad tracks are found).

I found this interesting as it meant that the colors schemes found on each side of the line where in sync witg other issues as well. There was a story there to be unfold. We decided to keep digging into this theme and story.

Important questions to answer

At this point, having had decided on the theme of our mapping, we had a set of questions that needed to be answered in order to make the project more clear. These where:

1) What, where, how and why mapping art?
We focused in the presence and non-presence of commissioned art. The data was gathered via Google Maps and a two hour long group exhibition, documenting colors, lack of colors, placements etc. We thought this mapping of the streets was important as they showed us stories that had a complexity to them. For instance, street art as a bought or “ordered” type of art is in itself an interesting phenomena. Add to that the geographical placement of these and the lack of them in other areas. This raises questions and shows our argument. The issue of gentrification in the city is one aspect that we saw as important to weigh in – as it is a large issue in Atlanta. This also brought with it the question of “what is the price you pay for having the commissioned art, really? If you see a piece of ordered art, does it mean you’re being pushed out of your home soon, as in the case of Ahmad Cheers and bicycles? (Lartey, 2018)

Read about Ahmad Cheers experience2) How have people characterized it and what are the assumptions held by those characterizations?One aspect of the project that we would definitely need to add to if continued, is to contact the people of the streets. There are stories told about art and North Avenue, however, the voices we want to hear are not only those who are enjoying the experience of the commissioned art. There is need for more perspective that the ones we found in articles and social media. These voices tended to be positive toward the color and art, which of course is not strange. However, in the light of other issues and through a different experience, these colors and murals can surely symbolize something more than just art.
3) What kind of accounts are there? The accounts found where geographical, historical (the line where the colors/art started to notice was matching the historical division of the city Atlanta where segregation and injustices has been seen).

Power is evident both in the color schemes of the street as well as in the way the commissioned art is praised in media. The fact that some artworks (not commissioned) where covered up and removed in the western side of the line also speaks a story of its own, where certain art and/or voices are being governed and controlled.

Technical and social accounts where found in the social media voices where not all voices where heard and the “social media tone” and imagery showed mostly positive accounts.

The accounts that where heard the loudest and found by us where partial. However, if you do know the history and issues of the city you can add one plus one and find more related voices that show variety in the stories.4) For what purpose did we do the mapping, and for whom? We chose to map North Avenue through colors, art and geographic positions in relation to a dividing line in order to show a narrative in the city. Our point is to show how the city areas are “treated” and how divisions connect to issues of power. We believed that it was a important way to portray the “voices of the city” even though some voices where being covered up, and others where part of a bigger system.

We do not mean to suggest that any of the murals or art are in any way bad for the city. We just want to discover and start a discussion about why they are positioned the way they are, and why some pieces are considered art and some not.

Form and Function

As we had the questions in focus and patterns unfolding stories, we started to think about ways in which we could present these.

In my ideation process, I came up with the idea of a flip book. This came to me as I saw the different contrasting sides of the line as almost in symphony with eachother – almost answering eachothers differences. Therefore I suggested we create a physical aswell as digital prototype for some sort of flip artifact, showing the differences of the two sides of the line no matter how many times you flip the “page”.

I created a physical prototype (a flip book), and Alana a digital which we pitched to the class and Dr. Parvin.

Exploring the digital further

The critique and dialouge session on the flip idea was a success. We where suggested to continue the exploration which lead us to think how we could portray the data found in other ways than the previous. We decided to look further into digital possibilities and created a video showing information about where the data was gathered, quotes found on the subject of commissioned art, and placement of images according to the two sides of the line.

The third and final form of the project lead us to discovering that the flip book idea was in fact the more appriciated form. Although we could show more of the thoughts behind data gathering – it turned out that the audience preferred having the agency of flipping for themselves and discovering the irony of the patterns found. Also, the more information that was given the more confused the audience became on what they where given.

We found this insight very helpful in continuing to work on the form and functions what arguments and voices we wished to show. Overall the project gave us great understandings of the mapping possibilities of North Avenue and how to portray these.

References

Lartey, J. (2018, October 23). Nowhere for people to go: Who will survive the gentrification of Atlanta? Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/oct/23/nowhere-for-people-to-go-who-will-survive-the-gentrification-of-atlanta

Project Videos

I was given the opportunity to turn old video and photography material (created by previous staff) into short social media friendly project videos for the Digital Media program at Georgia Institute of Technology. The video above is an example of one of the videos I created – this one particular about Dr. Le Dantec’s Smart Bike project.

I started by creating an intro that could be used for all project videos, so our audiences could recognize our brand and also know what type of video to expect. Further-on I tried creating a flow of information that did not overwhelm the viewer but at the same time gave enough to get the core of the project.

Feminist Alternatives to the Smart

“Technology-centered and industry-driven, dominant discourses around smart cities evoke images of a techno-utopic city: where traffic flows efficiently; where data from an ever-expanding array of sensors support “smart” decisions; or where high-resolution cameras and gunshot detection technologies ensure safety. Tidiness, efficiency, and control are not feminist goals. Surveillance is not the panacea for safety. Thus, the smart city emerges as an urgent site for feminist intervention on a practical level.”

– Dr. Nassim Parvin

We the above said in a STS Studio lead by Dr. Parvin, we are further lead to ask; Can feminist theories be the grounds for rethinking the dominant imagery of smart cities? 

Central Values, Major Players and Dominant Narratives in smart cities literature

During research on central values, major players/stakeholders and dominant narratives the following was found:

Central Values- Quality of Life (said to be measured in terms of emotional and financial well being of the citizens)

– Robust, thriving, efficient, safe, secure, fault-tolerant, making better decisions (with data available), lower cost operations, rapid

– Transporation: Shortest distance/fastest routes

– Health care: Needs to be intelligent, efficient and sustainableMajor Players and Stakeholders – Technology Providers/Private Companies

– Cities/Municipalities

– Standardization OrganizationsDominant Narratives- Making the quality of life better

– We need smart cities in order to survive urbanization

– Talks of different “attributes”, “themes”, “components” etc. within the smart world

– The city is a system of systems

Ideas around Alternative Narratives

Looking further into narratives and alternatives to these, I found that the idea of “Quality of life” and how it’s measures as well as discourses around smart cities would be interesting to look closer at. In the first instance the idea of quality of life and its measurement seemed to be connected to emotional and financial state of the citizens; it would have been interesting to see and compare research within smart cities and other areas measured by for instance communities themselves. Regarding the discourse around smart cities I thought it would be a good idea to take vocabularies from major players and create a form of counter-narrative by getting peoples (outside of the major stakeholders and players field) perception of them. One example of this is for instance the word “secure”. 

Another idea that later came to be part of my final project artifact was the idea of surveillance and security. Initially I was interested in looking more closely on surveillance but through the process my focus was set on a larger scale and systems.  

Artists and Alternative Narratives

The “Watching you watching me exhibition” from 2014 shows several artists magnifying the issue of surveillance with different angles. “Artveillance” is the term used to describe this sort of artistic expression. The following three artists from the exhibition used photography to comment on surveillance:

Paolo Cirio – Street Ghosts

Cirio uses real size photo prints of people caught on the google street view. He places the cut outs on the same spot where the person was caught by in the street photo and in this was makes a comment on surveillance society, time and placement and documentation and what I believe also is a issue of privacy.

Hasan Elahi – Thousand Little Brothers

After being stopped at the Detroit airport due to an incorrect tip, Hasan Elahi, a art professor at the University of Maryland was put on FBI’s terrorist watchlist. This made him take the counter-action of starting to monitoring himself. He send the images he tool of himself (hundreds of them each week) to the FBI for over a dozen years. For the exhibition “Watching you watching me” Elahi used 32000 picures and arranged and filtered them according to the colors of the “Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers” that is used in the United States for Emergency Broadcast System tests.

Josh Begley – Information of Note

Josh Begley used photographies and notes collected by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) Demographics Unit from their operations of monitoring muslim-owned or affiliated businesses. This was a operation to lead to nowhere. Begley reused the images in a counter-action way to show and draw attention to an important issue.

Design Intervention – (re)Shaping the Dominant Narrative

Based on the issues found within narratives, players, values and counter-narratives I found interest in looking at the issue of power, surveillance and police violence. I wanted to use the issues of biased databases and monitoring and “flip the gaze”. Therefore the final artifact that was suggested as a design intervention and suggestion to reshaping the narrative was a database where users could follow cases of police brutality with magnification on the system as a whole. 

The suggested database would shed light on:

– Citizen journalism/documentation of police violence
– Body camera / lack of imagery from body cameras
– All in all documentation from events and how these effect/do not effect the final court system decisions
– Information and visualization on issues concerning police violence.


Image of database sketch.

The idea of the database is to open up a dialoge and shed light on issues of monitoring and bias, but also on a system that has issues within itself and documentation from several angles. This would wake an interesting dialoge about what the role of the smartphone, police body cam and street surveillance has in the larger system and more importantly challenge the idea of surveillance as a form of security by itself, and the issue of power dynamics and who watches whom. 

After having gone through group critique it also became more clear that an artifact of this sort would be useful as a probe to draw attention to the issues mentioned and envoke dialoge.

7av7.se

A collaborative art project that was started by me and four of my friends as a channel for artists to post their creative work and ideas. The goal of the project is to inspire through our differences. We want the participants to create freely without pressumed methods or techniques or demands on specific achievments.

Each week, we have a theme that seven artists get to interpret. There are six set artists and one guest artist. The guest artist is a new person every week. Each artist publishes his/her/their work on a set day, meaning that there is one interpretation available on each day of the week.

Blog address: www.7av7.se

Master Thesis: Municipal Websites and Participatory Design

My thesis for the Swedish master’s programme “Media and Communication Studies: Culture, Collaborative Media and Creative Industries”. The paper investigates current practices and attitudes of Swedish municipalities toward values and practices of participation and Participatory Design (PD). Through the study I hoped to see if values and practices found within PD where used and/or appreciated when reaching for overarching goals towards external municipal website audiences.

Four angles was used to structure results in relation to my research questions; (1) audiences, (2) definitions and fields, (3) value and (4) tools, techniques and mindset.

Municipal Websites and Participatory Design — a study on Swedish municipalities’ external websites

Falun Library, Creativity and Refugees

There are various reasons to why a person chooses to move to Sweden. Sadly, one of these reasons is the involuntary displacement due to war and persecution in one’s own country. 2015 was the year that to many will be remembered as the year of the refugee crisis in Europe. As a result of continued strained humanitarian situation and civil war, the number of people fleeing their home increased from being 280,000 in 2014 to more than one million in 2015.

The refugee flow to Sweden has had complex consequences to the community setting. One of these consequences has been the pressure on local resources. In order to handle the crisis situation and offer individuals a humanitarian welcoming to their new setting, recourses, laws and other societal structures had to be adjusted or looked over.

One societal institution that has great power in helping refugees and give them tools for a good start in Sweden is the public library. One of the library’s goals is to be a natural meeting spot (the city’s “living room”) where people go for experiences, information and knowledge. It also strives for being a contributing factor in the integration process of society. The library’s services are to be available for everybody and factors such as age, disability, language, economy etc. are not allowed to be obstacles.

In my paper, I looked at the city of Falun, a medium-sized city in Sweden, and its head library. Through my observations, I wanted to determine what the library’s role was in receiving new citizens (refugees), if they had modified any of their creative work, space and processes after the refugee crisis of 2015 and ultimately offer advice on new ways in which they could use their resources in reaching this target group and their stated missions.

Falun Library’s Creative Work toward Refugees after the Refugee Crisis in 2015

www.falun.se

Internetworld top 100 logotype.In march 2017 www.falun.se was awarded by Internetworld for being amongst Sweden’s top 100 websites. Our placing was amongst the top five municipal websites.

 

My responsibilities

Below is a list of my responsibilities as the editor in chief of www.falun.se.

  • Editorial responsibility for the website; responsible for overall impression, design and content files, texts, images (mobile and desktop).
  • Responsible to make sure that regulatory documents related to communication, content, publishing, language and graphic design where followed.
  • Evaluating news and intergration with other communications channels.
  • Troubleshooting and checking website quality (broken links, alt-texts, search words and SEO etc.)
  • Templates and design elements.
  • Responsible for routines of processes, such as the creation of content, adding images and forms.
  • Creating and managing a yearly editorial calendar followed by the web organisation.
  • Making sure that the municipal image- and communicationpolicy are followed.
  • Responsibility for digital files, images and their archive in the web content manager.
  • Coordinate and support each subject editor in their editorial work.
  • Continual contact with the municipal contact-center regarding user behaviour.

Municipal Intranet – Pilot Study

In 2014, I was part of a pilot study team for Falun municipality’s intranet. I created wire frames for existing intranet (as a quickfix for existing problems) and investigated in how it could be improved to achieve increased usability and enhance the possibility of internal dialouge and management communication.

The study led to the decision of replacing the intranet, a project that will take place in 2017 and I am part of the project team.

Pilot Study för Falun Municipality’s Intranet (Swedish)
Wireframe

Municipal Web – Pilot Study

A study made by me and a small project group, on behalf of the municipal management, in order to investigate how our external website (www.falun.se) could be improved to achieve increased usability, improve transparency and strengthen the democratic accountability and to improve the civil dialogue. The commission was also to develop proposals for a new web organization, clarify responsibilities and roles within the web organization and give recommendations to the following web project.

My main area of investigation in the report was structure, navigation, design and graphic profile where I ensured that information and services were to be designed in an accessible way, based on an international standard for accessibility, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 ).

I analyzed the websites usability and accessability and offered recommendations on future improvements.

The report, that was followed by a web project, resulted in a new website and web organization in january 2014. We also replaced our Web Content Manager, based on our system requirements.

Full report: Pilot study for municipal web (Swedish)

Abstract book

Between 7-9 September 2011 a unique blend of 400 researchers and practitioners gathered in the People’s House in Falun to lecture , discuss and exchange experiences . All to reduce deaths and injuries on the roads , homes and schools, but also in workplaces and other everyday environments. Dalarna County Council’s health was there along with participants from over 40 countries, including Taiwan, Iran, Norway, Finland , Japan, China , USA, Korea and Mexico.

I designed the Abstract book together with Tindra Design.

Bachelor Thesis: Speaking through ones T-shirt

Scholars throughout time have devoted their time to research topics such as design and apparels. Each of the topics importance and function has been discussed thoroughly. When I wrote this paper in 2007, I wanted to merge these areas of research in order to look at a new cultural trend; communication through t-shirt design.

Bachelor Thesis – Communication Design: Speaking through ones T-shirt

T-shirt made by Allan Faustino