Digital technologies are often not affordable by the poor or usable by older people and people with disabilities. This can lead to these groups being excluded from the digital and social world, as they cannot benefit from the connections to other people and businesses enabled by technology.
The Bespoke project aimed to tackle this problem at a neighbourhood level, helping local people to tell their own social exclusion stories and using these stories to inspire simple bespoke design solutions, created with and for the excluded people. This collaboration between emotive, technological and functional design with hyper-local journalism had never been tried before.
We worked with deprived communities in the Preston area and their local news media, training residents to identify and report needs through a monthly community newspaper. Based on discussions around the content generated by journalists, designers created bespoke digital objects connecting people to each other and to existing content and services on the web. Our aim was to make these as simple as possible, using familiar objects and behaviours from the real world. The resulting artefacts and solutions were then placed back into the community for feedback in the ongoing community news system.
The technologies we developed included:
• Viewpoint: a voting device that posed weekly questions to the community, opening a new channel of communication between residents and local organisations.
• Family Hedge/ Talking Memory Box: a device for recording memories and associating them with personal objects.
• Wayfinder: electronic ‘signposts’ that moved to point towards nearby events as requested by residents.
• Digital Buskers: recreating two local musicians as digital ‘buskers’ who played music in response to text messages.
• Community Capture Television (CCTV): a camera device for recording and immediately upload footage to the Internet.
• Blogging Pad: allowed residents to leave audio comments on articles in the Bespoke newspaper.
For more information see the Bespoke project website.
Press: Gift of the gadgets to get residents talking, Lancashire Evening Post, 11 August 2011
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Date: April 2009 – June 2011
Funding: EPSRC Digital Economy Programme £164,527
Collaborators: Jayne Wallace, (Northumbria University), David Frohlich (Surrey University), Alicia Blum-Ross (Surrey University), Paul Egglestone, John Mills (UCLan), Jon Rogers, Mike Shorter (University of Dundee), Justin Marhsall (University College Falmouth)