• Seunghoon HAN

(가제) 5 Ways to build "Citizen Participatory Design" from case study

In 2021, more than half of the world's population lives in cities. The beginning of the "city" originally formed nearby rivers and fertile lands a long time ago, then it was developed for functional forms and purposes through the Industrial Revolution. The Metropolitan urban structure, which began in London in the mid-18th century, could support a much larger population, but at the same time, urban development under the Modernism Urban Planning is becoming a means of profit. The side effects not only cause unexpected urban problems such as crime and infectious diseases, but also show that the "Internationalism Style" is becoming similar under the metropolitan forms. I thought that the appearance of the city losing its place and locality might be the limit of the Modernism Urban Planning, which only functionally determined humans from an excessive deterministic perspective.

Le Corbusier’s project “La Ville Radieuse(1935)”, http://www.archiobjects.org/

Today's city has the tendency to distinguish human experiences and urban itself, and the human-centric city has become no longer an ideal utopia. Also, organic people's activities can be creative and innovative when they participate into the city. Because everyone living in the city can have the ownership mind and make the "smarter city" together. In that sense, "locality" will contain the socio-cultural habits of inhabitants, and it will be eventually possible to plan the city as the "people-centric city".



Conceptual images of Human-Centric Walkable Proposal, http://byhaans.com

There are already many ways that citizens participate in cities to create their own locality. Of course, there will be ways to elect a better-planned representative, participate in a city-sponsored workshop, and even contact the city directly. Nevertheless, these methods, along with sporadic channels of communication, are unlikely to experience the consequent reflection of the changes demanded by each of them. Realistically, it must be difficult to listen to everyone that is fully convergent. But fortunately, with the high supply rate of smartphones and Internet networks usages, the environment is already well prepared to reduce the gap between ordinary urbanites and cities. For example, direct communication through platforms, weighted opinions through collective intelligence, and universalization of the Internet of Things, ect.


As we all know, many cities are already using their platforms and open sources to promote the sharing and participation into urban data as the name of "city lab". Via this article, I'd like to mention the pros and cons and the comparison of the two cities, Paris and Seoul based on the human experience. What is the difference between two cities' participatory platforms toward citizen-centered urban planning?



The logo of the cities, Paris and Seoul

PARIS IDEE, Efficient and Simple UX of Citizen Participation, http://idee.paris.fr/

First of all, it is 'Paris Idée' (https://idee.paris.fr/), which is operated in Paris, France. The first page consisted of three main structures: a brief description of the purpose of this page, news, and citizen engagement. Among them, the areas where citizens can participate are listed based on images, and the listed agendas show the number of opinions, votes, and participants who got envolved along with the progress. Since its inception in 2015, as of March 2021, about 60 agenda items have been raised to give active feedback.



Citizen Participation on the Specific District and on the Public Space, http://idee.paris.fr/

Here are two interesting things. One is an opportunity to participate in the city by focusing on a small space(about 1km radius) under the project called 'Embellir botre quartier'. On the detailed page of each marks, you can see the opinions of other participants so far, and write the idea based on your location. It is also noticeable that the available scope varies depending on the budget of each district, for example, Paris 11 has four categories of opinion that can be expressed, while Paris 17 has the freedom to comment on more than 10 categories. The items ranged from invisible situations such as accessibility, mobility, and culture to usual inconveniences such as animals and plants, cleanliness, sports, safety, etc., and allowed related photos to be uploaded along with indications of whether they lived in the area or were just interested in the area. In addition, careful consideration was seen, such as receiving information on follow-up measures and allowing them to follow.


Another interesting point is that citizen can be directly participated in changes of the public space with their opinions such as the design of the bench, the color symbolizing Paris, and the type of flooring etc. As of March 10, 2021, more than 1,000 citizens were voting with their opinions left, with 100 days left until the deadline. What surprising me the most was that the number of participants who were known as the people having no interest even though something is happening in front of your house. Of course, I could feel the hearts of the citizens who love the city from the qualitative opinions on the page. This platform, which is made easy to choose based on images and clear places, is simple without fancy design elements, but has a great implication as it is the most effective way for citizens to express their opinions.



Smart Seoul Map, http://map.seoul.go.kr/ and Democracy Seoul, http://democracy.seoul.go.kr

Seoul, Korea, the advanced city in IT , It has been using two platforms for the citizen participation: 'Smart Seoul Map(https://map.seoul.go.kr/)' and opinion-oriented 'Democratic Seoul(http://democracy.seoul.go.kr/)' on the map base.


First, 'Smart Seoul Map' is a platform that collects not only information related to COVID-19, but also almost all information that citizens need in their daily lives, including Seoul's policies, green transportation, walk paths, flower roads, police stations, and unmanned civil service issuing machines. It is a structure where data could be added under the name of "Citizen Participation Map" among information in various categories, but honestly, it was difficult to know how to use it.


And next one, 'Democratic Seoul'. It is consist of citizens' opinions and checking the quantitative data of their response. "Citizen's Proposal," which began to be accepted since October 2017, currently has more than 8,600 opinions on it. In addition, through filtering, more than 100 people's ideas are transferred to the "public opinion" to be discussed. Unfortunately, I can't access because of not using any Korean mobile carrier which is unreasonably essential to experience Korean websites. Otherwise, other displayed suggestions seemed to be the concept of writing content and being "empathetic" for 30 days, leaving it open to public debate. Regardless of the number of "empathtic vote", it is a platform that can be answered by the governmental department in charge. At the same time, if the idea can't gather "empathy" from others, it'll be easy to be skipped as the platform that changes the importance of opinions by the amount of accumulated data that is not publicized.



Participatory Design for Regeneration of Abandoned Industrial Area(2019), http://byhaans.com/

As you probably feel, I have great interest on the participatory design which is essential to co-shape our city creatively. I previously have written my master's paper on the subject of citizen engagement design. Eventually I position myself between the government side and citizen side as an urban designer.


To sum up, the pros and cons of the two cities' citizen participatory platforms briefly, 'Paris Idée' has no proactive option to leave an opinion where or when citizens want to speak. However, with the "appropriate intervention" of local governments, it is seen as a platform ready to participate in urban change with efficient and practical effects as it is prepared to fully gather opinions from citizens within the budget and development plan framework.


On the other hand, 'Smart Seoul Map' provides easy access to public data enough to obtain the desired information in the field, and 'Democracy Seoul' is recognized as a diverse system in terms of being a window to ask for opinions based on organic individual experience. Nevertheless, it seems not really user-friendly in terms of UX view(even to me as a city designer). So it is judged that there is a big problem with the accessibility of non-professionals or older people.


If so, what are the conditions for the ideal appearance of the citizen participatory urban platform? Yes, it should be surely prepared depending on the regional/national condition, such as the infrastructure, the social perception of citizens, the policy management and so on. Nevertheless, I would like to summarize the following principles that can be a check point through two cities' examples.


1. Utilization of collective intelligence toward qualitative data rather than quantitative data

Cities are difficult to be designed user-centered, even though narrow-unit development plans. Because there are various users to "use" the city, and even more "anti-users" who are basically affected by people. As a result, the amount of data will be enormous for reasons why everyone's opinions should be considered. Ironically, cities often focus only on opinions that have received a lot of attention. However, if we narrow the conditions of the situation to listen to opinions specifically, we can utilize qualitative data well that may be overlooked .


2. '1 vs many', flexible semi-structured interventions are needed

There is a limit to hearing the all citizens' opinions in the city. Therefore, it is necessary to guide intervention step-by-step, starting with premiere questions asking to citizens. However, it should be careful to make unexpected invisible groups in order to avoid the dispersion which brings too various opinions by no sorting. For local governments, they need to give "a citizen participatory playground" to citizen with boundaries which fits the planned budget. Then, they will be able to secure "objective data".


3. Easy access and free space to fill

In this age of information, who wants to visit the City Hall to leave their opinions? For the citizen, they should be able to talk easily. Not many people will be able to afford to waste time hesitating on an already fully filled information screen. So cities should have "blank" to be ready for citizens' leaving their thoughts and contributing to the right place of the city. Participatory platforms are not just about giving information. Anyone should have easy access to share problems and to wait the changes of their issues.


4. Be the platform with Follow-up

The built infrastructure and buildings don't mean the "city" anymore. Moreover the city built with flexible city people will not be a one-off construction that will be completed next month. Therefore, citizens and cities participating in the city need to be closely connected, and customized information needs to be delivered to convey that they are participating in changes in the city. Watching how ideas go after the participation will be another reason why they love their cities.


5. Creative civic engagement and urban designers

Lastly, the urban change should be creative. It should be noted that passive citizen participation may simply avoid systematic and most reasonable judgments under limited time or information constraints. Cities should be prepared for interesting and active participatory actions that is why creative approaches are needed. I want to mention the new positioning of the city designer. As much as positioning the role of making the city beautiful, it will be possible to propose a "Citizen-Centric Approach" in a creative way to encourage citizens' participation and for the city's tomorrow.

Citizen-centered city means creative and energetic city.
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