Discussions in Space

Award-winning community engagement on urban screens with SMS and Twitter

Discussions in Space offers an interactive, fast-paced social media channel for local governments, organisations and institutions to engage with local residents and visitors in public spaces. Utilising large public screens in public spaces, passers-by can use Discussions in Space to directly interact with the screen via their mobile phones. This facilitates a public discussion and opinion forum. The concise and fast-paced nature of the system is aimed to be particularly effective at engaging younger demographics, who may not provide their feedback through more traditional means.

Discussions in Space can be adapted to a variety of public spaces, including city squares, shopping malls, train or bus stations, and museums. Initially, the client seeks direct feedback on a particular topic, issue or question, which is advertised on the screen. Passers-by are then able to submit their opinion directly to the publicly visible screen via SMS, twitter or the Discussions in Space web interface, which is tailored for mobile access. A few seconds after texting, these short messages appear on the screen, animated for other people to read.

The real-time aspect is important as it provides instant gratification and confirmation of “being heard.” The public visibility of other residents’ or visitors’ opinions and suggestions allows for collective expression and public discourse amongst each other. Depending on the selection of the topic, the system can also be appropriated for public, electronic brainstorming, where the promotion of individual ideas inspires others to submit new ideas. The system’s embedded real-time editing and moderation capabilities ensure that the content reflects the norms and values of the client.

It is extremely rare that such research projects are trialed in the real world. It is a testament to the system’s proof of concept that it was successfully run in many different urban and public settings, such as Federation Square, the Museum of Brisbane, The Edge at the State Library of Queensland, the Kelvin Grove Urban Village, as well as several events and conferences. It comes as no surprise then, that Discussions in Space was recognised as both the 2012 iAwards Queensland and National Merit Recipient in the Research & Development category.

If you would like to know more about Discussions in Space, please visit www.urbaninformatics.net/dis.


Dr Ronald Schroeter
Prof. Marcus Foth