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Bottom-up Urbanism and Participatory Design Platforms

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Nashid Nabian teaches new seminar course in design collaboration for new technologies.

The past few years have demonstrated how new technologies, i.e. online tools such as Twitter or Facebook, YouTube,  Foursquare, Flickr, Wikipedia, Google Docs, and Google Maps, etc, can allow an unprecedented number of people to collaborate. The citizens can now use new Internet platforms and new applications for their ubiquitous mobile phones to shift resources back and forth from cyberspace to “city space” in a bottom-up organization. It is therefore logical to ask: could these new technologies have an impact on city building? Could they lead to a more democratic, bottom-up approach to urbanism if proper platforms are provided for mediation of participants’ ideas?  Furthermore, Platforms for Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Cross-Reality, and Mixed-Reality offer very interesting and unprecedented potentials in terms of innovative representational techniques. These techniques allow the participants of an open-source urbanism to funnel their research and explorations into representations that are way more clear in expressing the heart of a project than when it is represented through words, images, and models.

This semester, within the pedagogical framework of a graduate seminar offered by Nashid Nabian on Bottom-up Urbanism and Participatory Design, architecture students at Northeastern engage in a real-life project focused on participatory design to develop paper prototypes of bottom-up design platforms that allow for effective mediation of differing ideas and representation of a collaboratively designed project. The paper prototypes will be developed to working prototypes of such platforms during the Spring Semester using open-source prototyping and virtual/physical computing platforms such as Processing and Arduino.