CiS 2015 The Engaged City

New technologies and techniques are turning cities into massive invitations for civic participation. Urban prototyping, the maker movement, and activation methods that engage students, urbanites, artists and coders are a hallmark of the new urbanism— and for hope in our cities. Combined with what we are learning about the engagement of everyday Americans there is a great opportunity to drive greater participation.

There is a great deal of activity that’s happening in urban environments across the country, often driven by forces such as new urbanism: millennial’s prefer to live in cities over suburbs. Correspondingly, there’s a burgeoning movement towards education that emphasizes coding or maker skills over traditional liberal arts education. We see making in more and more places: schools, libraries, maker-spaces, museums, etc. Many have come to see these institutions-of-making as part of an ecosystem. New models for small scale and distributed manufacturing are emerging; large enterprise is responding to influence of the maker entrepreneur. Oakland and Brooklyn have remarkable maker and arts cultures, but places like Pittsburgh and Downtown Las Vegas and many smaller cities seem to have a real hunger and aptitude for a maker economy to emerge. This panel will discuss what it takes to foster and sustain a Maker City.

Among those who are interested in improving democracy in the United States, a question that often comes up is how to engage the unengaged. To support the broader ecosystem of individuals and institutions working hard to make our civic life more inclusive and meaningful, we sought to contribute to these efforts by undertaking needed and detailed user research about the attitudes and behaviors of everyday Americans. In specific, this talk discusses findings from a joint qualitative and quantitative user study for understanding “Interested Bystanders,” or that portion of the population that is paying attention to the world around them, but not regularly voicing their opinions or taking action.