Digital technologies for participatory citizenship

Digital Civics is a long-term research initiative led by Open Lab, Newcastle University that is exploring how digital technologies can empower citizens and communities. Open Lab is a world-leading research centre into human-computer interaction and social and ubiquitous computing, and includes academics from the fields of computer science, design, engineering and social and health sciences.

Newcastle at the forefront of planning

A report by Future Cities Catapult has named Newcastle as one of the leading cities in the UK for digital planning and engagement.

The Future Cities Catapult’s Future of Planning project aims to explore how digital technologies can influence and improve planning practices and making the planning process more transparent and collaborative.

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Why make a hackathon competitive?

I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on my experiences observing, participating in, and organizing hackathons and hackathon-like events while writing an article for Interactions (forthcoming) with colleagues from Indiana University. In the article, we focused on an event that we organised with members of a local hackerspace. Our goal as researchers was to test out the adoptability of the prompt we designed,

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Self Harmony: rethinking hackathons

Though there is an increasing amount of work on mental health within HCI, there is little work reported on digital technologies specifically for those affected by self-harm. A literature search showed that most existing work within the context of self-harm had been conducted within psychiatry and psychology, and I began to imagine the ways in which technologies could help those affected by self-harm: not just those who engage in the practice,

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Doing Double Dabble: organiser reflections

Feminist theory and practice came together at what could be the first of many Double Dabble events. Double Dabble: A Feminist Day of Making was organised by, a group of intersectional feminists at Open Lab who seek to explore and raise awareness of feminist issues in HCI. Angelika and Janis, two of the main organisers of the event, reflected on how things went.

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Designing the conference

Local businesses and innovation experts are being invited to help shape content for this year’s VentureFest North East, using EventMovement. The free online platform, developed by digital civics researchers at Newcastle University, allows communities to propose, design and plan events, and is now being used to put delegates in control of a new People’s Choice part of the VentureFest North East programme.

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Working towards a Blue House roundabout solution

Following Newcastle City Council’s decision in August to rethink their plans for the Blue House roundabout, a working group was set up with representatives from the Council and local community groups. Open Lab has helped to facilitate this process, including documenting the consultation process on the working group’s website.

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Local democracy in action: a reflection on the #notwestminster conference

On 10 and 11 February, we attended the #notwestminster conference in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. This event brought together tens of people from local authorities, universities and tech startups to attend a series of design experiments and workshops centred around strengthening local democracy – however far we happen to be from London.

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Debate the future of Newcastle's parks

Newcastle’s parks and allotments are facing big changes, but local people are being brought into the discussion.

Open Lab is working with Newcastle City Council to hold workshops and online discussions that include residents, allotment holders, the business community, local charitable groups, friends of parks and other interested parties.

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Creating technologies for people with dementia

850,000 people in the UK are currently living with dementia, but new technologies can offer ways to help them and their families. With Create4Dementia, an online competition delivered by digital civics researchers, these technologies could be designed by the local community.

As well as proposing ideas for technologies to help enrich the lives of people with dementia, members of the local community will be able to vote on and discuss each other’s ideas and shape each stage of the design process.

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Supporting women who choose to breastfeed in public

Many new mothers stop breastfeeding early because they fear how people will react in public.

FeedFinder is a free mobile app that aims to support breastfeeding women by helping them find breastfeeding-friendly places in their community. Women can use FeedFinder to search for and view places on the map where other women have previously breastfed, and contribute their own experiences of a new or existing venue.

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Welcome to Open Lab: Athens

Open Lab has a longstanding interest in the connections between technology and political activism and engaging local communities in decisions that affect them. In the summer of 2016 this research expanded to Greece, with the opening of Open Lab: Athens.

The financial crisis has led to huge changes to Greek society,

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Personal data: trust, power and innovation

Digital technology has opened up countless opportunities for collecting, sharing and using data: “a fundamental paradigm shift in our world,” according to Digital Catapult’s Lucie Burgess.
“What we’re seeing now is new models of companies being able to engage with users through their personal data in a way that builds trust,” she explained.

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App Movement: a platform for the community commissioning of mobile applications

App Movement is an online platform that enables communities to propose and promote ideas for mobile applications in response to community needs, collaboratively design the concept through a series of customisable features, and automate the development and deployment of a customised app.

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Digital Pride

Some spray paint, transfer tattoos and tiny computers can make a fun tool to challenge the way we think about sexuality identity. Angelika and Matt, two Digital Civics doctoral researchers, did just this with their Digital Pride project, which they put into action at Newcastle Pride

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Technology at the edge

Professor, researcher, author. And organiser of the Tiree Tech Wave, bringing technological experimentation to a remote Scottish island. Alan Dix is among the most influential figures within human-computer interaction, and his career is as varied as it is distinguished. He is an author of one of the key HCI textbooks and has extensive experience of teaching, currently at the University of Birmingham.

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Getting young people thinking active

For nearly a decade primary school children in the North East have learned about fitness and nutrition through Newcastle United Foundation’s Match Fit programme. Now, a digital civics project aims to enhance this six-week programme by using digital technologies to further increase the fitness and health awareness of primary school children.

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