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Situating Engagement: Ubiquitous Infrastructures for In-Situ Civic Engagement

Research output: Book/anthology/dissertation/reportPh.D. thesis


  • phd2013

    Final published version, 9.96 MB, PDF document

  • Matthias Korn, Denmark

Our mobile phone is with us at all times. Habitually, we pick it up in the morning and carry it around on our daily routes and routines. Increasingly, we use it to locate ourselves and the things and people around us. With ubiquitous computing, technology is moving into the very fabric of our everyday lives and the spaces we inhabit. Where email and the telephone have broken down barriers of geography, the relationship of technology with physical locations in people’s lives strengthens. From Occupy to the London riots and the Arab Spring, situated technologies offer new ways through which we can participate in the world. We experience a new participatory culture on the go.

These developments offer new possibilities for civic engagement in participatory land use planning: to engage people where they are. This dissertation coins the notion of situated engagement, which seeks to ’situate’ civic engagement activities in those spatial contexts that are at stake in land use planning. This approach enables engagement activities to be better integrated with people’s everyday lived experiences through connecting to the places that are personally meaningful and relevant to them.

A ’research through design’ approach is applied across four participatory design experiments to explore how to design for situated engagement in land use planning. A notion of a situated engagement infrastructure made up of mobile, stationary, ubiquitous, and remote systems frames the design experiments suggesting a plethora of different means for citizens to engage with planning issues within a plethora of different contexts and situations.

The dissertation makes contributions of two kinds. Conceptually, it offers a richer understanding of what is implicated in the design of technologies for situated engagement. First, situationally appropriate forms of engagement that align well with citizens’ own conceptions are necessary in order to provide relevance and meaning of issues in the moment. Second, situated engagement requires a technological setup which facilitates the co-location of people, place, and the planning issue at stake. Third, the mediating technologies need to intertwine physical and digital realms through a strong coupling with the particular place concerned. Methodologically, I argue for situated methods that can capture practices involving mobile behavior and allow for exploration of the field with sophisticated prototypes in the wild. It proposes walkshops as a technique for collaborative exploration within actual outdoor environments and the use of field trials as part of an iterative design process in order to look ahead toward use practices that are still in the making.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherDatalogisk Institut, Aahus Universitet
Number of pages198
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Superviser: Susanne Bødker

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