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Research Projects

Funder: ESPRC
Additional sponsorship: RS Components
Scale of funding: £99,335
Start date: November 2015
Completion: June 2017
Hacking for Situated Civic Engagement


Dr Nick Taylor (PI)

Loraine Clarke (RA)

Background and Context

Local civic participation in the UK is typically low, despite many important aspects of our day-to-day lives being determined on a local level. Although there have been some recent attempts to design novel technologies in public spaces that engage citizens, many of these interventions have operated in a top-down fashion, being designed by researchers with content sourced from authorities. This raises questions about who is capable of driving the agenda behind such technologies, but it also raises very practical concerns about how they can be sustained after research has ended.

In an ideal world, we would like communities to be able to mobilise around local issues and leverage new technologies to help address them.

Aims and Objectives

Working with the Ardler community in Dundee, this project will investigate the potential for hackathon events that bring together researchers, members of the public and technology enthusiasts to intensively imagine and prototype new technologies for civic engagement in public spaces and communities. Where hackathons have most frequently been used for developing software, we propose to appropriate this approach as a means for non-technical participants to design and co-create physical computing prototypes.

These events will serve dual purposes by 1) acting as a participatory design activity to bootstrap the development of civic engagement technologies that will be trialled and evaluated ‘in the wild’ with participants; and 2) encouraging further innovation by bringing participants together with makers and new technologies and by producing documented tools and processes that other communities can replicate and build upon.


Over the course of the project, we expect to run several hackathons in the Ardler community, resulting in the development of research prototypes that will be trialled in the community with residents. The prototypes and process will be documented online so that they can be replicated by other communities and local authorities. 


Nick Taylor