TRADERS – ‘Training art and design researchers in participation for public space’ is a project that focuses on developing and testing a methodological framework on which art and design (A&D) researchers can rely when working on public space projects in participatory ways. Read more

Six complementary research approaches/methods:
Intervention
Play
Multiple performative mappings
Data-mining
Modelling in dialogue
Meta-framework

Children of Dampoort in dialogue about their rights for child friendly space in the city

Office for Public Play invited a group of children, aged 9-12 year, to explore, imagine and rethink their neighbourhood’s public space in relation to child culture and child friendliness. Dampoort is neighbourhood in Ghent in full transition. An urban renewal project was drawn up to revive the neighbourhood into one with more qualitative living: better housing, sustainable mobility, encouraging entrepreneurship and a greener, more climate-neutral neighbourhood. Citizens were invited to participate in this process, initiated by the city of Ghent.

Office for Public Play had a particular interested in children’s position in this context. How do local children experience their current neighbourhood? How they envision change? How to actively involve a group of local children related discourses that may contribute to processes of decision-making? Within the Pace-setters & Front-runners project, Office for Public Play initiated a series of playful dialogues: within the multicultural child group and between the children and other actors involved, such as their parents and local policy makers.

The concept of desire lines or ‘slow paths’ was used to explore informal ways of city planning (how do children playfully appropriate and envision public spaces) and rethink child friendly places in the city (slow paths being paths that are not accessible for cars).

In a first stage, the children explored and re-explored their neighbourhood through a series of play activities and ‘re-looking’ (Herrekijkers) exercises. This generated the ‘Front-runners Map’ with criteria for child friendly space in the city. In a second phase the children focussed on narrating imaginary places. Their stories, together with stories about child friendly places written by parents and policy makers, were collected in the ‘Invisible Paths’ book. These stories were used as material to initiate dialogue with Schepen Decruynaere, local policy maker for Education and Youth. The playful dialogue was triggered by a chair dance and shaped through role-play. Another dialogue was shaped with Schepen Watteeuw, local policy maker for Mobility, where the children negotiated their list of rights they want to acquire for child friendly space in the city.

Dialogue-shapers is part of the Pace-setters & Front-runners project by Trage Wegen VZW and zZmogh and a design researcher ‘Office for Public Play’. Dialogue-shapers was hosted at Pastory.
More information: www.officeforpublicplay.org and www.gangmakersenkoplopers.be


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Proposal & Call for submissions to a collection of essays to put forward the notion of [urban interfaces] as the lens through which to explore how situated media, art, and performances constitute and construct contemporary urban public spaces. TRADERS researcher Naomi Bueno de Mesquita (Design Academy Eindhoven) has formed part of the core team of [urban interfaces] – a platform for a critical investigation of urban interfaces for creative and participatory engagement at the crossing of academic research and cultural practices – since September 2014 and will contribute to this essay with a paper for the track Urban Navigation. Important deadline for this call: July 1st 2016

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On the 22nd of April 2016 TRADERS researcher Naomi Bueno de Mesquita organised a workshop together with Wouter Meys, Maarten Groen and Nazli Cila from Citizen Data Lab at University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam. Jelle Vrieswijk (a communication multimedia design student) assisted in the graphic communication and documentation.

In the workshop Creating Grassroots initiative blueprints by mapping the city, the tools Buurtinzicht and the web app Measuring Java were explored. Both tools were specifically designed for this day. With the collected data and other data-sets a story was built around a specific issue in a co-creation mapping session. The aim of the day was to engage with the following questions:

  • How participatory tools can be used/useful to make a blueprint of a specific issue on neighbourhood scale.
  • How to mine and map data, using a variety of data-sets (open data, social media data and collected data) as to build a story around an issue.
  • How the created blueprints can be used to support grassroots initiatives.

The workshop formed part of the conference Design & The City (Amsterdam). Design & The City explores citizens-centred design approaches for the smart city. The central theme is the role of design(ers) to create opportunities and practices for citizens, (social) entrepeneurs and policy makers towards more liveable, sustainable and sociable urban futures. The workshop took place on the last day of the conference on the FabCity Campus on Java Island in Amsterdam. FabCity is a temporary and freely accessible campus open between 1 April until 26 June 2016 at the head of Amsterdam’s Java Island in the city’s Eastern Harbour District. Conceived as a green, self-sustaining city, FabCity comprises of approximately 50 innovative pavilions, installations and prototypes. Students, professionals, artists and creatives are developing the site into a sustainable urban area, where they work, create, explore and present their solutions for current urban issues. The participants come from various educational backgrounds, including art and technology academics, universities and vocational colleges.

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The Research Show at A-Venue 6 April –23 April 2016

The Research Show presents work in progress from art and design researchers who are currently pursuing doctoral studies at HDK and Valand Academy, both artistic faculties of the University of Gothenburg. The exhibition features works by André Alves, Eva la Cour, Kerstin Hamilton, Annelies Vaneycken (Office for Public Play ), Arne Kjell Vikhagen, and Eva Weinmayr. The exhibition has been curated by Cora Hillebrand, Ram Krishna Ranjan, and Mick Wilson.

The lunchtime talk on April 20th, a conversation between Arne Kjell Vikhagen and Annelies Vaneycken, explores current research ideas of “play” and “game” in art and design practices and research.

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For the Design & The City Conference, Citizen Data Lab (HvA) in collaboration with TRADERS (researcher Naomi Bueno de Mesquita) will host the workshop Creating Grassroots Initiative Blueprints by Mapping The City. You are invited to participate in this workshop which will take place on April 22nd 2016 from 10 a.m – 5 p.m at TBA in Amsterdam.

In the workshop,  the tool Measuring Amsterdam will be explored and a co-creation session will be held in which the collectively retrieved datasets will be explored as a valuable approach to set up/enable grassroots initiatives on a neighbourhood scale. The blueprints contain elements that are needed for locals to start an own grassroots initiative or they can be used to kickstart an already existing initiative. The blueprint can help recognise stakeholders involved and it can function as a basis to create a story (working with a narrative around a specific issue is important when striving for participation in setting up grassroots initiatives). We will discuss the kinds of data-sets that the tool produce and what other datasets are interesting to implement to improve the story. Last but not least, we will discuss other similar initiatives.

You can register for this workshop by going to the following link.
Registration fee is 25 E.

Looking forward to seeing you on April 22nd!

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TRADERStalk‬ is a web-platform for the (open) discussion of practices on participatory art & design and public space (contexts). The platform is open for contributions from anyone, though each submission is reviewed by the members of TRADERS. Contributions are immediately elegible for taking part in different TRADERS exhibitions and publication platforms.

As part of the 2016 Work-in-Progress Show of the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art, TRADERS researcher Saba Golchehr curated a small exhibition with a selected number of contributions to the platform.

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These are the complete lectures of the previous TRADERS Autumn School 2015. The lectures are organized in the same order as they took place in Genk, from the 10th to the 12th of November 2015.

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On the 13th of January 2016 the event Mapping the world : design and conflicts was setup by Design Debates. Four mapping experts (artist Jan Rothuizen,  designer Joost Grootens, researcher Leeke Reinders and design researcher Naomi Bueno de Mesquita) presented their work/ research. The presentations were followed by a debate in which the different approaches of/takes on maps and mapping were discussed in a world that is facing conflicts. Questions were raised such as: What is the role of maps and the activity of mapping in a world that is more and more dealing with conflicts? How can maps help us to get a better understanding? How do mapping practices deal with questions of power? Is mapping itself a political activity?

The programme of the evening can be viewed here: http://www.designdebates.nl/

“Maps have become an increasingly active and explicit part of everyday life, particularly in a world where the possibilities for (re)production of graphic images have multiplied. Reality can be viewed in different ways, it just depends on whose eye, from which viewpoint, and the interests underlying their observations and actions. (Leeke Reinders).

What is the role of maps and the activity of mapping in a world that is more and more dealing with conflicts? How can maps help us to get a better understanding and is mapping in itself a political activity? Furthermore, technological developments also make it more difficult to achieve a single and dominant viewpoint. Information travels fast and there are plenty of advanced techniques available for the creation and manipulation of maps. Maps themselves have also become more flexible. They’re in our minds, in the car, on our mobile phone. What is the role of maps and mapping in a world that is facing conflicts?”

The moderator of the evening was David Hamers (lecturer at Design Academy Eindhoven and supervisors in the TRADERS programme).

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The Recipes for unControl project explores when and how young adults perceive borders and other forms of control in today’s public space. A group of 16 years old explored this issue through printing subjective narratives and recipes, prescribing how to deal with these borders in a playful way. All recipes will contribute to a pocket book, offering citizens new ways to explore public space. Konsthall’s Tryckverkstaden served as a working space for the youngsters to meet and exchange stories by experimenting with various printing techniques. The project was presented at Göteborgs Konsthall, December 2015 – January 2016

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A project by the Office for Public Play / TRADERS with 10 grade students from ISGR and master students of Child Culture Design from HDK, in collaboration with Tryckverkstaden, Göteborgs Konsthall and Kulturförvaltningen Göteborg. With Tanay Dashottar, Ameya Deshpande, Leonora Ernst, Kaoru Fesenko, James Harte, Tova Persson, Stella Postleb, Kairi Pullerits, Paul Schindler, Oscar Teiffel, Max Zayashnikov.

Borders and control in public space — map, stories and Recipes for UnControl
The map enumerates and categorises what borders and other forms of control young adults encounter in todays public space. The series of subjective stories, presented in the collective print, give a deeper insight to the objective data of the map. In the second collective print, called “Recipes for UnControl”, the young adults propose recipes that generate new perspectives on how to deal with these forms of control experienced in public space. Rather than seeing control as borders that hinders them, the recipes offer ludic action and counter perspectives.

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Bodies of Control, Gestures of Control and UnControl
How do we feel when we encounter borders, controlling us in public space? It is not always easy to talk about feelings and emotions. Sometimes our body reacts in a direct way and expresses more easily what we can’t say with words. The publications “Bodies of Control”, “Gestures of Control” and “Gestures of UnControl” collect expressions made by the body. In order to communicate about specific forms of control in a more direct way, the young adults developed a “gesture language” in which the hand plays an important role in warning for control or suggesting of how to counter this control, to uncontrol.

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Recipes for UnControl, towards a pocket book
Starting from the collection of borders that young adults encounter in public space, presented in the map and the stories, we invited the visitors of the exhibition to make their own recipes. Using a typewriter, or other techniques offered in Tryckverkstaden, a new collection of recipes was made for the pocket book “Recipes for UnControl.”

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How to explore a site by opening up senses for unpredictable exploration?

The Office for Public Play was invited by “De Andere Markt” to contribute to the discussion on how to reconfigure work in Genk, starting from the “Kolenspoor” as a case study. This was part of the TRADERS Autumn School, November 10-13 2015. A collective of eight designers, artist, researchers and peers – with a background in play and games as approach for working on participatory art and design projects in/on public space – was formed for exploring this question during a working table at the Autumn School.
Working table with Janneke Absil, Oswald Devisch, Ruth Matheus Berr, Selina Schepers, Maxime Vancoillie, Andy Vandevyvere, Winglam Kwok and Annelies Vaneycken.

Work/labour is an essential part of the origin and history of the city of Genk. After closing the mines at the end of the 80s, the Ford succeeded being the main employer for many Genkenaars until this automobile manufacturer had to close its doors in 2014 as well. Since then, Genk and its broader region are left with huge rates of unemployment.

The Kolenspoor is a former rail track connecting different mine sites in Genk and its surroundings. Since the closure of the mines, most of the track is left unused. Only a small part of the Kolenspoor is still official in use to transport goods from/to an adjacent industry zone. Locals use some parts of the Kolenspoor informally, e.g. to extend their gardens for cultivating vegetables, keeping domestic animals or dumping waste. Other places are abandoned and overgrown by nature.

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The aim of the working table was not to come up with new design solutions on how to re-use the Kolenspoor but to explore how the track, as public place, is currently used and how it can be re-imagined by creating and sharing stories. The track allows us to explore its relation as public meeting place and place for informal work. The working table generated a play model that aims to open up senses for unpredictable explorations

The play model exists out of a set of simple instructions and work principles.
Instructions
1. make two groups at a chosen place of departure; 2. walk away from each other in opposite directions; 3. make a trail by leaving traces; 4. return in one hour to the place of departure; 5. find the traces and trail of the other group; and 6. retrace the found trail 7. share stories and discussion.
Principles
1. when making traces we advice to work with “lost and found” material and with respect of the environment 2. when exploring use various ways of documenting your exploration, like e.g. notes, sketches, letters, photos, video, maps, …

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Despite of its simple rules, the play generated different paths and collections of objects, users and stories. The making and seeking of traces triggered a broad spectrum of senses opening up speculation and imagination. Curiosity and a soft sense of competition drove the exploration of the site in various directions. The performativity of writing and reading the traces on sight happened in conjunction with ‘talking’ as means to generate a collective experience that is partly documented and, later on, is expressed, shared and passed on through stories. The play and making of the stories were not seen as goal but inherent to the process of the exploration. The informal mode of walking and collective making of traces invites the players to express very subjective and possible opposing ideas and reactions. The play helps the players to create stories, real and fictional, and therefore helps them to re-imagine multiple interpretation of the track/site. In addition to sharing stories and reimagining the site, the play contributes to a collective learning process that makes the players look differently at the track and may make them act differently during the further process of the project.

In contrast to other proposals, this model demands the player to make traces instead of only finding traces. In addition, this model does not aim to classify the found traces in relation to a predefined goal, defined by the designer(s), but create a collection of multiple storylines, real and fictive, and multiple possibilities, realistic or utopian that represents the diversity and subjectivity of the individual participants.
Another element that distinguishes this play from other ways for site exploration is the second phase in which a group searches for the trail(s) and traces made by the other group. Mystery arises when one tries to find out if a certain signal should or could be interpreted as a trace left by the other group, a trace left by previous visitors or as a non-trace. Mystery acts here as play signal for entering imaginary worlds. Furthermore, it is unclear if the trace that was intentionally left was meant as marking or as message. “Is this a trace of a meeting, of a path, of a ritual, of an event, … or is this just my imagination?” The ambiguity of the traces allows multiple interpretations and new possibilities and thus opens up the participatory process for diversity and subjectivity of the individual participants.
In comparison to other forms of exploration, this model does not only pass on its stories through forms of documentation like e.g. maps, photos, videos, but the stories are passed on as well, directly or indirectly, through the traces themselves. This means an ongoing exploration of the traces and site. In this way, the temporary or more fixed traces might also trigger and involve other publics than the actual players after the exploration play has finished.

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Because of its simple rules, the model can be transferred and adjusted to explore different types of spaces. The model is available as PDF; download, print recto verso on A4 and fold using the instructions.

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