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On the role of digital consultation tools in public space design: a case study

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>05/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Interacting with Computers
Issue number3
Volume28
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)273-292
Publication statusPublished
Early online date14/01/15
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Organizations increasingly rely on digital tools, such as social media, to harvest public opinion on a variety of issues ranging from brand reputations to political debates. One area in which digital tools have great potential is in consultation on design of public spaces. Public organizations are expected to consult with users of a public space before, during and after occupancy. Digital tools could increase the effectiveness of this consultation because: (i) they are available 24 h and do not rely on the presence of researchers and (ii) data are collected and analysed using automated methods, allowing faster decision-making. Despite these potential advantages, little is understood about how digital and non-digital consultations compare in practice. This paper reports on a live trial with a prototype digital consultation tool called VoiceYourView, which was co-designed with stakeholders and used to canvass opinion on the refurbishment of a major metropolitan library. Over 6 weeks, we used a variety of methods to collect comment from 600 users. VoiceYourView solicits opinion in unprompted form—it does not ask specific questions as in a survey—so users can say anything they like at any time. VoiceYourView carries out real-time analysis of data collected and uses public display screens to summarize comments-to-date in situ. Our research methods focused on observational studies conducted ‘in the wild’: this allowed us to capture user interactions with VoiceYourView in a realistic setting. Our findings indicate that VoiceYourView encouraged more positive feedback than non-digital methods. We also find that positive comments in general contain less actionable information than negative comments, and unprompted comments have similar actionable content to prompted comments. We suggest that this pattern in soliciting more (traditionally difficult to obtain) positive comments with VoiceYourView versus traditional survey methods implies that digital consultation tools of this type can complement existing channels.