Civic technologies is the main basis of our project. Today, went into detail about what civic technologies implies, how certain aspects of design could create trust between communities and government, and examples of installations and projects designed for impact and awareness.

Civic technologies, what is it? Communal, community, society, people you live with, political, can be much wider. Civic technologies covers a huge variety spanning over society, politics and other social mechanisms.

Keir referred ‘Hyper Normalisation – Curtis, BBC’ as a fantastic watch, highly relevant to our project.

We discussed Ethan Zuckerman’s vidoe/paper and Abbey mentioned the ‘bubble’ concept i.e: Children are educated in a system that very much represents a bubble, they are not presented or taught issues of the real world. As a result, children have no interest or awareness of global issues concerning human rights when they leave school. It is almost an ‘ignorance is bliss’ situation. We should introduce awareness at an early age, in order to stimulate action and intervention. This could be a strong basis for our project in working alongside Amnesty.

In the lecture, we proceeded to discuss how we trust politicians – or how can we? Several scenarios are presented, including blind mistrust where one trusts/mistrusts all politicians but fails back it why.

Zuckerman describes:

  • Efficacy within mistrusted systems
  • Monitorial citizenship; Promise Tracker – a survey system, take a photo and geolocate i.e. user who would like to improve their local bike lane, uploads a photo of the bike lane to a beautiful dashboard with lovely statistics that allow you to look at what’s going on. Monitoring is a way of holding people accountable.
  • Building decentralised alternatives – decentralised (crypto currencies, anarchy – idea that you leave it to the individual to have responsibility, small areas that trade but there’s no central government, working with individuals and their particular skills).

How can we, as designers, make a difference to the mistrust between people and governments? Below, Zuckerman describes the areas of design which might change the world:

  • Law – legal, illegal
  • Code – easier voting, making it harder e.g. taking people off the electoral register for no apparent reason, making it a requirement to have a passport to vote
  • Markets – expensive (tobacco) cheap (smart phones, books, food)
  • Norms – normal, taboo i.e smoking which used to be okay but now it’s not, mixed race couples etc.

Code as a catalyst: Krzysztof Wodiczko Trafalgar Square neon lamps projection piece. Wodiczko grants permission to protest by projecting giant missile onto trafalgar square. It’s a statement aiming to create awareness and make impactful experience. Funnily enough, the projection was displayed on the same day as Margaret Thatcher funding South Africa during the apartheid. This goes to show that politics an protests are at times disjointed.

Another example of an impactful project is the Banksy projection and graffiti group who projected text and image onto popular landmarks based on the conflict in Syria. They utilised hashtags, creating awareness and publicity for the cause.

Technologies or contraptions: Gorilla projection bikes. These bikes are used to hide a projector within, to look seemingly harmless.


Another example of an impactful statement that creates awareness and publicity is the Graffiti Research Lab. They were able to project real-time graffiti onto massive buildings, highly that public spaces privatised by the government still remain as your city. It is your right to use this public space, you decide what to do with it – this is what the Graffiti Research Lab is trying to state. The project was non-destructive but takes possession of their public space.

The Graffiti Research Lab (GRL) held an arty installation in NYC which revolved around covering the tube adverts. These adverts are seems as an invasion of public space controlled by the governments to repeatedly portray consumerism to each citizens within that space. Basically, the adverts aim to sell you more meaningless shit. GRL stuck black graffiti statements over the adverts, simple yet highly effective. This seemingly basic intervention caused a large stir. Put it this way, we’re still watching the videos seven years on.

A student made an interesting point about Metrics? How are they recorded installations like the above? Are the art installations actually impactful? How is this measured? Keir highlighted that the designer’s job is not to track data or statistics after the process. This signifies the blur between art and design. In our field, it would be important for us to track after the installation or project.

The Bansky Les Miserables piece symbolising havoc in the Calais Jungle is another impactful statement creating awareness through imagery and symbolism:


Other methods evoking awareness and publicity:

Drones: A drone in Albania flew over a football pitch carrying a visually impactful flag.

In other act of protect against the Mexican president (affiliated with the major cartels of Mexico) who was involved in the torture and murder of  50 innocent students. A group of protesters engineered a drone to graffiti over images of the president in the streets. Just imagine perfect graffiti by drones, this is a nuts proposition.

Surveillance – ACLU Californian Uni developed a Mobile Justice CA app which houses a secure encrypted server in Switzerland whereby users can (and have the right) to film the police involved in unjust acts of racism.

The Snoopers Charter in the UK allows the police to can hack laptops and phones to look at our data. This is a prime example of unjust surveillance.

Informacam – Stores the meta data for justice and evidence. The data contains geo location, wifi, bluetooth, lighting motion, cell tower etc. This app takes all information tracked by camera on the users phone, maintaining that the information is legally usable in an evidence-based scenario. We have take responsibility of our human rights and back it up evidentially! Another example is

Citizen monitoring – Your MP is YOURS.  If you have an issue that needs changing, it’s their job to answer your problems.

The Street link app tracks vulnerable people sleeping rough. It’s community driven and is a form of monitoring for the greater good. We must look after each other.

Decentralisation – A fantastic example is the pirate box, which is a tiny wireless router that acts as a non-online hard drive. Perfect for discussing untracked issued. Take the Hong Kong Umbrella situation. They used a non-centralised system that couldn’t be tracked by the authorities (fire chat) to arrange protests without police interference. Bitcoin is another powerful example of community driven decentralisation systems.