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My Ideal City

Final Report Summary - M.I.C. (My Ideal City)

Executive Summary
The project “My Ideal City” (MIC, since now on) was born in February 2008, directly from the experiences carried on by Museo Tridentino di Scienze Naturali with real time 3D technologies applied to museum needs. The idea was to assess if a participatory design could be merged with the liquid nature of the digital worlds, in order to visualize instances of future or ideal urban spaces. Since the start of the project, in June 2009, it was clear that there were at least three major challenges that the newborn MIC would have proposed to our freshly formed Consortium, made out by a University – University IUAV of Venice – and four science museums: Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, Ciência Viva in Lisbon, Experimentarium in Copenhagen, and Museo Tridentino di Scienze Naturali in Trento, coordinator of the whole project.
The first challenge would have been to set up significant participatory processes, the second one would have been to represent the outcomes of the participatory processes using a real time 3D environment. The last challenge would have been to use the results of the former two phases to rethink the use of participatory digital technologies in the cultural communication.
About MIC’s first effort, an important element we can bring forward is that crowdsourcing is not something you can play along with too much. The increasing tendency to set up participatory processes, especially in the field of urban planning, is making people tired of being asked about their opinions without seeing much changes in their everyday lives. When we interviewed people for MIC, they relaxed only when we explained that we were interviewing them “just” for a cultural operation, and we were no “real” urban planners. Anyhow the “participatory agreement” that we did with those people was that the cultural artifact that we were going to produce with their help would have somehow impacted their lives. Unfortunately we cannot say that we fully kept this promise, due to the second challenge that we encountered in the MIC roadmap: representation.
Transforming people words and thoughts into buildings and environments – even though only virtual ones – is no easy job. Every architect or sociologist that proved himself in such a task can confirm this. To try a different approach, the architects and the artists working on the MIC representations permitted themselves a luxury that in real world, with real buyers, is seldom possible: they tried to represent interviewed people thoughts with spatial metaphors and allusions, in the effort to escape the temptation to end up drawing perfect SimCity™ worlds, full of green lawns and flying cars.
The good thing that we got from this decision are the astounding MIC virtual environments, far ahead in their visionary power of every educational real time 3D software we know. The bad thing is that these virtual environments weren’t able to communicate much with the citizens of the represented cities.
So it came the MIC third challenge, probably the most important in its seeding nature: re-thinking and setting up new participative uses of digital technologies for cultural purposes.
With MIC we confirmed that there is something of extremely interesting at the interception of ICT technologies and citizens participation in the construction and communication of knowledge. We run the project Final Conference (12-13 May 2011, University IUAV of Venice, Italy) with the precise aim of bringing together different experiences in such a field to accelerate the construction of new and innovative ways to engage public in cultural dialogues.