Another city is possible
Part 2 Creática experience
How can technology help improve the city and, at the same time, improve the community that lives in it? This is one of the principles on which the work of Creática, a non-governmental association operating in the south of Madrid, is based, an area with many social problems, starting from the lack of a valid training path for youngsters up to that of places of work.
The answer that the association is trying to give to improve this situation is to propose an educational program that, through technology, helps to develop creativity and, at the same time, particular skills such as problem solving and collaboration that can be revealed useful in life as in the world of work.
From this idea comes Tech4Good, a school for young people aged 16 to 24 (being the only compulsory school up to 15 years) from disadvantaged social situations, in which innovative technological projects are developed through the use of open source technology. But how does this translate within the city?
Since the goal is to ensure that the learned knowledge then returns to society in order to provoke a positive impact, it was decided to use as a pretext to experiment the creation of prototypes for the city, so that, in addition to serving as a field of application for creativity, this is reflected also within the urban space making itself visible, provoking debate and the birth of an Open Source urbanism whose ultimate goal is to create a network of interchange relations.
This is what we can find, for example, in the Communitifi project, designed to solve the problem of grid price increase. In fact, wifi antennas are installed for the city. This results in a new form of service, because users are owners of the infrastructure and can thus exchange the connection.
Another example can be found in the Tàndem Paris-Madrid project developed with the Enorme studio, Todo Por La Praxis and Pez Estudio. Here the importance, in addition to the realization of the prototype, lies in the collaboration process and in the fact of making children work closely with architectural firms that show another way of thinking, another model that demonstrates that a change is possible.
Specifically, the request of the studies was to integrate in the structures of the electricity generation devices, as well as useful devices to create interaction and dissemination of cultural activities. To accomplish this task, a photovoltaic system has been added, capable of generating a power of 3.5 kW per day, designed to meet various needs such as mobile phone charging, the use of laptops, lighting and the possibility to support video projections for outdoor cinema, concerts, etc. The device also provides real-time information on cultural activities and events scheduled in the square through a series of LED panels. Interesting to note that, thanks to the inclusion of a “twitter bot”, users can interact with the installation with hashtags by adjusting the light, reading the Twitter timeline, posting selfie or checking how much energy has remained in the battery. This last element, even if it seems banal, has a not negligible importance: the use of batteries inside the public space is not only a response given to a necessity, but also a form of education and sensitization. In fact, it shows that energy is not infinite as we think it and must be safeguarded.
We find this aspect, albeit in a different way, in the project of a playground developed together with the collective Basurama and made with recycled materials for the patio of the Maestro Rodrigo College of Madrid. Here the theme of energy is faced in the form of play thanks to the insertion of zip lines equipped with pulleys that produce energy through use; energy that is then reused in the irrigation system of the school garden. Here again, once again, we find the possibility of interacting with the installation thanks to a wireless technology that produces music coming out of a sculpture / game made with old used tires.
An example of how technology can, in addition to being useful, make changes within the city can be found in the project Montaña en la luna realized in collaboration with Enorme studio. The introduction, among other things, of mobile phone charging stations has proved to be an important element for the homeless community, inevitably affecting the urban stratification of the neighborhood, which has thus acquired a new importance.
An even more striking example is found in the Boombox project, born for a square with a serious problem of violence in the Villaverde district of Madrid, being a place of confrontation of two rival gangs. The action taken was to introduce a music device that works with Spotify, with which users of the square can create shared playlists or search and put music with their smartphone to hear it, so, spread through the speakers. This has had a strong impact in the urban area, as the increase of people attending the square and the new atmosphere that has been created, have made it less suitable for the clashes, with a consequent decrease in episodes of violence.
There are also other examples, such as Waterdrops (a device to optimize the irrigation of a park to reduce water waste), Benchbox (a bluetooth music device in urban equipment), Aeolus (energy production device through the application of mini wind turbines) or CleanAir (CO2 reduction plant exploiting micro algae) that demonstrate that the correct use of technology can lead not only to an improvement in the city, but also to an awareness that will improve users to make them more aware citizens . And I can say that it is the fundamental step to hope to improve the quality of our life.
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