City Tickets – an evolving description

Not just an evolving description, of course – the whole project is still evolving. But we were asked to write a summary of the project for the exhibition catalogue by the end of this week to allow for printing before the exhibition opens, so I’ve spent most of today massaging words into some sort of description of the final project.

So – here’s what I have. It’s been edited and tweaked and poked at and reasonably polished, I think, but I’m open to feedback.

And, of course – the project itself isn’t finished, and will continue to evolve and be refined until seconds before the deadline, no doubt, at the end of next week. Writing this has been a great way to get some clarity on how the service itself works, and thoughts on the project/concept itself are more than appreciated.



project description, approx 350 words:

Urban infrastructure is often considered to be boring and technical – and is frequently ignored until it is needed or breaks down. But the choices we make regarding what infrastructures to build, maintain, and how we use them are profoundly political and cultural.

Parking ticket machines are an example of an intensely technological piece of infrastructure, and this project explores how we can use these ubiquitous boxes to make cities more responsive to the needs of those who live in them. Taking advantage of their very ubiquity together with their printing capability, this project proposes a service through which ticket machines become a communication channel between citizens and their local authorities. By taking functions that are more commonly found on websites or accessible using mobile devices, and physically embedding them directly in the urban fabric, City Tickets democratises access and makes municipal services directly available to all where and when they are most relevant: here and now.

Using the embedded receipt printer common to all ticket machines, the service engages citizens and local authorities in dialogue. Citizens can report faults – a pothole, a graffitied sign, or a fallen tree, for example – and make suggestions for local improvements – a bench here, a zebra crossing instead of traffic lights over there. The use of short forms printed directly from the machines, paired with hyperlocal maps for indicating the exact location of a problem or suggestion and ready for annotation where applicable, make submission of this information to the local authority straightforward, from where it can be routed to the right department for an efficient response. On request, the local authority’s constantly updated to-do list of known faults, suggestions, and plans for the immediate locality is made available in the same way.

City Tickets makes the bureaucratic and opaque workings of power more transparent, while redefining the balance of power supporting participatory urban planning and management processes. While cities still have a need for parking tickes machines, converting these ubiquitous boxes to also issue city tickets and focussing on hyperlocal urban planning issues, City Tickets can contribute towards making neighbourhoods more livable and cities more responsive to the needs of their inhabitants.

This description will be accompanied by a couple of images, most likely one of an existing parking ticket machine, and another of example tickets – one filled in reporting a problem, another of an area’s todo list. I’d show them to you, but I haven’t taken them yet.

Thoughts welcomed.

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