CASA at the Bloomsbury Festival

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It was a CASA trip out this weekend as me, Steven Gray, Hannah Fry, Rob Levy, Pete Ferguson and Goldsmiths’ Francisco Dans showed off CASA’s Pigeon Sim, London Data Table and Roving Eye at The Building Centre on Store Street. But we weren’t there just to strut our visual stuff – the event was also to engage people with our work, explain where we’re coming from, and try to find out from people how they might want to use it.

Pigeon Sim uses an Xbox kinect to allow the user to “fly like a pigeon” through a 3D London (courtesy Google Earth); London Data Table projects realtime geospatial data (Boris Bikes, Pollution Data, Traffic Cameras,…) and historical data (Oyster Card data, London Riots,…) onto a table shaped around the GLA boundary; Roving Eye allows users to channel the flow of virtual eyeballs using physical barriers.

One group of people took to it immediately, enjoying the sort of creative play that we hoped our exhibits would encourage: children. This may be the first time CASA’s exhibits have been used by children, but children loved the playfulness of the demos, whether they were squashing eyes in Roving Eye or flying across the North Sea in Pigeon Sim.

But adults weren’t left out – they got to enjoy the pieces but get into a lot more detail about the data and concepts behind the whizzy visuals. The challenge was to get their thoughts and opinions – even people who got really engaged with the pieces and our work could struggle when it came to questions of “how would you use this in your commute/life/community/practice?”. The initial plan to run a series of focussed workshops did not survive first contact with the public intact – leaving us with the question of whether we need to run these next time, but in a different fashion; whether we can think of other mechanisms to get public input; or whether these demos are the wrong forum for this sort of conversation.

Why not tell us what you think? If you were at the festival, what did you enjoy about the exhibits, and what was lacking? What would you like to see next time we take CASA out on the road*?

With thanks to Jenny Watt and colleagues at the Building Centre, to Laura Cream in UCL Public Engagement, CASA staff for their support, the Bloomsbury Festival for having us and to the Beacon Bursary which provided funding for our work.

*in this case, Tottenham Court Road**
**300 yards down

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