TCP2031 : Digital Civics — participatory design for new directions in city planning

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


1.Digital infrastructures increasingly affect and influence communication and interac-tion within urban spaces. A wide range of new apps and services (incl. dashboards, mobile apps, digital signage) have emerged on the back of digital technologies. As a result, it changes citizens’ expectations towards the experience (how perceived and used) and physiology (how conducted) of our participation in public services (includ-ing planning). Users of the planning system, expect greater levels of personalisation of the information they access as well as greater levels of interactivity and respon-siveness; subsequently there is a demand for innovative individuals to develop inno-vative services.

2.The aims of this module are to introduce students to user-centred design (incl. user research, prototyping, user testing). Avoiding a theoretical treatment, students work with a client, e.g. community groups, local governments, charities) on creative, meaningful challenges involving digital technology prototypes. Sample projects from the last year include, a platform to support volunteering, an dashboard for lo-cal energy cooperative, a workshop design to engage young people, and public air quality displays. With no coding skills required, on this module you learn to research, design, and propose an intervention the client can implement. In the process, stu-dents learn about design thinking, entrepreneurship, and what it means to work for a client.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module combines theory and practice through a series of weekly lectures, practice-focused seminars, and an accompanying client project you’ll work on throughout the term. When there are no lectures, students will receive tutoring and group surgeries. The expectation is for students to attend lectures providing the relevant insights, develop a relation-ship with the client assigned by the module leader, and engage in a consultancy project during which weekly tutoring will be provided.

The indicative list of lectures per week includes:
1. Intro to digital civics and module overview — What is the ‘digital civic’ turn in urban planning? (in this session student groups will be formed around a number of client problems that they choose from)
2. Intro to some basic user research methods for designing (in) digital civics — applying de-sign ethnographic approaches from human computer interaction (HCI) applied to civic problems. You learn about doing contextual interviews with user representatives.
3. Overview of key technologies enabling digital civics: We provide a basic introduction aimed at non-technologists. You are not expected to know anything about programming or web applications.
4. Creativity in the design process: This session provides an overview of design thinking. What makes a good creative process and what are the factors to be successful?
5. Feedback session: In this session, student groups will present their initial take on the project they’ve been assigned to and receive feedback from the module convenor and fellow-students that they can incorporate into further project work.
6. Governing digital civics (review of actors, institutional frameworks, and ‘new institutions’ in planning with talk by, e.g., community group representative, this will raise students awareness of the issue of governance and accountability for projects in digital civics).
7. Supporting digital civics (with relevant contribution from, e.g., neighbourhood planning representative at the local authority, this will look at governance of digital civics from a perspective of a supporting role, for example, delivered by bodies of government).
8. Approaches for prototyping: We deliver a basic overview of some simple techniques for visually prototyping a app / service idea. This does not require any technical skills.
9. Introduction to user testing: In this session we discuss what is involved in testing and validating an idea that you have prototyped with users.
10. On scaling: What is involved in scaling an idea beyond its first application context? Where do we get funding from for our idea? And what is involved in pitching one’s idea?
11. Project surgeries: What’s the future for digital civics and how will it transform the planner’s practice (this will be a session that’s fairly open ended and focused on student debate applying lessons learned from their client project, it will also be used to discuss the individual essay students prepare on a topic of their choice)
12. Final project presentations

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture102:0020:00Formal lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture11:001:00Interim presentations
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture22:004:00Interim presentations
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading125:0060:00Independent Reading
Guided Independent StudyProject work128:40104:00Working within project group
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops111:0011:00Project surgeries
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

This module raises students’ awareness of digital technologies in processes of public choice, for example, as part of a participatory / consultative campaign. Thus the module teaches, discusses, and involves projects involving people and technologies in a context of an applied problem context. Thus, the teaching methods emphasise guided live client projects that put students in the position of a designer and advisor for a community group or other third party stakeholder. Outputs from such design-based teaching, including learning logs, creative and visual designs, are best suited to enable students to understand and handle failure and successes in a constructive way. Self-reflective practice, within for client project, challenges students to be self-evocative to their problem-solving capacity, integrity, and resilience. Evaluation of knowledge through blogs, all hands meetings, and a client presentation also encourages risk taking, creativity. The team projects enhance students’ ability to collaborate and develop a client-focused approach combined with understanding of technological possibilities.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Design/Creative proj1M45This component assesses designs produced (including story boards, videos, presentation slide, and app prototypes).
Report1M45Group work, Reflective log documenting the teams activities, challenges, failures. 5,000 words.
Prof skill assessmnt1M10Peer assessment
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation1MInterim group presentation and progress review
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessment contains a group-based client project fostering collaboration and team-work, widely expected in the ‘industry’ and thereby fosters students’ employability . Based on student feedback, the module assessment contains elements of peer assessment and individual contribution to encourage equal effort.
• For the group project, the write-up of a prototype or concept, the reflective log, and peer-evaluation is an appropriate set of assessments to assess both theoretical understanding and problem solving skills as relevant for design contexts. Assessments were chosen so to pro-vide incentives for work consistently spread throughout the term.
• The log enables students to rotate writing posts so to include a personal voice and open space for individual interests and observations.

The assessment methods have been chosen so that they test the student groups’ work commitment throughout the term. Keeping a self-reflective process document encourages students to keep engaged with their client project and will be combined with a non-assessed feedback presentation early on into the module (week four). In this non-assessed presentation, student groups will present their client project, the problems they are seeking to ad-dress, and the method they are planning to take. Feedback from the student audience and the lecturer will give them input at an early stage.
The client output (report and / creative project) as well as the reflective log are weighted equally. The client has an influence on the assessment of the creative project through the final client presentations and a feedback form provided to them.

Reading Lists