Friday Feature: Interactive Infrastructure
Today’s feature is all about interactive infrastructure, and features three videos of just that – a playful bench, musical stairs, and a fun concept for a trash bin.
This post was inspired by a short discussion in the comments of last week’s feature on the National Infrastructure Summit. Paul Dechene from Prairie Dog noted that he thought the NIS (a major gathering of mayors and policy makers) went by largely unnoticed by the larger population. Surprising considering the level of frustration on behalf of citizens with respect to property tax increases the City just set to deal with infrastructure issues. The trend of people wanting to receive more services while demanding fewer taxes is common – but when politicians try to support this scary form of entitlement, infrastructure and public services suffer.
Infrastructure is central to cities and their ability to function well, and yet, it’s also one of those things that you don’t notice until it isn’t working properly, is in bad shape, or not present – think of absent wheelchair ramps, roadways that are full of potholes, or burst water mains. We all notice those but don’t take time to appreciate the fact that most infrastructure exists and performs it’s function.
All of this got me thinking that perhaps we need to draw attention to the infrastructure around us everyday. I’ve stumbled across a few projects intended to change people’s behaviour with their surroundings but I think they may offer some potential to draw attention to the very existence of those surroundings.
The Playful Bench by MAPT (video at the top of the post) encourages people to play, dance, and interact with a standard city bench – bringing it to life with light and sound.
The ‘World’s Deepest Bin’ from TheFunTheory is another way to make basic public infrastructure kind of fun to use.
Finally, this idea (used by many different groups) uses sensors and sound to transform stairways into giant pianos – allowing everyone to fulfill their dream of being Tom Hanks in Big… no? Just me? Ok.
The disconnect between our desire for more services and less taxes is obviously a larger concept that will take more than a few fun installations to bridge. I think receiving a breakdown of what your property taxes cover is another important part – “Oh, I only paid $X for city water and sewer this year… I guess it is worth it to have clean running water come to and from my house. Hmmm, I suppose that my taxes and city services are related after all!” (note: I imagine every person would have this exact reflective conversation). If nothing else, I suspect that seeing a breakdown would at least draw attention to everything you receive for being a citizen of your city and paying your taxes.
Again, the projects showcased today are not primarily about drawing attention to infrastructure at their core – they were created to get people to change their behaviour (litter less, take the stairs more) or simply have some fun and create an imaginative experience. But I feel like interactivity may also be used to increase our awareness that public infrastructure and services don’t exist in a vacuum (or without tax dollars for that matter). Perhaps in the larger effort to connect spending to services we could also have a bit fun in the process.
Have a great weekend!