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5 A Strategy to Enhance the Public Life of Historic City Centers

The purpose is to define a strategy that uses digital technologies to address the public spaces in a historic city.

The strategy aims at:

• Strengthening the community ties creating tools to reinforce the common attachment and interest toward venues [6,7] [14];

• Extending the public uses of places, including activities that are at least partly per-

formed using new tools and media;

• Creating a holistic system among the public spaces of the historic center, so that

what happens in one place is immediately shared with the others, using real time communication as a way to create contamination of uses and generate unexpected activities.

• Inform people about the existence of certain public spaces and opportunities and

thus influence the way they use the venues.

From the previous analyses we selected two types of spaces, object of our intervention: the anchor points – venues turning out to be the most popular and attended by the city dwellers – and action points – beautiful open spaces, practically unknown and not used by the citizens, where it would be possible to established new activities to revitalize the area.

We decided to introduce in the action points new programs, partially performed by new media technologies: common screens for media streaming, working area with Wi-fi connection and sockets, but also spots to access common media contents showing past events in that venue. The public life in both these points, action and anchor, will work within a holistic system created by an information infrastructure, through which users could talk, describe, get to know about the venues and activities.

The design of the infrastructure requires both the design of an application that stores user-generated information and the strategic planning of places and devices through which people could access this information. These two points will be crucial in deeply influencing the target of user that will be exposed to the data. In fact, if the distribution was limited to smart phone owners only, a large piece of population will be cut out. Moreover the way we access spatial information determine also the way we navigate the space. The common way to experience the city used to be stumbling upon activities, with the result that close events could influence and contaminate each other. But nowadays, the discovery of space is at least partly up to the use of social media: people tend to look at their network database to decide where to go, moving from one point to the other, following the Google Maps pin, with an indifferent attitude toward the physical reality around them. Our proposal is then to combine those two ways of experiencing the space. Create a user-generated database of events and interactions that is shared not only in social networks, but also in physical places. In fact in each of the anchor point, a screen may visualize events and information about other venues in the city. Moreover, anchor points and action points could be directly linked each other with a video streaming connection, thus contaminating the respective uses.

The data base of information shared in the screens is generated by an application, called OpenUrbino: this social communication software is designed in order to create an online database of information – that could be redistributed upon the territory in specific spots, as previously described – but also in order to “enhance” local communities. Communication technologies have proved they could help processes where citizens are engaged as co-makers and co-creators of the public domain.

The application OpenUrbino specifically designed for the historic center of Urbino aims at achieving those goals. The design of the application, still a beta version for exclusive use within the research, is already partly coded and will be soon released.

In order to help in creating the local community ties, OpenUrbino lets people share localized media contents they have been producing on popular social networks (Instagram, Foursquare, Facebook, to mention but a few), not only with friends but also with strangers who are or will be in the same location. The application doesn't work as a competitor of other social networks, but rather like a digital social traces search engine. The proposed goal is to share activities and memories with strangers who are actually neighbors, tourists, thus reinforcing the sense of community. The application is designed in order to share social media contents about places, to browse the venues where there is a major number of contributions (for instance in the previously discussed Popularity map); but also to start and foster projects of common interest, to share public events and then to look at what is happening in real time in the area. Open-Urbino creates a huge database: for each venue there are several media experiences recorded, showcasing activities and uses, lists of events, lists of participants, all updated in real time.

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