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Having a say in what your city or neighbourhood should be like is often complicated, time-consuming and full of confusing jargon. A new wave of digital tools are trying to make the process transparent and interactive
Imagine if next time you saw a plan for an oversized monster tower block proposed for your street, you could get out your smartphone and swipe left to oppose it? Or see a carefully designed scheme for a new neighbourhood library and swipe right to support it?
Tinder for urban planning might sound far-fetched, but it is already being trialled in the sun-kissed Californian city of Santa Monica. City authorities are trying to gauge public opinion on everything from street furniture and parking, to murals and market stalls for their forthcoming urban plan, using a digital tool modelled on a dating app.
CitySwipe presents local residents with images of potential scenarios and simple yes/no questions, encouraging people to swipe through the options, as if assessing prospective partners. For the time being, it’s fairly basic: a photo of some street art appears with a caption asking: “Do you want more of this?” Folding cafe tables and chairs are shown next to pink park benches, asking: “Which do you prefer?”
It might sound superficial, but the questions move on to attitudes towards walking, bike lanes, housing and beyond. It makes the consultation process effortless, compared with the usual feedback mechanisms of filling in lengthy mailed-out response forms, downloading wordy PDFs, or being accosted by a chirpy volunteer with a clipboard.
It is one of the many tech tools cropping up in the world of town planning, in a bid to make what has always been an opaque and notoriously confusing system more transparent, inclusive and efficient for the public, planners and developers alike. […]