N. 25, Summer 2015

Table of contentsAuthor index



Preface to the Focus Section

Making Places: Visualization, Interaction and Experience in Urban Space



Cities are exciting and people continue to be drawn to urban areas because of the choices that cities offer in all areas of economic and social life. Large-scale sensor networks and pervasive computing technologies are transforming our city environments, augmenting them with increasingly powerful networked technologies and media. This raises the question of how these technologies can play a part in improving the use of the spaces that already exist in the urban environment and, critically, what roles information visualization and interaction design have in these “future” or “smart” cities. In this emergent domain visualizations are becoming especially relevant, as they are the tangible outcomes of these systems, while interaction design can be the enabler for citizens to engage with this urban data.


Technological developments are providing new ways of experiencing information in urban space and, consequently, creating a fertile area for cross-disciplinary research, bringing together computer sciences, social sciences, design, art and music, among others. But it is through human activities that urban spaces become “places”. How people experience and conceptualize “place” is formed by the scope and range of what happens in that space and those that inhabit it.


The topic for this special issue is based on a workshop that was held at the NordiCHI conference in Helsinki in October 2014. Our aim in the workshop was to explore how interactive technologies could be used to maximise the use of space within urban areas for positive outcomes, to enhance the experience of city living that so many of us would like to enjoy. As people’s expectations grow, along with the amount of information to communicate, creating multi-sensory information systems is becoming an increasingly challenging task. It requires creative and collaborative approaches to generate outputs ranging from sophisticated digital interventions to more low-tech solutions.


This focus section invited contributions from the authors who attended the workshop, as well as from other researchers with an interest in the workshop topics. We encouraged inter-disciplinary contributions from areas including, but not limited to; HCI, computer sciences, design, psychology, social sciences, digital games, music and arts to gain deeper insights into the roles of visualization, interaction and experience in urban space and place making. The accepted papers all consider how design research communities might address these issues across different user groups, including locals and travellers. The authors also look at the city as a design context from various angles, addressing central city areas as well as local and suburban locations.


Wouters, Claes and Vande Moere consider the importance of the hyperlocal when designing digital systems for public spaces. The authors present two “in-the-wild” field studies that demonstrate how the display of locally relevant information can encourage citizens to feel more connected to their local areas. Ojala, Korhonen, Laaksonen and Väänänen-Vainio-Mattila also present a design study in their paper, although they focus on an experience-driven design approach in the context of a city-centre railway area. They generated a series of initial concept ideas addressing challenges around the traveller experience, including the display of appropriate information. In the third paper in the focus section, Bengs, Hägglund, and Wiklund-Engblom explore a different design challenge, that of suburban life. The aging population in the Finnish city of Vaasa is discussed from the perspective of how digital solutions can be used to promote a sense of social inclusion and well-being, particularly in the context of an increasing multicultural population.


The papers that comprise this focus section represent a growing interest in the design challenges raised by the increasing amounts of data that are being generated by both cities and their inhabitants. These include consideration of how the interaction with, and subsequent interpretation of, data will impact on the daily decisions we make and ultimately our experience urban living in the future.



Paula Trigueiros, Michael Smyth, Ingi Helgason, Sarah Gallacher