By Hannah Vickers
Bristol has a proud history of challenging power, righting wrongs and demanding change. While our desire to instigate positive change hasn’t altered, the methods to fight for our rights have evolved with the digital age. We can organise, spread the word, debate and petition from our phones.
And now, public bodies like the council, universities and Bristol Green Capital Partnership are working with tech to educate, agitate and organise. They’re using Apps, hashtags and online games to engage citizens and connect Bristolians with decision-making. By swiping and tapping at your screen, you can have your say and influence city decisions. Here are a few of the Apps you can use to get involved with key decisions taking place across the city.
The consultation that’s an App
What kind of city do you want to live in? This is the question UWE Bristol’s ‘Our City, Our Health’ is asking Bristolians, giving you the chance to, virtually at least, “step into the shoes of a city decision maker, weigh up the evidence and have your say on the health of the city”. The App has been developed at UWE Bristol and features images of good and bad Bristol by artist Andy Council. The aim of the game-cum-consultation is to look at the issues facing the city and decide what you’d do to address them.
It’s part of a wider campaign, which they hope will encourage people to take a more active role in how urban decision-making affects our health. The game asks us to balance the budget when we buy a basket of projects to improve health including bikes, open spaces, food provision and housing. Project Coordinator, Sophie Laggan says that the App reflects the links between health and the built environment. “Our consultation reveals these savings so, for the first time, we can make visible the positive benefits to be gained from prioritising our health in urban decision-making – and find out what is most important to you. It’s all quite exciting!”
The Shapeourcity App will be running until November. You can play – and have your say – here: bit.ly/shapeourcity.
Find out about Bristol’s air pollution problem
Funded by the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme, this is a similar model to Shape Our City, mixing play and consultation, this time with the aim to increase public awareness about the dangers of poor air quality.
Bristol is just one of the cities featured, with five other cities getting the App treatment. Real data is used to build the game, so you can see the impact of decisions you make. It’s a way of ‘crowdsourcing’ ideas and gathering lots of people’s suggestions in a fun and engaging way.
“Computer games by themselves probably won’t save the world, but they offer an exciting, engaging way to get lots of people involved in finding solutions,” the creators say on their website.
Dr Hayes, an Associate Professor and Director of the Air Quality Management Resource Centre (AQMRC) at UWE Bristol, says that the project is about empowering citizens to define their own solution.
“Using game technology as an engagement platform means everyone’s voice and opinion is valued. If you run traditional workshops or surveys it can be that the quiet voices get lost and the reach can be limited. With our game, everyone’s voice is equal and we can all be experts on our own city.”
You can download the Claircity Skylines for Bristol App here: http://www.claircity.eu/game-app/.
Take a selfie with a tree
June saw the launch of the Talking Trees campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of trees in cities, with the aim to double Bristol’s tree cover by 2050. The campaign appeals to tree-loving citizens to take part in tree surveys, plant a tree, sponsor a tree or sign the tree charter… and then to back the campaign by spreading the word: share a tree selfie with the hashtag #TalkingTreesBristol.
Bristol City Council, Bristol Tree Forum, Forest of Avon Trust and the Woodland Trust have joined forces to develop a tree strategy for Bristol.
West of England Energy Game
This not-so-snappily-named game asks if the West of England can be self-sufficient in meeting its own energy needs. The aim is to help players understand the scale of the sustainable energy challenge. This one isn’t an App, but a two-hour long game played IRL (that’s ‘in real life’, for those of you not au fait with current internet lingo!) in groups of 4-6.
You can play the Energy Game at the PRSC Space on 11th July. Visit their event page for more details: https://bit.ly/2KFKVQj.