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The Polis Project: Geo-Soapbox

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  • Communication
  • Design
  • Education
  • Linguistics
  • Political Science


The Polis Project is one of three research project areas developed by the Pi Studio as part of the Leverhulme sponsored ‘Mediatising Place’ project. The overarching research investigated ways of developing the discourse around the role of interaction and location-based media design for public engagement in politics - ways of strengthening and enacting participatory democracy. Informed by Toulmin’s Theory of Argument, the research developed methodologies including deployment within a political protest and the iterative construction of several working prototypes (both hardware and software) in response to user trials and workshops. The educational dimensions of the research include: deepening understandings of democratic process; technological engagements respectful of preferred learning styles; distinctiveness in developing solutions; encouraging participatory voice and individuals’ communication skills to counter political disaffection. The Geo-Soapbox is a broadcasting, self-blogging device, and utilises twitter to enable live questions to a speaker. The device enables speeches to be connected to the structure of the Polis argument database. It manifests as both hardware and software and using the object encourages and facilitates the practice of public speaking. It is a learning tool that enables users to record their views and speeches and in public spaces. The hardware prototype is connected to a live website with a fully operational mapping system that connects issues to particular locations. Issues are mapped to connect to the constituencies of the UK and to particular governmental departments and responsibilities. The research programme has been disseminated through public symposia, publications, and public exhibitions. Amnesty International has expressed interest in using the Geo-Soapbox. The project has also been exhibited in Seeds of Change Exhibition in Barcelona and presented at the International Convergence Symposium on Design and Engineering, Kyung Hee University, South Korea, and in academic and public lectures at The British Council in South Korea.

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