VoiceYourView (vYv) is a cross-disciplinary research project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Digital Economy Programme. It is a collaboration between five leading universities in the UK.
vYv aims to develop technology which allows people to express their perceptions of safety in public spaces wherever and whenever they want – that is, vYv will capture spontaneous comments from members of the public in real time. These comments will be used to improve the safety of public space designs.
VoiceYourView (vYv) is about making public spaces safer by facilitating the collection of spontaneous observations from the public. vYv believes that users of a public space know the space best and are therefore best qualified to tell designers when and why they don’t feel safe.
For example, mothers know whether a park is a safe place for their children or not, residents know areas of their estate that are best avoided at night and so forth. Unfortunately, in current design processes, only a small proportion of users’ views are taken into account. vYv will lead to spaces in which the public feels safe – because they will have a hand in the design.
Could you give us a practical example?
Imagine a park not far from the city centre.
Mary is a pensioner and walks her dog every day. On her route, at dusk, she hesitates as she walks past a large shrub, fearing what is behind. Judy is in her late twenties and enjoys keeping fit. Her jogging route takes her into areas of the park that are poorly lit and she is afraid. Paul is a father of three and takes his children to the park but is concerned that the bandstand is becoming a magnet for teenage drinking parties.
Today, Mary, Judy and Paul each have limited ways of communicating their safety concerns to the appropriate people. They would need to compose a letter or arrange a meeting with a local councillor – which is unlikely given the time stresses on their daily lives.
The goal of vYv is to provide Mary, Judy and Paul with a way to record their feedback in real-time at the moment it occurs to them in the park rather than having to wait until it is forgotten about. In this way, vYv will collect real-time information that can then be structured, stored in an online repository, and exchanged with appropriate stakeholders: other users, local community groups, local authorities, etc.
How does it differ from traditional forms of public consultation?
Design processes typically include public consultations before construction and post-occupancy evaluation surveys. However, these only include a small proportion of users of the public space. Furthermore, they only capture a snapshot of people’s opinions – i.e., whatever occurs to them when they are given a questionnaire.
vYv aims at augmenting traditional public consultations by letting people air their views whenever and wherever they want. vYv will collect all users’ views in real-time and will then present them to appropriate stakeholders so that action can be taken.