Public Goods Lab

The Public Goods Lab is Proboscis’ internal creative R&D unit developing public tools and technologies that both underpin and inform our wider Public Goods programme. Led by Giles Lane and Stefan Kueppers with Gary Stewart, the Lab’s focus is on investigating, adapting and innovating creative uses of social technologies that make tangible and tactile the intangible public goods that people value in their local environments and communities. The Lab builds on Proboscis’ prior experience and expertise in creative technology R&D (pervasive urban play, mobile spatial mapping, sensors and citizen science, public data mash ups, experimental robotics, hybrid digital/physical outputs from digital experiences, etc) and gives it a new focus.

We are currently seeking partners and sponsors for the Lab, please get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Public Data | Tangible Souvenirs

Our initial focus will be on how to make public data more accessible and understandable to people who do not or cannot access it at present. We believe that creating new kinds of interfaces and feedback mechanisms that make such data and its visualisations tangible and tactile will offer enormous benefits to people who suffer from blindness, low or no reading ability or simply do not use the typical devices (smartphone, tablets and computers) that are ordinarily used interact with such data. We will be examining how to create tangible souvenirs from public data : creating physical, material outputs of public data visualisations or even sonifications.

Proboscis has been exploring the concept of ‘tangible souvenirs from digital experiences’ for several years through a number of different projects, most notably through The recent introduction of a user API to this self-publishing platform now enables people to generate publications directly from their own applications, such as data mashups.

Using the bookleteer API as our starting point we aim to develop a series of prototypes that create physical outputs from ‘mashups’ of public data. These prototypes will demonstrate the value of being able to handle the results as tangible objects for viewing offline and out in the real world. The exponential growth of public data over the past few years now offers challenges in making it accessible and understandable, not just through visualisations but also in terms of where and how we access it. We aim to develop ways to make data useable and shareable in contexts and situations (such as outdoors) where electronic devices are not always appropriate.

This capability to generate physical artefacts that can be quickly and cheaply made will enable all kinds of organisations to share ‘just-in-time’ mash-ups of data in tactile formats to reach audiences and users for events, education, publicity or information campaigns (among other uses). Our previous experience in exploring the uses of mobile and web technologies with disadvantaged communities in social housing and education have demonstrated the importance of being able to make simple physical artefacts from online/digital content, enabling more people to participate in knowledge sharing and dissemination activities. Such tangible formats can go beyond paper publications and printing to encompass the use of ‘Fab Lab’ 3D modelling outputs, for instance creating tactile outputs for blind people, or as signage/interpretation for people with low or no reading ability.

Our longer view of the value of tangible souvenirs is to research and prototype how they may also become a feedback mechanism to provide a ‘virtuous circle’ flow of information from physical back to digital.