Technology & Placemaking at the Digital Catapult, Brighton, July 1st 2015

Last week I chaired an event organised by the Digital Catapult Centre in Brighton to explore the opportunities afforded by having this new, collaborative R&D centre in our midst. The topic was ‘technology & placemaking’ and it was billed as a taster session, one of a series being organised by the Wired Sussex team to start convening the community around the Catapult — seeding ideas, building connections and building a platform for action.

It was a hot and sunny evening and I was surprised (and grateful) that so many people were willing to forego the beach to take part. I had no particular expectations about the evening as this is a new topic for me and the Catapult is still emerging in terms of its community and remit.

We started off with a welcome from Phil, who spoke briefly about the Catapult and what it’s here to do. It feels very much like the invitation is for the community to shape the Catapult however they want — that it’s a platform for ideas and activities, and not a fixed entity. This is exciting, but also a little confusing. But getting comfortable with that state of emergence feels important for something that is aiming to support innovation and innovation in a space that has yet to be fully defined — the Internet of Place. This lack of definition makes the role that the Brighton community has to play even more interesting. The innovations that come about through the Catapult don’t have to conform to a fixed idea, but can rather reflect the very nature of Brighton — and bring that to life in a way that capitalises on our strengths.

So an event that wanted to explore how technology connects with placemaking was something that really interested me — and I was very happy to take part in.

Our three speakers represented a range of perspectives, giving little tasters of what might be possible. Peter Passaro explored the possibility of data, Liz Whitehead spoke about Fabrica and how artists use and explore place in ways that help us understand ourselves better, and Ava Fatah gen. Schieck, shared her project ‘Screens in the Wild’ which connects communities using interactive screens. There were some great questions from the audience after, but I got the sense there were plenty more questions to be asked, opinions to be shared and ideas to be explored.

So we’ve started the conversation, we’ve made some connections but there’s more to be said and more to be done. Personally, I’d love to connect further with others who are interested in the topic and could help me find ways of answering the questions I posed at the end of my presentation:

  • What is Brighton?
  • What does it mean to be from Brighton?
  • What should the world expect from us?
  • How can we make this place everything it can be?
  • What kind of place do we want to make?