MA thesis for Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture 2015. Degree programme Creative Business Management. Download pdf (in Finnish)
“Well done! Citizen participation in social media and developing it.
Case urban design in Helsinki in the Facebook group “More city to Helsinki”.”
The thesis is about citizen participation in urban planning and design of Helsinki in social media, from a participatory design perspective. The aim was to learn how citizen-driven, self-organizing participation is occurring in social media and especially on Facebook, and to visualize, open up, and enhance it.
Citizen participation has changed and increased in the past years, partly due to the phenomenon called cultures of participation, where also social media plays an important role. Urban planning has traditionally been in the hands of officials, although citizens, by law, have the right to participate in it. However, citizens participate in urban planning also by other means they have chosen and defined by themselves; for example social media channels have brought a new, more straightforward way for citizens to be heard.
The theory part of the thesis introduces the city as the background object, cultures of participation as a phenomenon, and social media particularly from the perspective of participation. Also participatory design, participatory planning, and participatory design in the wild are discussed, and the idea of design toolkits is introduced. Two cases are explored through interviews and observation. Keskustakirjaston kaverit (Friends of the Central Library) was a city-driven, participatory project where a group of citizens took part in workshops to design the new library; the purpose for using the case was to find good practices from the project to be transferred to citizen-driven collaborative action. Lisää kaupunkia Helsinkiin (More city to Helsinki) Facebook group is the second case and also the main focus of this thesis, and is an example of citizen-driven participation and participatory design in the wild in practice.
The production part consists of a visualization of the process of More city to Helsinki Facebook group, with added hints and tips, based on found good practices, to enhance the participation of an individual. The visualization opens up the process, acknowledges the work being done, and also functions as a map. The process visualization brings attention to facilitation, communications and giving thanks to participants, as well as to the three operating levels of the group, which are: individual, small group, and whole group. The end result also includes a concept for a toolkit that the group can continue developing for their needs and finally use in their collaborative work. The concept consists of a collaborative working canvas document that is meant to help document and facilitate, a set of cards to be used on Facebook to generate conversation and to bring more viewpoints, and also a set of stickers to be used on Facebook to show one’s emotions and to help build community spirit.