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The Looking Glass
Quantitative and Qualitative User Research
Is the cost of public art justified?
How might we use public art as a means for citizens to express their creativity and connect to the city?
UX Researcher & UX Designer
Timmy Chiu, Norman Kang, Bidisha Roy, Jocelyn Gao
The general population of Pittsburgh
Public art does many things. It's visual, a landmark, and it serves as a statement that the city cares about art & culture. Yet because Public Art is expensive to install and maintain, questions about its "value" remain. Is public art "worth" it? Does it improve the liveability of a city?
We specifically looked at how we could increase the value of public art post-installation. Throughout this project, we focused on understanding the problem space and what value meant to the citizens of Pittsburgh. From our various research methods we discovered 2 key insights:
1. There’s value in both engaging with and observing others engage with public art
2. People are looking for conversation pieces that create interactions and connections between strangers
Based on these insights, it became clear that much of public art’s ‘worth’ is based on creating connections and engagement. With this, we reframed our problem, asking: How can we use public art to help citizens express their creativity and connect to the city?
We created a low-tech solution of adding a transparent panel between the user and the public art piece where the user can use dry-erase markers to add to the image of the art without physically altering the art. Other passersby can view previous contributions of other engagers and alter, add to, and/or replace it. This solution is both cheap and applicable to many forms of public art, making it scalable and effective. The low barrier to entry allows almost anyone to engage with this solution, even the homeless are able to contribute. For once, a group that has often felt neglected by the city can now feel like they are part of the city.
Is public art "worth" it?
Does it improve the liveability of a city and how do we measure the engagement?
How might we increase the value of public art post-installation?
How can we use public art to help citizens express their creativity and connect to the city?
I would see people putting locks together on the bridge. I thought it was cool.
I like having something like public art to talk about with strangers.
Since I added something, I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself.
Active engagement and value can be found in:
- Participating in the activity
- Observing others participate
People are looking for conversation pieces that create interactions and connections between strangers
If passersby see others viewing or interacting with the art, they are more likely to follow thus increasing the value they receive from the art.
Interactive art that enables public input offers value by allowing contributors to feel part of something greater than themselves; community/belonging.
The Looking Glass increased the value passersby gained from public art by giving them a platform for a creative outlet and producing a deeper sense of community. Citizens can contribute to the public art piece without physically altering the art itself. Others can view what previous interactors contributed, and can alter, add to, and/or replace it. The low barrier to entry allows almost anyone to engage with this solution, even the homeless are able to contribute. For once, a group that has often felt neglected by the city can now feel like they are part of the city.
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