We are all makers, participants, and consumers of culture. In each of these roles, we shift and pull on the web of connections that make up our neighborhoods, our communities, and our lives. However, within this complex system, what part can government play to foster the natural growth and communication of culture? How does culture “work,” and can these conditions of success be understood and replicated? In the spring of 2012, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) challenged the IIT Institute of Design to harness the power of interaction design to gain a deeper understanding of the various cultures of Chicago. The City Listens was our answer.

The City Listens is a two-part system: A primary interface, to be used as a ‘recording station,’ and a secondary interface, serving as a ‘listening station.’ At the primary interface, participants could use a large touch-screen and a microphone to record their response to a question that was featured prominently on-screen. Once a response was received, it would be accessible online or through the ‘listening station,’ where participants could use an iPad to review, give a thumbs up/ thumbs down or comment on submitted recordings. In addition, responses would become part of an audio loop playing softly in the background at the primary interface, serving to pique the interest of passers-by. Ultimately, these responses were compiled, grouped and shared with DCASE, where they enriched the larger conversation about Chicago’s Cultural Plan of 2012.

Design Team: Jorge Angarita, Leticia Baiao, Jennifer Gzesh, Paul Keck
Communication Team: Maggee Bond, John Trotti, Paul Keck.
Instructor: Anijo Mathew

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