Giant ‘ipods’ want your thoughts

Posted on 31st July 2015 | in Community , News


Ian Johnson with his viewpoint device. Simply press on the map to enter your answer.

Giant ipod-like devices have been installed in parts of Amble and the public are being asked to interact with them.

Newcastle University PhD student Ian Johnson has chosen Amble as the base for a trial run of a new gadget, which collects public opinion about a geographical area. The information can then be used in local decision-making.

Ian is finishing his first year at Newcastle University’s Open Lab, where he is studying Digital Civics. His research project is part of the Local Democracy programme.

“I’ve created an interactive map, where people can respond to questions about how they feel about different places and spaces in their community,” said Ian.

The viewpoint devices, as they are called, use a heat map, and by touching the screen, information is collected and people can also see what others have selected.

The questions appear at the top of the screen, and a map of Amble appears below. So for example one question is: What part of Amble would you most like to change? To answer, you simply press the relevant area on the map.

“Hopefully I’ll get some interesting data that might show shared concern for a particular part of the town,” said Ian. “People may have pre-conceptions about different parts of the town. Because you can see what others have answered, that might challenge or confirm what people think.”

Four devices have been placed around Amble: at Amble Development Trust, at the Harbour, in Amble Library and a roaming device situated in various cafes and pubs.

Ian’s wider ambition is that the device creates data that people can use to get their concerns across to decision makers.

“You can use it to collect data to show – like with a petition – you can say look, this is not just my concern, here’s the data to prove other people feel the same,” explained Ian.

Ian hopes people in Amble will interact with the devices, which will be trialled throughout August. Once the trial is over, he is happy to share data. Email him:

Anna Williams

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