Secret Lives of Data Publics: Mixed Reality Smart City Interfaces


Montréal, Canada


April 21 and 23, 2018

In this two-day workshop, participants will construct prototype mixed reality interfaces for engaging the informational layer of the built urban environment. Using the Unity game engine and the Microsoft X-Reality (XR) tools, participants will focus on generative design in the space of data-driven interfaces, addressing issues of data access, actionability, and privacy in the context of smart cities. Specific attention will be paid to interfaces that facilitate harmonious co-existence between humans and non-human systems (AI, IoT, etc.). Over the course of this mixed reality workshop, participants will construct prototype interfaces for engaging data publics – the informational layer of the built environment.


This workshop addresses two primary issues: the interaction design dictated by platform and the type of civic data with which people interact.

We depart from the normative HCI of smart city data dashboards as the dominant interface mode of smart city governance. Data dashboard interfaces display complex data in real time, often pulling from multiple sources. In contrast, we are looking at experimental forms of engaging mixed reality and other modes of virtual interface (VR, AR) toward more legible, accessible, and actionable modalities of data interaction. We explore.

We experiment with civic data in a critical framework we describe as data publics. We use the term “data publics” to describe the cross- section between historical civic data, such as census, crime, and traffic, and the arrival of emergent technologies and practices such as social, mobile, and peer-produced data that present a networked public resource.

We invite workshop participants to consider a citizen’s right to the smart city in the nature of the data interactions and interface design of the smart city. What datastreams are part of an engaged urban experience? How might we design data-centric interaction that better integrates the fabric of human experience with the various non-human participants, particularly as cities come to be reconfigured for the use of semi-sentient and sentient machines?

To address these smart city data-interaction problems, this workshop offers a process of working through direct material and technical engagement with urban data, embedded and physical computing, mixed reality, and novel data visualization approaches. Our goal with this workshop is to create the conditions for experimenting with innovative forms of data- interaction that speak to the opportunities of smart city design. The workshop direct outcome will be iterative design prototypes of new modes of engaging real-time geolocated data in the urban context.