Peterborough OpenCity… what could a screen mean?

Posted 29/09/2014 under General.

For Peterborough’s digital engineers, the OpenCity project presents an infinite and blank canvas… Can Peterborough’s community break down a screen and build something bigger?

Opencity

For Peterborough’s digital engineers, the OpenCity project presents an infinite and blank canvas…

Can Peterborough’s community break down a screen and build something bigger?

For a little while now a group of people has been coming together to organise the placement of a digital screen in Peterborough city centre. The collective aim for the screen, as I see it, is to open it up for use in the local area. Anyone who steps forward and wants to get involved could theoretically do so. Maybe a screen could help create buzz for independent businesses, boost visitor numbers at city centre events and more.

How might that look in practice?

Perhaps you represent a local business and want to use the screen as a real-time marketing tool. Why not Tweet the screen with flash sales? Any offer that’s only valid for the next hour, say, could be automatically shared by the screen until the deal expires. Or imagine yourself wandering past the screen and seeing a simple colour-coded representation of traffic congestion levels in nearby roads. Useful?

How many ways might the city interact with the open screen?

The project invites everyone – from members of the public to local businesses, organisations and creatives – to imagine  and share content ideas for the screen. Visit opencity.io to find out more (check out the great logo, designed by an extremely talented friend of ours @MrLeeMason). Ideas will be collected at Peterborough Town Hall, on October 1st. Click to reserve your place>>>

These ideas will then be filtered, discussed and refined, and then next comes a 48-hour hackathon… loads of local techies in a historic room, turning ideas into applications for the screen.

Why is any of this interesting?

Obviously flat screens broadcast film and display information, while ubiquitous touch screens are interactive, with a flow of personal content in and a retrieval of data out. Great for your mobile phone, tablet or other interfaces. Not good enough, however, for this project. Why stifle the bandwidth and have a screen for a city being used one citizen at a time? Underwhelming?

Positioning the screen as a shop front and the face of a central service might take things in a more interesting direction. Offer users the choice of standing in front of the screen or interacting with content streams from a distance – connecting with OpenCity’s egalitarian meta-presence remotely. We could see Apps that let users talk to the screen and let the screen talk back. For example, business owners with verified accounts might post discounts to the screen and shoppers might ask to download today’s deals.

Perhaps the screen could spot you via GPS (if you let it) and send relevant deals to your device, whenever you’re in walking distance of a business that’s part of the project? If you’re registered with the App, why can’t the screen give you a quick whistle (@axshaw) as you physically walk past a deal? Sounds possible to us.

Once we’ve established the OpenCity screen and given it a larger presence than its physical footprint (in a city centre street) let’s keep extending it.

Watch this space.