A project involving the Visual Methodologies Collective won a new citizen science prize from the European Union this month for ‘diversity and collaboration’. The EU created the Citizen Science Awards to encourage research with and by citizens. The prize was awarded in September during the Ars Electronica festival.

About the project
The Urban Belonging Project innovates methods for citizen engagement that foreground diverse and marginalized experiences in planning. The project invited participants in Copenhagen who identify as lgbt+, deaf, homeless, internationals, ethnic minorities, mentally vulnerable, and/or physically disabled to document their experiences of belonging in the city using participatory GIS and a new open-source photovoice app, developed for the project. To design the photovoice app, the collective behind the project carried out a co-design process, which was led by researchers and involved inputs from local community organizations and planners from Gehl, who helped test and refine the app. We then engaged participants through local organizations representing each community. In intro meetings with participants, we presented the process and handed out smartphones to people.

Participants then filled out a spatial questionnaire and carried out photovoice over 10 days, taking photos of places in Copenhagen that impact their sense of belonging in the city. While photos and routes were geo-tracked, participants were asked in the app to annotate their photos and react to other participants’ images. In workshops, participants worked together on interpreting the data, creating a collection of photos, maps, and visualizations that was exhibited to the public in 2022 at Urban 13 and Copenhagen Architecture Festival. While the methodology is being documented in scientific articles, the app is available on GitHub and is already being used by others as intended.

About the researchers
The international collective behind the Urban Belonging project assembles an interdisciplinary team of urban planners and researchers from Copenhagen and Amsterdam, spanning fields like digital humanities, service design, sociology, visual methodologies, programming, architecture, photography, techno-anthropology, and visualization design. The team was organized and steered by  Sofie Burgos-Thorsen, Drude Emilie Ehn, and Anders Koed Madsen and included Thorben Simonsen, Sabine Niederer, Maarten Groen, Carlo De Gaetano, Kathrine Norsk, Federico Di Fresco, representing Gehl Architects, Techno-Anthropology Lab (Aalborg University), Service Design Lab (Aalborg University), Visual Methodologies Collective (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences), and Center for Digital Welfare (IT University Copenhagen).

The Urban Belonging project is co-funded by the ‘Doing Data Together’ grant awarded to Anders Koed Madsen at Aalborg University and Innovation Fund Denmark’s research grants awarded to Sofie Burgos-Thorsen and Drude Emilie Ehn, respectively. In addition, it is supported by Gehl, Service Design Lab (Aalborg University), Center for Digital Welfare (IT University Copenhagen), and Centre of Expertise for Creative Innovation in Amsterdam (CoECI). External collaborators include Pedro Borges and community partners LGBT+ Denmark, Hugs & Food, Danish Deaf Association, Danish Disability Association, SIND Denmark, and Mino Denmark.