Thursday, December 2, 2010

City Tickets

Recently someone on the MySociety mailing list posted a link to Mayo Nissen's blog entry about an interesting project called City Tickets.

While it's not immediately obvious from the post (especially given the very convincing pictures), City Tickets is Mayo's final thesis project at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, rather than an actual existing system. In it he proposes augmenting existing parking ticket machines so they can also dispense so-called "city tickets": small receipt-like forms specific to the local area around the machine, to be filled in with details of repairs or suggested improvements (e.g. potholes in the road, or providing a bench to sit on). Completed tickets would be submitted to the local authority for action, and tickets would also show the "to-do list" of pending works.

The principle of City Tickets is very similar to MySociety's existing FixMyStreet website. FixMyStreet provides a simple but efficient way for people to report problems such as graffiti, fly-tipping, broken pavements and so on to their local council: problems can be pinpointed on a street-level map (making them easier for council representatives to locate), the details are forwarded to the local by the website on your behalf (removing a significant barrier to reporting problems), and lists of unresolved problems can be viewed and discussed (making it easier to follow up).

FixMyStreet is a great idea (as are all the MySociety projects) and does get results. The interesting twist with City Tickets is the possibility of extending this beyond the web, removing another potential barrier to participation (the reverse of a trend to move access to government services and information online, arguably depriving a significant proportion of the UK population without internet access). More generally, the idea of co-opting an existing technology infrastructure for social good feels like it should have potential. While using parking meters might not work everywhere, what about ATMs or payphones, for example? Or perhaps it could be a very worthwhile target application of ubiquitous computing technologies?

It seems unlikely that we'll see anything like City Tickets in real life any time soon, which is perhaps a shame. But one of the great things about projects like this is that they can suggest exciting possibilities we might not otherwise have imagined. And in the meantime, keep supporting FixMyStreet!

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