b-Part is an interdisciplinary research project funded by FFG, Tekes and Formas under the European Commission’s Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe. Between April 2013 and March 2016 (extended to December 2016), the involved researchers will investigate novel concepts and solutions for citizen e-participation utilizing latest mobile device technology and appliances embedded in today’s urban environments. The proposed pervasive participation approach will consider each level of e-participation by enabling, engaging, and empowering citizens with the ultimate aim of encouraging a continuous dialogue between a city and citizens by using contemporary technology.

In a highly interdisciplinary approach, involving end-users through Urban Living Labs, b-Part will combine user-centered pervasive interaction research with social studies to explore engagement and activation, and research on democratic innovations to ensure integration into the overall political decision making process. The research project aims to support development of pervasive participation in European cities and to strengthen the citizens’ involvement in governance. Due to the steadily increasing penetration of smart mobile devices, on-going instrumentation of urban environments, as well as citizens’ growing interest in e-democracy, b-Part represents a highly relevant and timely research endeavor.

In detail, b-Part targets the following objectives:

  • Explore novel pervasive participation interfaces. Inventing and investigating new concepts for enabling mobile interaction and e-participation in urban governance through citizens’ personal mobile devices and appliances in an orchestrated urban environment.
  • Create validated design guidelines for pervasive participation interfaces. Providing concrete guidelines for the design of pervasive participation interfaces by in-depth assessment of prototypes using user experience tests in a lab environment as well as Urban Living Labs.
  • Provide guidelines how to make a pervasive participation application attractive to use. Identification of factors that motivate, encourage and enable the use of new applications and technologies, applied to the context of developing a new pervasive participation tools and applications. For instance, identification of the character of incentives needed among different user groups (see also the next objective).
  • Provide guidelines how to diminish the effect of so-called digital divide. Identifying means to integrate also those citizen groups at the risk of exclusion when applying new technology and a particular form of design. For instance developing strategies to address the deficiencies in the application’s reach.
  • Preparation of a road map of pervasive participation objectives for policymakers. Investigate the conditions under which pervasive participation concepts might become an effective policy-making tool by relating the concept of pervasive participation to wider urban governance processes.
  • Develop a prototypical pervasive participation platform for field testing. Building a robust software platform which integrates several of the built functional prototypes for validating the investigated pervasive participation concepts at different localities.
  • Gather real-world experiences with pervasive participation through Urban Living Labs. Evaluating the prototyped pervasive participation techniques under actual use conditions (Urban Living Lab) and analyzing feedback from all stakeholders. Document real-world experiences of pervasive participation services, learn about their acceptance and potential value, and create practical knowledge for deploying such services elsewhere.