Alternate modes of mass transit will help the cities of Australia improve congestion on roads. But how do we encourage people to move to urban public transport and improve the existing network – especially given the constraints that surround the expansion of public transport networks?
Infostructure: A Transport Research Project, a book written by Encircle members Hank Haeusler, Martin Tomitsch alongside design architecture researcher Nicole Gardner from the University of Technology, Sydney, takes on the challenge of improving urban transport systems through the development of ‘infostructure.’
The infostructure refers to digital information systems that can sometimes be embedded in a physical space. The infostructure makes use of mobile and ubiquitous computing technologies, coupled with dynamic urban displays, to give users access to information that was previously not visible.
The overarching concept is that through provision of more information, customers are able to make better-informed decisions about how to use the existing infrastructure (the transport network). It complements the improvement of infrastructure because the physical changes needed for a particular space are small compared to the changes needed to build a new train line or set up a new bus network.
Three broad ideas run throughout the book and are explored with a range of case studies. First comes urban mobility and the concept of ‘access’ – which could entail access to transport services, their frequency, or access to information about the transport network. It’s this last form of access that can be most improved by a developed infostructure.
To this end, the book explores architectural studio projects that aimed to improve information access. To that end concepts explored through the book are based on ambient and ubiquitous computing. Ubiquitous computing describes the concept of computing technology being so proliferate it disappears into the background of our lives – we do not truly notice it is there (at least until we need to use it). But for such computing to work – particularly in transport environments where a customer’s attention is split over several different demands – it needs to be designed in a way that makes it ambient and unobtrusive.
The infostructure refers to digital information systems that can sometimes be embedded in a physical space.
The book advocates the creation of a digital layer of media architecture that would feed customers with service scheduling and way finding information when they need it.
Finally, the book examines the idea of interaction design from a user-based perspective. The projects in this part of the book come from a studio where students were asked to design mobile applications to improve the user experience taking Sydney public transport. The designers began with analysing the user – their goals, needs and desires. To understand these, they used methods like in-situ observation of the transport environment, interviews with the public about what they would want out of an app, and lead users who gave constant feedback to the designers as the projects developed.
From this, user-centric apps were designed and are showcased throughout the book.
Gardner, N; Haeusler M; Tomitsch, M (2010): Infostructure: A Transport Research Project.Freerange Press, Christchurch.