Dundee City of Design embarks on fifth year of creative collaboration with Mexico City

Small Society Lab

Dundee UNESCO City of Design hosted their counterparts from Mexico City last month for a Small Society Ideas Lab. The two UNESCO Creative Cities of Design were developing the concept of the ‘small city of the future’.

It is the fifth year that the Ideas Lab has taken place, the first time that Dundee participated as a UNESCO designation, bringing settlements together to share stories, short film clips, photographs and sketches that represent and celebrate different aspects of urban culture.

Projects developed at the event include Follow Me!, a creative digital platform for finding city activities that lets users give bespoke urban tours; Postcard from Dundee, a locally crowdfunded short film to promote the city; a hybrid city ‘Mexi-Dee’, which allowed participants to draw buildings and attractions they would like to see in the city onto virtual maps, and Wordhunters, an app through which users can create original poetry using authentic images of street signage from around the city.

2015 partners include Dundee Contemporary Arts, Creative Dundee, University of Dundee and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. The project is collaborative, inviting participants from all sections of the city life, including community groups, artists, musicians and the general public.

In advance of the event, Creative Dundee suggested a number of imaginative ways for all in the city to take part. This included photographing meals and café culture throughout the city, writing articles and poetry about local news, recording night club events and interviewing people about gardening projects and allotments they might have. This on the ground content was then used to inspire creative projects to inspire civic engagement. Gillian Easson, Director of Creative Dundee, described the social implications of the event:

Having conversations across the continents through video conferencing was a real highlight; using technology to bridge the geographic distance enabled our communities to understand each other’s lives and creative practice much more – which is a great step for creating a truly networked society.”

The two-day programme included opportunities for file sharing across the Atlantic. As with previous years, it explores themes of democracy, creativity and community. Groups remixed aspects of both cultures to design collaborative, experimental and playful tools which considered issues relevant to city life; such as civic engagement, the environment, the high street and food production/waste.

Prototypes from both Dundee and Mexico City’s participants will be part of V&A’s Digital Design Weekend in London in September 2015. Malath Abbas, a digital artist, at the event, said: “As a game designer it was good to see how many likeminded people in Mexico were using the medium of games to tackle social issues and that’s something we aim to do more of in Dundee. Playfulness is a great way to address the many issues we face in our society. One of the many ideas that came out of the experience was a way to share interesting parts of our local environment though digital technology and art, be it short animated GIF animation on a website or an App that customised a visitor’s experience.”

A number of Mexican partners involved in the project were also actively involved in the ‘making’ events, including Laboratorio para la Ciudad, Centro de Cultura Digital, Laboratorio Arte Alameda and CENART.