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Landscape/Portrait: do the statistics used by planners represent real people?

[More in series of features from DOTT 07 - Alex]

Wouldn’t it be great if... the faces and voices of citizens influenced design and regeneration projects – not just abstract data?

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Does your postcode define who you are? Statistical models of communities based on postcode areas are often used in the design and planning of public services and regeneration projects.

Landscape/Portrait confronts people living in the North East with their demographic ‘stereotype’ based on these statistics and asks them ‘Is this you?’.

How did it work?

In Landscape/Portrait, Forma commissioned media artist Kevin Carter, working with Media 19, to present three communities across the region with demographic stereotypes about their own area.

People from within these communities then worked with Kevin and Media 19 to create a series of video self-portraits. These were presented as part of a outdoor campaign and uploaded to a purpose-built website, alongside the official statistical data and stereotypes currently held by market research agencies about each location.

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The campaign aimed to entice people to contribute to the online community, where they could create and upload their own video portraits. This online community was then exhibited at the Dott 07 Festival, where visitors could use a laptop and webcam to create their own portraits live on site.

The website presents participants with a fictional character who asks a series of questions about where they live, who they are, their health, hobbies, happiness, work and aspirations for themselves and their neighbourhood. The interview is recorded live via a webcam, then automatically uploaded to the website.

The site maps each portrait geographically and allows visitors to search for portraits by postcode, username or questions answered. Visitors to the site are encouraged to leave comments under the profiles to open up discussion and debate. Landscape/Portrait invites citizens to think about who they are, how they are and how they would like their communities to be.

This project formed part of North East England’s world-class festival.

What next?

Landscape/Portrait was produced for Dott 07 by Forma as a collaboration between artist Kevin Carter, Media 19, and the University of Teesside.

Dott 07 Festival visitors were invited to view and respond to their own personal video portraits. In this process, which is ongoing, the project evaluates demographic data by comparing them to the lives of citizens and communities across the region.

To generate your own profile and join the debate from home, you will need a broadband internet connection and a webcam. Below is a list of useful websites related to this project:

Landscape/Portrait www.landscape-portrait.com www.dott07.com/go/landscape

Co Lab Projects www.co-lab.org/commissions

Forma www.forma.org.uk

Media 19 www.media19.co.uk

From December 1-14, 2007, WorldChanging will be featuring articles from Dott 07 (Designs of the time 2007), a year of community projects, events and exhibitions based in North East England, explored what life in a sustainable region could be like -- and how design can help us get there.

Click here to read the introduction to the series, "Dott 07: a new industrial revolution."

A national initiative of the Design Council and the regional development agency One NorthEast, Dott 07 is the first in a 10-year programme of biennial events developed by the Design Council that will take place across the UK. The projects were small but important real-life examples of sustainable living, which will evolve and multiply in the years ahead. Several projects were delivered in partnership with Culture10, based at NewcastleGateshead Initiative. Culture10 manages North East England's world-class festival and events programme.

Dott 07 projects aim to improve five aspects of daily life: movement, health, food, school and energy. The focus of the initiative was on grassroots community projects; but there were also projects involving more than 70 schools, plus exhibitions and events in museums, galleries and rural sites. All events explore how design can improve our lives in meaningful ways.

The year culminated in a free 12-day Dott 07 Festival in Baltic Square on the banks of the River Tyne. It brought together the results of the projects and enabled all those involved to share experiences and plan what to do next. Outstanding achievements were celebrated in the Creative Community Awards. Above all, the festival was an opportunity for many more people to find out how to participate in similar projects - and thereby accelerate the region's transition to sustainability.

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