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RCA Social Connections Modelling Kicks Off Civic Engagement Research Project in Elephant & Castle

A Royal College of Art doctoral research project exploring the mapping of social connections through physical modelling is the focus of a two-day workshop this week in London’s Elephant & Castle. 

Designer, PhD candidate and Information Experience Design tutor John Fass, together with Information Experience Design Head of Programme Dr Kevin Walker are leading the workshop, creating physical models of people’s close social connections using simple materials. Just like an architectural model shows the fine detail of a building development, these social network models will show how we’re linked to the people in our lives.

The workshop aims to support people in discovering the nature and extent of their own connections, help them contribute to a picture of how people are connected to one another, and reflect on the differences between real friendships and computational ones.

According to Fass, that social network modelling is usually done using software producing complex diagrams of connections makes real understanding of the connections ‘all but impenetrable’ to most people.

‘In fact, much of this work ends up being communication between computers,' Fass explained. 'The idea of this project is to bring people and personal stories into how social networks are understood – not just as dots and lines on a chart – but as a result of the complex interplay of family, friends, work, and relationships.'

‘Everybody Needs Somebody’ is the first in a series of events in April exploring the concept of ‘crowd powered change’, part of an AHRC-funded Creative Exchange research project in partnership with the Royal College of Art, the Guardian and community project support platform, Changify. The series of projects, 'The Elephant Trumpets', will specifically focus on civic engagement in London's Elephant and Castle – an area undergoing development and gentrification.

‘We'll be showing people how to use public pollution data to tell a story about their neighbourhood and holding a transport planning workshop with the neighbourhood planning group. There will be chances to make a pinhole camera and photograph the surrounding area, to find a partner for start-ups and new business ideas. We'll be running physical computing workshops and hacking the local economy,’ added Fass.

For further information on Everybody Needs Somebody two-day workshop, click here

 For further information on the events series, The Elephant Trumpets, click here.