Smart Cities

British smart city uses your footsteps to map the stars – and make you feel safe

By Kitty Knowles 8 August 2017
Summary

Feel safe as you map the night sky.

Cold, hard and dark – walking your city’s streets at night isn’t always pleasant.

But sometimes, if you’re lucky, the stars above shine bright; their warm glow beaming out a serene and heartening beauty.

Now, one smart city wants to unite its communities, by bringing the constellations of the sky a little closer to home.

Just by pounding the pavements, you can help map the heavens on earth.

“I wanted to create a project that revolved around night time, that encouraged people to feel safe outdoors in the dark, and to interact with each other,” project lead Laura Kriefman, told The Memo.

Star Light, Star Bright

Star Light, Star Bright, which launches across the British city of Oxford this week, is the first winner of the Smart Oxford Playable City Commission.

Now locals and tourists alike can come to together after dark to play with clusters of pressure sensitive floor lights across the city.

Created by award winning art group, the Guerilla Dance Project, the idea is that players can work together to map constellations from the night sky, with each “star” pulsating more brightly, the more stars are activated.

When the final star is illuminated, super bright beams of light are activated, bathing everyone involved in a constellation of stars.

Look up!

Star Light, Star Bright certainly brings life to dark, winter streets, but like all good public art it’s also about so much more.

“I want people to look up and see a constellation that they now recognise: I want them to go away feeling empowered and look up again, and again,” Laura Kriefman, founder of Guerilla Dance Project, told The Memo.

“Looking up is an important act in helping citizens re-imagine their relationship with a city.”

Working with strangers, she explains, helps to create a feeling of citizenship, camaraderie and shared memory.

“I want to help people feel empowered, engaged, full of laughter and light, knowledgeable and in control,” she explains.

“This is about everyone feeling like they are united under the Oxfordshire night sky, no matter their age, physical ability or social- economic situation.”

The Thames Pulse project in London.

How smart is your city?

Oxford is far from the only smart city to embrace interactive artworks for the greater good of the community.

Supported by the Bristol-based Watershed and the British Council, the Playable City Commission also runs in nine cities across five continents with projects everywhere from Tokyo in Japan, to Lagos in Nigeria and São Paulo, Brazil.

And there are many other creative groups pushing for more interactive art around the world: one artwork, on London’s riverbank, shines out real time data about the pollution levels in the iconic river rushing past.

For Kriefman the world has to keep asking how we can improve the urban spaces we live in today.

“Can we reclaim our cities for the citizens who live in them: reclaim them for people; for movement,” she asks.

“Can we use science and technology in public spaces to make them beautiful, and surprising, full of serendipity and for exploration any time of the day – rather than for information and advertising.”

The answer might not be clear-cut yet. But where there is light, there is hope.

Read more:

Jude Kelly: 5 women using digital art to change the world