New article: Mobile Design as Neighborhood Acupuncture: Activating the Storytelling Networks of South L.A.

urban-acupuncture-in-journal-of-urban-technologyWe have a fun paper out this month on “neighborhood acupuncture” in the Journal of Urban Technology. The broader special issue was on urban acupuncture, described by the editors as: “a localized intervention or treatment… used for the revitalization and (re)creation of a city by targeting strategic points, poking or activating networks into action.”

Co-authors: George Villanueva, François Bar, and Sandra Ball-Rokeach.


A delicate touch is required to empower neighborhoods using civic media. Funding is persistently scarce. Especially in marginalized neighborhoods, blunt designs can be counterproductive and even entrench complex problems. New metaphors may be needed to guide design and empower local neighborhoods. Urban acupuncture is used as the basis for this study, emphasizing a light-touch strategy that has shown success in Brazil with urban transit, and more recently in Europe with urban design. We specifically propose “neighborhood acupuncture” to address the local level, tapping the sociology of place-based communication. To investigate the implications for systematic design, a case study is probed in South Los Angeles using mobile media for community mapping. Using qualitative methods, three tactics were investigated for the potential to “poke” the network into action, including one to bridge diverse storytelling networks. Each tactic ultimately seeks to build the capacity for collective action around neighborhood issues. Acupuncture is broadly argued to sustain two design shifts: first to help approach neighborhoods as ecosystems, and second, to design for circulation rather than any single technology platform.

> Download our full article from the journal website: Mobile Design as Neighborhood Acupuncture: Activating the Storytelling Networks of South Los Angeles.

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