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A Platform for Place Based Storytelling

2020 — current | | Transportation Technology

In 2020, walkability became an urgent necessity for people living in urban areas, due to the mobility standstill brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. Inspired by the renewed interest in neighborhood–scale city planning, plus issues of accessibility and transportation, we partnered with Systematica to create Stories: a product that leverages geo–referenced data to help city dwellers navigate—and become engaged with—rapidly changing environments.

Challenge

Realize a human–centered alternative to offerings like Google and Apple Maps.

Solution

A modern navigational app enriched with place–based storytelling, powered by open source and user or sponsor–submitted data.

Services

Product/service strategy; Data science; UX, UI, and data visualization design; Front–end development

Deliverables

Prototype; Mobile app

What is Stories?

Designed to host place–based narratives that contextualize one's surroundings, Stories comprises four components or “layers” of interactivity: Placement, Guidance, Analysis, and Engagement.

When users log in, they are greeted with a map of a locale marked by visual indicators. These icons show quality of life measures: proximity to green spaces, transportation, areas of culture and recreation, and demographics. Users can customize Stories to reflect specific considerations.

From the home screen, users are invited to take a tour by choosing a “Story” from a menu. (In the example pictured above, the “15-minute-city” is the theme). When activated, the guided overview plays, taking users through the municipalities’ neighborhoods and highlighting places relevant to the Story via audio narration.

The experience unfolds through a series of cards reminiscent of Instagram Stories. Those who wish to deepen their exploration can do so with granular analysis capabilities, replete with data visualizations. Lastly, as a send–off, one is invited to participate in Stories' development and maintenance by contributing tips, or by simply signing up to receive notifications for new features and Stories. For example: the mobility category can be adjusted to only display bus lines, or bike racks. This visual system gives users an at–a–glance view of how well–suited an area is to meet their needs, whether they’re exploring as tourists or evaluating places to live.

Stories was first deployed in a prototype for Comune di Milano. Open source, location–based data provided by the city's geoportal powers this prototype, and represents a compelling use case, demonstrating how municipal data can be put to use as the foundation for a handy mobile app, equally valuable to locals and visitors.

At a higher level, the Milan prototype shows how Stories can be leveraged by local governing bodies to create a positive feedback loop for information–sharing. The end–result of this scenario is a strong, sticky offering, unique in its ability to serve sponsoring entities and users, both as a practical navigational tool and an ethical way to solicit data.

Evolution

Stories will continue to evolve with respect to functionality, features, and capabilities made possible with the collaboration of users. In the near future, we will prioritize the collection of data and user–submitted content to analyze mobility and use cases, with the end–goal of refining the product as both an interactive communication tool and navigational app.

The product is built to scale to accommodate environments big and small, spread–out and dense. Its application is equally relevant to small urban districts and metropolitan areas even bigger than Milan. Beyond opportunities in the public sector, it can be leveraged by private entities in support of events or initiatives, such as real estate development projects or cultural institutions.

Wherever an opportunity exists to enrich a user's journey through the real world, Stories can provide a framework for location–based storytelling.

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