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Community Data Explorer
What is the project challenge? With the government’s push towards localism – such as the right to build, communities need to understand publicly available data before they […] Read More >
Ecohome – Open Energy
What was the project challenge? Ecohome is taking a collective, community-led approach, to develop and test innovative household energy data engagement strategies.  The project aims to reduce […] Read More >
Less is More
What is the project challenge? Less is More will provide ‘proof of concept’ for a Lancaster-based real-life-digital ‘game’ that sets real-life sustainable challenges that are […] Read More >
What was the project challenge? LifeMirror set out to reintroduce local cinema as a community tool, enhancing community spirit with entertainment and creating a new arena for […] Read More >
Local Trade : Local Wealth
What was the project challenge? Can we all profit from being good? Following the global economic decline, Local Trade aims to ‘re-boot’ collaborative endeavours through […] Read More >
Policy Beta
Policy Beta will create a digital platform for citizens to network, generate ideas, debate issues, and vote on the policies that formulate principles for political […] Read More >
Success in Activist Tweets
What was the project challenge? The project investigated which social media practices are successful (i.e. had influence) and why they work, to discover the ways […] Read More >
Access ASD
What was the project challenge? Access ASD investigated how new digital technology could reduce social barriers amongst people on the Autism Spectrum. It’s estimated that around 700,000 people […] Read More >
On Supply
What is the project challenge? Renewable energy sources challenge us to think differently about the expectation that energy is always available whenever we demand it. ‘On Supply’ […] Read More >
What was the project challenge? The Patchworks project was set up to explore the health and communication needs of homeless people in Morecambe. Specifically, the project […] Read More >

What is Catalyst?

Catalyst is an interdisciplinary research project, based at Lancaster University in the UK, which brings together academics and communities to jointly imagine and build the next generation of digital tools for social change, and to explore innovative, bottom-up technology-mediated solutions to major problems in society.

Catalyst brings together a team of academics from a range of disciplines including social science, computing, design, and management science. It unites these with community organisations – large and small – based in Lancaster, Manchester and further afield. Teams of academics and community organisations form partnerships to research specific technological innovations aimed at social change.

In its first two years, Catalyst has built a network of over 90 community organisations (charities, local authorities, social enterprises, community groups, etc.) and 8 academic departments at Lancaster University. Catalyst has carried out 11 community-university partnerships, working on a diverse range of topics, including: digital services for the homeless, a digital anxiety management tool for people with autism, a mobile trading tracking application aimed at supporting local trading practices, a tool for sharing biometric data across social networks aimed at supporting competitive athletes, and tools that encourage energy users to reflect on the supply side of energy management so that society can be resilient in the face of inevitable energy shortages yet to come.

Across all these projects lie the common themes of: (1) citizen-led innovation through equal partnerships between the University and its community; (2) digital innovations addressing real problems with real people.

What's New?

It has been a while since the birth of ‘Local Trade, Local Wealth’ – an ambitious project funded by Catalyst to develop a mobile system to foster local spending and help the Lancaster economy flourish. The seed funding was put toward a proof of concept, resulting in a mobile interface for recording trading data. This led to the awarding of an EPSRC Research in the Wild grant, and 18 more months of development.

In the past several months, the proof of concept has been developed into a working system, which we now call BARTER: moBile sociAl netwoRking supporTing local Ethical tRading. Trading data can now be recorded by mobile (Android) phones and BARTER’s NFC (near frequency communications) cards. We have also devised a means of allowing users to link to the BARTER system via existing cards, such as their Lancaster University Purple Card, and we have plans to link all purple cards to BARTER in the future.

barter blog1

The other key development has been the BARTER website, the key purpose of which is to allow users to explore the trading data collected by the system. We are currently in the process of developing a visualisation that will not only educate the Lancaster community about the flow of money around (and out of) their economy, but will also motivate them to do more of their spending locally.

One proposed visualisation is shown below, although we plan to conduct interviews and focus groups to help us determine the best way to display this information.

barter blog2.jpg

We are nearly done developing another visualisation that maps the connections between various traders around Lancaster, which will look something like this:

barter blog3

You can access the latest information and videos for BARTER at barterproject.org

We have also had some success with publications. Our first publication, presented at Academic MindTrek ’13, is available for download here.

In a forthcoming IT Professional article – to appear in the special edition on mobile commerce – we describe the concept behind the BARTER system. And in a conference paper for CHI ’14, we discuss how BARTER relates to sustainability, and why solutions such as this would benefit the cause.

We have also had a paper accepted for the CSCW 2014 workshop on Co-creating & Identity-making in CSCW: revisiting ethics in design research which explores the ethics of persuasive technology.

For more information on BARTER, visit our webpage and our Facebook page. Further details on the BARTER concept and how the system works are presented in the videos found here and here.

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School of Computing and Communications
InfoLab21, Lancaster University

t: ++44(0)1524 592467

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