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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?

Following the exciting ideas and prototypes developed in the 2nd Active Parks Workshop the team has been working hard to developing the first version of the Xylophone concept.

On Saturday the interactive xylophone went up in Ryelands Park, giving locals a chance to get a first hand experience and collect feedback on their views of its concept. The interactive xylophone was an outcome of a co-design process, based on the shared vision of “a community space with fun and activities safe for everyone to enjoy. It was well received by the local community with over 150 people interacting with it in the three hour space of the event. The feedback was amazing with several suggestions for new games and activities. The team’s favourite one was from a young person who wrote on our feedback board “I want one at home, it’s awesome!”.

The most encouraging element of the xylophone was that it invited people across ages to interact with it, having lots of fun and a good work out at the same time. It was great to see that the xylophone encouraged parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren to interact with it together, bridging in this way the generation gap and producing some interesting music in the process.

There are two ways of interacting with the xylophone. The first and most accessible way is through the use of conductive technology. The only prerequisite is that you have one of your hands positioned on the large painted hand in the xylophone, whilst you use your other hand to play any tune and test how far you can stretch. As it is based on conductive technology multiple players can engage at the same time provided there is a physical connection between them, hence facilitating connectedness.

The concept is based on following the numbers shown on the mobile phone to play ‘Twinkle  Twinkle Little Star’ by touching the mobile on the mobile phone icons in the Xylophone. To play the tune you have to be very fast, move throughout the board to find the numbers, which makes it very challenging.

We gathered a number of interesting points and lessons from the brief pilot testing of the interactive Xylophone in the park on the 28th of June. Firstly it was evident that playfulness in ageless. It was great to see people across all age groups interacting together, learning from each other and having fun.  There are fun ways of keeping active. It is best to encourage people to move, stretch and exercise through enjoyable multisensorial interactions that involve touch, audio and vision. These become more valuable and widely utilised when they have the aim of bridging the intergeneration gap at their core, by facilitating connectedness between people.

Lastly but certainly not least, co-designing interactions is the way forward.

Check out our video to find out more!

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