Co Creation

Defining Personal, Habitual Patterns in Public Spaces

I held a co-creation workshop as part of my thesis work with the goal of defining social congregation patterns in public spaces to fortify them against threats posed by the next, fifth wave of terrorism in North America.
Video shot by Zihan Chen

Understand how people habitually occupy areas of a city

As part of my thesis work that seeks ways to fortify public spaces in anticipation of terrorist attacks, I wanted to know where, why and how people take mental breaks when going about their day in a city like New York. If I could identify city nodes where people are most likely to be mentally absent, it would indicate weak social resilience in those spaces.

Understand to what extent civilians are aware of their surroundings in public spaces.

According to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Soft Targets and Crowded Places Security Plan (May, 2018), “An informed and empowered American public is the greatest ally the Department has in its work to enhance the security of ST-CPs [soft targets and crowded places].” (p. 8)

New York City's “See Something. Say Something.” public awareness campaign depends on civilians being situationally aware. The city's call to action to download the app is: “It's Our Responsibility to Pay Attention and Take Action.” Simply: if we aren't paying attention and don't know what to look for, then we can't take action in the event of a terrorist attack.


I used Guy Debord's The Naked City, which depicts psychogeographical nodes cut out of a Paris guidebook, as a backdrop to understanding my participants' own understandings of the spaces they tend to occupy. I wanted to know if they mentally skipped over the spaces in between their city nodes. And if so, were they cognizant of these mental lapses?

People's expectations define their capacity for situational awareness

The results were conflicting. The narrower the spread between people's estimated times of arrival (ETA's) and their actual ETA's, the more they could manage expectations, mentally prepare and take mental breaks. But, if they remained mentally occupied with commuting challenges, their priorities and capacity for empathy for others also diminished.

At the end of the session we discussed how the places participants mapped affected their experience of traveling between them. They said they shared the feelings of fellow co-creator Emily Murphy.
All the places I go to are bad. The difference between good and bad patterns are my ex-pectations and time.
Emily Murphy
Co-Creation Participant
I had spoken with Ian Graham, a subject matter expert and Director of Planning at R.E. Millward & Associates in Toronto, Canada, shortly before the co-creation session. When speaking about the future of mobility infrastructure in cities, he affirmed the challenge of managing expectations and time.
We need a plan for people's temporal, minute-by-minute decisions—not just cost.
Ian Graham
Director of Planning at R.E. Millward & Associates
Transportation systems in cities have high throughput, and so DHS (Department of Homeland Security) categorizes them as ST-CPs (Soft Targets and Crowded Places), which are difficult to oversee and secure because they are open in nature.  
Next steps

HMW manage people's travel expectations within a city by leveraging new kinds of mobility infrastructure, thereby making civilians more responsive to attacks?