People’s needs are rarely placed at the centre of global data collection. Dalang Fever 3: How Data Can Empower a Migrant Society is a participatory research project which aims to understand the desires and needs of the residents of Dalang, a rapidly transforming neighbourhood on the outskirts of Shenzhen.
Currently very little data – excepting inaccessible user data – is available on the migrants living and working in this remote and often overlooked area. Het Nieuwe Instituut and the International New Town Institute (INTI) collaborated with Impact Hub Shenzhen to independently collect quantitative and qualitative data anonymously. Through interviews and online questionnaires, the researchers collected structural and semi-structural data from 350 people living and working in Dalang to provide genuine insights into the area, as well as a richer sense of its human interactions, needs and network.
Het Nieuwe Instituut and the International New Town Institute joined forces by combining extensive working experience in Shenzhen with knowledge on data and the smart society in a research proposal curated by Linda Vlassenrood. The impact of datafication on society and the human environment is all-pervasive. Yet the threats and opportunities it presents for urban life are still not being sufficiently recognized by design disciplines like architecture and urban planning.
Dalang Fever 3 consists of research, an exhibition during the 2019 Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture and a workshop by independent curator Linda Vlassenrood, with exhibition design and graphics by Koehorst in ‘t Veld.
From the Eyes of the City to Eyes for the Citizens An article by Martijn de Waal.
A statistical analysis of the conducted research
The research uses a methodology of identifying questions before collecting data at large, starting with the needs of residents in Dalang, a district on the outskirts of Shenzhen where hardly any generalized data is being gathered. Primarily a dense collection of urban villages and factory compounds, it is hard to reach, has few public facilities and limited green and public spaces. It is home to approximately 500,000 people, who are mostly young migrants. Starting by identifying the needs and ambitions of the residents, collecting formal, informal and qualitative data provides genuine insights and a richer sense of the human interaction, needs and networking in the area.
Using an application based on blockchain technology, four layers of information were gathered. A multidisciplinary data and design team (data analysts, urban planners, architects, graphic designers, industrial designers, social designers and sociologists) with spatial and social expertise collaboratively analyzed the collected data and used their different viewpoints to propose solutions to improve living conditions and empower people in Dalang. It is an iterative and open-ended process that will explore the use of quantitative and qualitative data in order to incorporate people’s needs into the continuous upgrading and transformation of Dalang. How should we collect data? How can we make it accessible? How can we visualize it? Which spatial and organisational transitions should be instigated? What kind of new platforms and working methods will be needed?