UrbanIxD Summer School


Backspace is part of the Hybrid Citizen series.



Backspace is a critical design proposal that imagines a future scenario where technology enables citizens to intentionally disrupt or “glitch” the urban landscape, thereby reclaiming the city as a site for human interaction and expression. It is a product aimed at Urban Data Explorers, inspired by an ideal to humanize ubiquitous data and to inject emotions into the smart city. Their primary motivation is to reveal, celebrate and preserve the experiences that can be found at the seams of the city, spaces that may be uncertain, contested or confused, yet holding an intrinsic quality through their rich history.



Worn as a backpack – a universal symbol of the wanderer and dreamer – Backspace tunes into human interaction data (stories, memories, emotional fragments) that have been embedded in urban spaces by other Backspace users. As one approaches a space that holds human interaction data, Backspace will begin to broadcast sounds and speech fragments. Opening the Backspace panel and moving it over the general area allows Urban Data Explorers to fully tune into a story or memory. Backspace is a two-directional networked device, a perfect companion for exploring the urban realm. When stories are discovered, Urban Data Explorers should consider responding to them. Layered over time, the contributed memories paint a vivid picture of human experience that stands in contrast to the seamless and frictionless vision of the datafied ‘smart city’.