Street Lab


Project Description


Growing diversification and the development of a multi-ethnic urban society has lead to difficulties regarding social integration, as well as to the creation of a feeling among young people of having an uncertain future.
At the same time, we find evidence of creative social innovation: Especially lower-income and multi-ethnic urban areas have historically proven to be a breading ground for creative social innovation, trends and sub-cultures (e.g. hip hop, skateboarding, parcour, street art, etc.).


In an experimental and user-centered approach, we seek to understand the real needs and uses of mobile phones and services in today’s urban context.
To enable the research into authentic experiences in every day life, we plan to “move” the laboratory onto the street, thereby combining a semi controlled environment with a situation of permanent field research.
In view of growing diversification and the global multi-ethnic urban society, we focus our research on heterogenic and dense urban neighborhoods. We look at how to employ mobile ICT to facilitate creativity, understanding and social/environmental sustainability.


The project consists of the combined interests in our multiple research fields:

  • Social and Inclusive Design (Tom Bieling)
  • Sustainable and Environmental Design (Jan Lindenberg)
  • Embodied and Playful Interaction (Fabian Hemmert)
  • Confusing and Improvised Design (Katharina Bredies)
  • Gender-Sensitive and Inspired Design (Gesche Joost, Sandra Buchmueller)

The research was mainly carried out in different semi-structured workshops (e.g. co-design workshops on mobile services with teenagers and young adults), each of them focusing on combinations of the above mentioned topics:

  • Mobile Movie Contest (cam-videos)
  • Mobile Music Workshop (mobile DJing, mobile clubbing, mobile disco)
  • Mobile Hacking Workshop (phone and toy hacking)
  • Mobile Texting (SMS poetry and poetry slam, creative dialogues)
  • Mobile Imagery Art (pixel graffiti, virtual tagging, emoticons)
  • Mobile Knowledge Initiatives (edu-gaming, info-sharing)
  • Mobile Neighborhood Activities (urban gardening and farming, re-use and recycling, alternative energy)
  • Mobile Integration (social communities, collaborative services, intercultural dialog, local activism, translation, integration of the disadvantaged)


In our research we follow a general User-Centered Design approach including:
Participatory Design: Involving the user as an equal partner in the exploration and design process.
Ethnographic Research: Documenting and understanding traditions, rituals and habits in cultural and social contexts, e.g. via participatory observation.
Hybrid Research Space: Combining laboratory and field research in an experimental way.


Bieling, Tom; Joost, Gesche; Müller, Alexander (2010). Potencial colaborativo: desenhando coexistência no contexto urbano. In V!RUS 04, São Carlos, n.4, dez. 2010..

Bieling, T. Joost, G. and Müller, A (2010). Collaborative potential: designing coexistence in urban context. In V!RUS, 04, [online] .

Bieling, T., Joost, G., Hemmert, F., Lindenberg, J, & Müller, A. (2010). Taking Design Research onto the Street. In Baltic Horizons, No 11 (110), August 2010, scientific Journal, EuroAcademy Series Art & Design. Euroakadeemia.

Müller, A., Bieling, T. & Lindenberg, J. (2010). StreetLab – Exploring the impact of cultural diversity on mobile information communication technology. Fiscar – Proceedings Helsinki. Nordic Conference on Activity Theory and the Fourth Finnish Conference on Cultural and Activity Research; Aalto University, Publication series of the School of Art and Design B 100.