Citizen participation in development of public spaces- A case study in Nepal looking at Minecraft as a tool in urban planning

University essay from Lunds universitet/Fastighetsvetenskap

Abstract: Public space are open spaces and areas where people in the city move around, get together and play, regardless of background, age, ethnicity, gender and income. This is particularly important in poor neighborhoods where people have no access to places where to socialize. Well designed and planned public spaces are symbols of several important aspects of a city; health, safety, culture and local economy. UN-Habitat (United Nations Human Settlements Programme) has therefore started the project Block by Block together with Mojang, the developer of the computer game Minecraft. The objective with the project is to develop public spaces in low income countries by using Minecraft as an urban planning tool. Through this project, UN-Habitat wants to involve youths in urban planning.
The purpose of this study is to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of using Minecraft as an urban planning tool. Emphasis is on how the gender perspective is applicable in the development of public spaces and whether the Minecraft method is gender equal. Finally the objective with the study is to analyze how the method can be improved to address its weaknesses.
In order to answer the research question an eight week case study has been conducted in the suburb Kirtipur of Kathmandu in Nepal, where a park is being developed through Block by Block. The case study includes a workshop where youths are invited to design their future park in Minecraft. The park is today used as a dumping ground and it has been encroached by illegal settlements. Since it is the only green area left in the city it is of great importance that it is revitalized. The case study is based on observations, a questionnaire and interviews with the Minecraft participants and the different stakeholders.
The result shows that Minecraft is a successful, fun and creative tool for youths to visualize their ideas. It makes the process more effective and it also opens up for discussions and interactions between different age and community groups. The weaknesses that were found with the methods were that girls are underrepresented and that urban poor and people with disabilities are neglected. The result shows that Minecraft focuses too much on the physical aspects and too little on experiences and feelings.
Two citizen participation methods were found that could be used together with Minecraft; a Gehl analysis and a Walking tour. The Walking tour, which is a mix between a Safety tour and a Role play lets the participants walk around in the area and try to see it from another person’s point of view. The aim is for them to discover the needs for a person with disability or a woman at nighttime, in order to include their needs and other relevant society groups in the design. The second method is to conduct a Gehl analysis, where the existing park is evaluated based on 12 quality criteria. The purpose is to find qualities that they like and
dislike about the park today, in order to better understand the possibilities and what needs to be developed.

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