Shared Walks is an initiative that promotes social encounters by movement in the city. It connects people to walk together, creates possibilities for participation in public space and initiates social interactions in segregated societies.
Walking, as an urban practice, has the potential to generate encounters and enable communication with others. It can be experienced in ways to allow people to perceive the city, others and themselves in relation to the environment and society in different ways. Shared Walks project focuses on the social dimension of walking, aiming to equalize the chances of participation, create opportunities for interaction, initiate people to rethink routines, appropriate space, and reclaim relations and connections between people and places.
Shared Walks adopts a process-based approach to research the potentials of walking to enhance dialogue and participation. It invites all interested people to look at their environment and other people in relation to themselves from different perspectives.
Walking Research Labs
Researching the question ‘How can we walk with others?’, the initial phase of Shared Walks was designed as walking research laboratories, which open a playful space for the exploration of the environment and others. Including and mixing different approaches from social sciences to artistic research, the main aim was to gain knowledge on different aspects of walking together as well as make participation possible for diverse groups of people in the city.
Walking research labs raise awareness about the potentials of walking, initiate people to walk and interact with each other. Participants experiment and explore different ways of walking together in random closeness. Shared walks are done in pairs, every participant teams up randomly with another. Pairs select a type of walk from a variety of methods, walk together and share experiences. Different types of walks propose minor changes to the way we walk normally to pave the way to an appropriation of places, get in relation to others and trigger self-awareness. Participants of
the labs actively got involved in the research process by experimenting types of walks with someone else, exploring the city with a different perspective and reflecting on the process at the end of walks. Questionnaires as well as face to face interviews and roundtable discussions were the main methods of collecting information. Especially dealing with diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity, lifestyles etc; walking research labs were carried out in collaboration with different local partners to ensure participation of diverse groups.
Walks look at the intersection and combination of perceptions, providing an open space for the participants to appropriate space and get in relation to the other and question their ways of doing things. Some types of walks deal more with our relation to the other people by changing physical and relational elements during walks. Some other types try to initiate an altered sense or perception of our environment primarily experiencing the route in a different way. In the second phase of the project, more than 20 walks were developed and combined with mapping elements that deal with social and spatial issues in cities: i.e. smell, memory, language, balcony, encounter, shelter etc.
Shared Walks developed its approach by adding the mapping element, and inviting all interested people to look at places from different perspectives by participating in collective neighbourhood mapping in different settings. Within the Urbanize Festival in October 2018, neighbours and visitors of the Nordbahnhalle collected observations, impressions, thoughts, feelings, memories, stories, associations etc. that were later transferred into a consolidated intersubjective map of the area, reflecting different perspectives of diverse participants, both on site and online.
Based on the experience of Walking Research Labs and Neighbourhood Mapping activities carried out in collaboration with different organizations in Vienna, Shared Walks proved itself to be a low-threshold, playful, participatory methodology to bring people together and create local interactions through mapping neighbourhoods. Shared Walks will make this experience and knowledge available for the use of different local grassroots and civil society organizations in different cities by preparing an open-source community toolbox in 2019.
- WS 2018/19
- Eylem Ertürk
- Bernd Rohrauer
- www.sharedwalks.com firstname.lastname@example.org