Revitalising the Hybrid High Street: digital placemaking for pragmatists

This article by Jo Morrison for the Calvium blog on digital placemaking expands on the idea of the ‘hybrid high street’ which is referred to as ‘the intersection of physical and digital space’. It aims to help place makers imagine and act upon potential futures.

Date added 17 September 2020
Last updated 17 September 2020

This article by Jo Morrison for the Calvium blog on digital placemaking expands on the idea of the ‘hybrid high street’. This is referred to as ‘the intersection of physical and digital space’. In light of COVID-19 and the profound challenges brought about by the pandemic, it aims to help place makers imagine and act upon potential futures and revitalise town centres. It especially emphasises the importance of citizen engagement approaches as digital technologies are useful tools in aiding people to express themselves and co-design places. This is particularly important in order for citizens to have a say in the shaping of their local environments and this could be a way of successfully capturing local concerns.

Additionally, by undertaking more citizen-centric approaches to placemaking, it becomes more inclusive. The article argues that many high streets have become no-go areas for many people before the pandemic even happened. However, it highlights that because of COVID-19, people’s relationship with the public realm has changed and there is now a need to design new ways for people to experience public spaces. As such, the article states that this is an opportunity to use digital technologies to improve this design and make public space more inclusive. The article provides three existing examples as to why more inclusive places are needed:

  • High streets are often full of ‘hostile architecture’.
  • Policies, planning, products or services can exclude people.
  • Poorly executed policies.

The article also gives several examples of digital solutions that facilitate a more inclusive approach to placemaking, including the Bristol specific project ‘PopMap’ which offers a real-time map of personalised events and activities in the centre, and the PPE Hive – a platform to support the local manufacture and distribution of PPE.

The article concludes with reflecting on how the pandemic has prompted the change back to ‘the local’ and boosted the turn towards the digital. Moreover, it highlights that the social themes of trust, mutuality, localism and community can be harnessed as part of a digital placemaking approach.