I have two main roles on this project. First to be techie and second to be the voice of wisdom and experience when Lauren is doing battle with our institutional bureaucracy. For discretion's sake, I probably won't talk too much about that second role online, but buy me a coffee sometime and I'll spill the beans.
The UK team will be visiting South Africa in April 2017 for initial meetings with our collaborators as well as with students and planners. I'll be doing some filming while we're out there, which should show up as a short documentary setting out the parameters of the project and the challenges being examined.
The more significant of my techie inputs is in thinking through a collaborative platform for sharing information and ideas about planning and regeneration in South Africa. In order to start a conversation about what that platform might look like, I've set up a demonstrator webapp, which is accessible through the 'collaborate' link on our website. Essentially this is a tool which can be used on web/tablet/mobile to allow anyone to add photographs and text to an online map. It thus gives contributors a chance to highlight interesting planning and regeneration projects in South Africa, from which other people may not have been aware of, thus creating a map-based archive. The app allows you to either use the GPS from your device, or simply drag your photo to the relevant location on the map and is - in our testing - pretty easy to use.
The map works on any device that has a web browser - even my terrible Windows-based phone that you can see in the photo above. For those interested in technical details, it's built on the ArcGIS Online platform, specifically their Crowdsourced Story Map app, which allows us to easily examine the data gathered within a standard GIS.
Depending on how people use it and the kinds of functionality they're interested in, we may look to commission a real programmer to design something more professional-looking. In the meantime, if you happen to be based in South Africa and have an interesting project to share, why not have a go.
Phil Jones, University of Birmingham, February 2017