Digital Devices and the Use of Public Spaces


In line with the goals of the COST Action TU-1306 CyberParks and as a local research, the project aims to develop and test methodologies for tracking users in public spaces in Lisbon.

This project seeks to identify user’s behaviour patterns, and how through digital experience and use of the ICT can on one hand provide better understanding of practices of use and appropriation of public spaces and on the other hand, identify the potential of ICT for a more participatory planning process towards increasing the use of public spaces. In this project, direct observation will be complemented with automated monitoring.


  • Test the applicability of using of GPS (geographical positioning systems) and digital devices (apps on smartphones) to track users and identify their routes in public spaces in Lisbon.
  • Identify how mobile devices and other electronic gadgets can be used to enhance the experience of users while they are in the public spaces,
  • Develop behavioural experiments that foster the implementation of healthy uses of public spaces,
  • Encourage the discussion about the ethics of using digital data for research purposes, and how to engage user’s to collaborate in the project,
  • Develop measures to enhance territorial competences and citizenship.


The project consists of main tasks using different methodologies:

  1. Track the users with help of GPS or App devices, analysis the data gathered, transport this data in maps and analysis the graphical results against the existing features in the corresponding public spaces. Questions to raise are, e. g. why users choose this way, what or which features attract them.
  2. Using questionnaires create a profile of the users and collect subjective arguments of the choses made regarding the public spaces, paths, features, places of longer stay, etc. When the “user” correspond to a group of people, the interesting question is how the group decided for which way to go along.
  3. Establish intervention points (in the form of signs and messages encouraging certain physical activities, e.g., take this way, climb that, etc.) and the assessment of its use,
  4. Analysis the collected data (through digital features and questionnaires), in order to identify patterns of behaviour and aspirations on public spaces,
  5. Analysis of the results towards developing perspectives for an user oriented planning and production of public spaces,

Design and implementation

  • Computer vision
  • Video projecting
  • App & web
  • Conceptual Art and Land Art

Expected Results

The expected results are twofold:

  1. A set of maps and data analysed regarding the way people use the public spaces, and draw conclusions towards how to improve public spaces to be more user friendly and inclusive, and,
  2. Evaluation and conclusions on the applicability of the used tools (GPS & App CyberParks) to gather relevant data and information towards increasing them as research methodology.

The results will be widely published in scientific journals as well as on digital media.


  • Manning, E. 2009. Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
  • MacKenzie, A. 2002. Transductions, Bodies and Machines at Speed. London: Continuum.
  • Miranda, J.B. 2005. Geografias – imaginário e controlo da Terra. In Revista de Comunicação e Linguagens, 34 e 35, pp. 11-42. Lisboa: Relógio de Água.
  • Shapiro, G. 2006. Nietzsche on Geophilosophy and Geoaesthetics. In: K. A. Pearson (org.) A Companion to Nietzsche, pp. 477-494. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Smaniotto Costa, C., & Schmitz, R. M. (2013). As modernas tecnologias de informação e comunicação e o espaço público Explorando as fronteiras de uma nova relação. Revista de Geografia E Ordenamento Do Território, (3), 197–229. Retrieved from…/99
  • Whyte, W. 1980. The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, Washington, D.C.: The Conservation Foundation.

Research group

Catarina Patrício Leitão
Coord. CECL: Centro de Estudos de Comunicação e Linguagens
Carlos Smaniotto Costa
Diogo Mateus
Marluci Menezes
Núcleo de Estudos Urbanos e Territoriais, Laboratório Nacional de Engenharia (LNEC), as part of the Project CyberParks