Minecraft tested as a tool for dialogue

17 May 2022
Children working with Minecraft on computer

In the spring of 2022, the City Planning Office in the City of Gothenburg held a series of workshops on urban development at the school Lärjeskolan, where the game Minecraft was tested as a tool to create engagement and mediate the children's thoughts and dreams about the future. The workshops are carried out as part of the EU project IRIS Smart Cities and have been a success at the school.

“You are celebrities here now! There has been a lot of talk about it at school and basically all students say they want to join the workshops. The tool itself is great because it is so simple and it allows everyone to participate, regardless of age, player experience or language skills. Once the children get started, we teachers notice that the game is really engaging and the fact that it is Hjällbo - their own neighborhood - that they get to work with increases the interest and commitment further,” says Pernilla Rylander, teacher in class 4A at Lärjeskolan.

The students are test pilots in a research project on citizen engagement - and at the same time the students' ideas are collected and brought into the in-depth dialogue that takes place during process of developing Hjällbo, socially disadvantaged area in Gothenburg.

“That the city planning office comes here and does this is a big thing in itself - to meet professions and actors in society that we otherwise only talk about, has been crucial for Lärjeskolan. The children appreciate that they are taken seriously, assigned a role in an important project, are listened to and seen and that is something that is needed here,” says Pernilla Rylander.

The dialogue with the students at Lärjeskolan is part of the EU project IRIS Smart Cities, in which the City of Gothenburg and the city planning office are partners of together with Johanneberg Science Park and Chalmers University of Technology, among others. The city planning office runs the part of the project dealing with citizen engagement through digital platforms such as Minecraft and MinStad. The tools are particularly interesting to use in urban development dialogue because they contain virtual versions of Gothenburg. Previous workshop series with Minecraft were carried out during 2020 and 2021 in the area Bergsjön.

Other partners that has contributed in the collaboration around the workshops in Hjällbo are White Architects, the Tenants' Association and the Gothenburg Region.

Vy från Minecraft

- Hjällbo is an area with great development potential and qualities to build on, but some shortcomings need to be remedied for a well-designed living environment. The conditions have been perfect for testing the tool here and now. And that we can also include the material in ongoing work with child impact assessment and social impact assessment regarding the current program proposal is a nice synergy, says Anna Reuter Metelius, project manager for the planning program for Hjällbo and project manager of IRIS Smart Cities, Citizen Engagement at the city planning office.

“Minecraft is exciting because it provokes the established system by offering a reverse logic: we reach people where they are, in their own living environment, where they are experts, and acquire knowledge and suggestions from voices that are usually not heard. This creates trust and opens opportunities for co-creation and so-called "open governance", which research shows will become increasingly important for maintaining democratic values ​​in society, says Susanne Ollila,” professor of organizational behavior at Chalmers, who also participates in the project.

The next phase of the project is to collect, analyze and package the results into a method that will be shared with other member countries of IRIS Smart Cities.

“We have noticed that the dialogue is promoted by adults and children meeting on the children's playing field – the computer game. Minecraft bridges barriers that can arise in the conversation between adults and children. Here, the child can be the expert both in their living environment and with the tool, which benfits the conversation,” says Anna Reuter Metelius.

Vy från Minecraft

The team from the city planning office has noted that it is the dialogue that arises around the game: both between students and between workshop leaders and students that is the very essence of the work. There, the composition of competencies in the team is crucial - in this case architect, planner, game educator, cultural environment specialist. They have been able to arouse interest and awareness about architecture and designed living environment from different perspectives.

“The game concretizes and visualizes things that you may not have put into words before or thought you had the opportunity as a resident to be involved and influence,” says Anna Reuter Metelius.

The results from the Minecraft workshops at Lärjeskolan will be exhibited on the square in Hjällbo, with a vernissage during Hjällbokalaset, 21 May. It will also be possible to test and build in Hjällbo in Minecraft on site, hopefully with guidance from students from Hjällboskolan.

Vy från Minecraft

IRIS Smart Cities
IRIS is a five-year EU project that started on October 1, 2017. Within the project, new solutions for urban development within the areas in energy, mobility and ICT (Information and Communication Technology) are being tested. Three cities, which are considered to have come a long way in these areas, are selected as so-called "Lighthouse cities" - Utrecht (Netherlands), Nice (France) and Gothenburg.

Four follower cities are also participating: Vaasa (Finland) Alexandroupolis (Greece) Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Spain) and Focsani (Romania). The idea is that the follower cities will learn from and be able to use the solutions that are developed within the Lighthouse cities.

In total, 43 organisations from 9 countries collaborate. Eleven partners participate in Gothenburg: Johanneberg Science Park coordinates the project on behalf of the City of Gothenburg and additional partners are the following: Akademiska Hus, ChalmersHSBIMCGMetryTrivectorTyrénsRiksbyggen and RISE.

Read more about IRIS >>

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For more information, contact:

Eva Edman Pavic, Project Coordinator

+46 721 63 28 64 eva.pavic@johannebergsciencepark.com LinkedIn