Talking Towns: A Place-Based Conversational AI Project was developed as part of the Weston Community Hubs project, funded by the Government through North Somerset Council and delivered by RENS.
The speed and scale of change in communications methods has impacted communities in a variety of ways.
- There are now deep differences in the ways people communicate. While some may be decades behind the curve, refusing answering machines and mobiles, others are at the cutting edge and are in constant communication through multiple online apps
- The ways we communicate not only impact our access to information, they also change who we communicate with, and the types of conversations we are likely to have
- The mix of communication methods that many use generate their own levels of stress, with speed of adoption and partial understanding resulting in a range of unforeseen consequences that are still being worked through at a societal level.
Talking Towns explores a way of easing a range of stress points through place-based Conversational AI, developed in collaboration with community members. It considers:
- Accessibility issues
- The impact of information disconnects on people’s sense of belonging
- The need to feel heard and included as a pre-condition for listening
- The importance of trust in knowledge transfer
- The importance of Knowledge Equity in building community cohesion.
Our place-based Conversational AI project was conceived as a way of sharing information and local knowledge in trusted spaces, in ways that reduce the burden on over-stretched service providers and volunteers.
The information will be crowd-sourced (with appropriate monitoring mechanisms) and the participatory process will, in itself, help to break down barriers and help to recognise the value of all local knowledge in building connected and resilient communities.
During the next phase we will be looking for new partners and other locations where particular types of interaction may be beneficial both for the participants and the project.