Subido por María Dolores Flores Aguilar

Learning public spaces

Habitat International 87 (2019) 91–98
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Using information and communication technologies to create learning urban
public space. (Case study: Central part of Tehran, Iran)
Zahra Nouria,∗, Mojtaba Rafieiana, Kimia Ghasemib
Faculty of Art and Architecture, Tarbiat Modares University (TMU), 14115-111, Tehran, Iran
Faculty of Humanities, Tarbiat Modares University (TMU), 14115-111, Tehran, Iran
Urban public space
Information and communication technology
Learning environment
This paper addressed how urban public spaces equipped with ICTs could be proper places for their users to learn.
To find out the strategies of physical interventions for creating learning urban public spaces, the preferences of
their users were derived by conducting interviews in the urban public spaces in the central part of Tehran. The
results obtained from a deep survey with open (ended) questions suggested that the users of these public spaces
were eager to learn in those spaces via ICTs and were more interested in displays than in any other types of ICTs
moreover they gather at Wi-fi zones. The most important thing to learn in urban public places is knowledge,
rather than skill or training, the knowledge which is related to the selected urban public spaces, their historical
and cultural facts, and their management and participation issues rather than any other types. The most facilitating environmental conditions for learning are the places which have areas to seat or are equipped with seats,
where users can gather and socialize easily, and which are not so crowded or empty, and the meeting points.
Also, pre-experienced situations effect users’ interest in the use of a especial type of ICTs rather than the other
These findings inform urban designers, planners, policy makers and local municipality that some practical
strategies used for physical interventions in these places for the purpose of creating learning public spaces would
be the use of displays on the facades of buildings at different levels of pedestrian views, the installation of Wi-fi
zones which have a supporting role to increase the number of learners, and the preparation of suitable seating
furniture in the meeting points for long lasting learning.
1. Introduction
Today the present educational system cannot satisfy the demands of
education, therefore, it cannot be deemed as a proper system which can
guarantee flexibility and meet specific local exigencies quickly.
Moreover, the issues of access, equity, and resources pertaining to
learning processes oblige us to reconsider the current modes, times and
places of teaching/learning which, for being actively efficient, cannot
follow the traditional forms of knowledge transmission within the institutional bodies of schools and universities any more (Di Sivo &
Ladiana, 2010). It has been reinforcing the idea that nowadays the
traditional and consolidated contexts for which any forms of training
have been developed and carried out, can not sufficiently nor efficiently
satisfy the present and future needs for knowledge, so these institutional bodies have to be developed within environments closer to the
citizens’ existence and work (Di Sivo & Ladiana, 2010). In recent times,
such a condition has drawn attention toward the necessity of an evolution or a reform in “learning society”, “learning community” and
“learning city” (see, for example Campbell, 2009; Candy, 2003; Di Sivo
& Ladiana, 2010; Faris, 2006; Kilpatric, Barret, & Jones, 2003;
Unlocking the Potential of Urban Communities; Case Studies of Twelve
Learning Cities, 2015). Thus, over the past years there has been a
growing body of research and literature on learning communities, societies, and cities, where learning is widespread and lifelong (Di Sivo &
Ladiana, 2010; Faris, 2006).
There are many more facets to the construction of a learning society
in cities, towns and regions, which makes it easy for all people to learn
and to continue learning in a variety of ways (Faris, 2006; Longworth,
2011)."Learning communities of place” is introduced as one of the
concepts, with an expanding scale of learning environment ranging
from learning neighborhoods and villages, to regions, towns and cities;
in such learning communities, learning is considered to be specifically
Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: [email protected], [email protected] (Z. Nouri), mrafi[email protected], rafi[email protected] (M. Rafieian),
[email protected] (K. Ghasemi).
Received 16 July 2018; Received in revised form 9 February 2019; Accepted 8 April 2019
Available online 08 May 2019
0197-3975/ © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Image 1. Left: Common literature on learning environments and right the position of urban public spaces in that literature.
the local social-cultural structures and economic frameworks.
This paper was an attempt to examine public spaces with a great
variety of activities, that could actually function as learning spaces
considering the needs and comfort of users by utilizing ICTs. To this
end, the researchers discussed and analyzed the capabilities of urban
public spaces, based on their main characteristics, when integrated with
ICTs, for obtaining information, providing opportunities to the local
government and users to experience learning environment, and supporting the learning environment of places in the related scale. The first
section (concepts and definitions) reviews the literature on informal
learning, lifelong learning, learning environment, urban public space
and information and communication technology (ICT) to derive the
“learning urban public space” concept using ICTs. The second section
discusses the methodology employed, with an emphasis on the need to
qualifying survey of users in urban public spaces as the observation and
field survey of researchers. It explains the methods used to select ICTs,
the public spaces, and users for the research, as well as the data analysis. Finally, in the findings and discussion part, the findings of the
study and the leading role each part had in providing physical interventions in the urban public spaces and in making those spaces learning
places are discussed.
tailored to the geographical location in which it occurs (see Faris, 2006;
Plumb & McGrey, 2006).
However, learning communities of place and learning environments
of cities do not include public spaces as another potential area of placebased learning environment in the literature (Fig. 1). In addition to the
fact that public spaces are spatially and mentally important parts of
cities and play numerous roles in cities and their inhabitant's lives,
many of them spatially, socially and economically facilitate learning
and provide a learning place. As researchers and policy makers try to
involve the entire city in the learning process in every scale of public
and private sectors, in all times and places, public spaces of the city can
be an effective means for this purpose. A learning public space outcome
would be an intended result of any types of learning environment in the
‘learning cities’ concept (neighbourhoods, villages, regions, towns, cities); and even with different interpretations of a learning place, it represents a designed space and place for learning as well as a medium
between learner and tutor to prepare the condition for learning. It describes knowledge, skills, and values that the user of public spaces as
learners should acquire in that learning space.
In the same vein, Information and communication technologies
(ICTs) have been touted as potentially and powerfully enabling tools for
educational change and reform (Information, Communication and
Educational Technology, 2013). Advances in information technology
have exerted a lot of influence on the craft of learning by complementing or eliminating traditional learning instructions. Information
and communication technologies (ICTs) have facilitated the emergence
and rapid growth of learning communities (Kilpatric et al., 2003), and
are used to network within and among learning communities of place
(Faris, 2006). In the 3rd millennium, in a learning public space, technology can be creatively used in many various ways to fcilitate its users'
learning. From this standpoint, public spaces can stand to benefit from
ICTs for the purpose of making a learning place. Since many great cities
in both developed and less developed countries use augmented urban
public spaces by ICTs for commercial, aesthetic, and management goals,
so, they could enhance the possibility that ICTs can assist users to learn
things in more pleasant and effective ways. Thus, using ICTs in the
public spaces of the cities would turn them into the places for lifelong
learning. But, the effective integration of ICTs into the public spaces is a
complex and innovative process depending on the ICTs’ availability,
their popularity with people, costs and accessibility to learning content,
the physical and non-physical aspects and characteristics of public
spaces, learning needs, the comfort of users in those public spaces, and
2. Concepts and defenitions
2.1. Learning environment
Learning is the acquisition of knowledge or skills through studying,
gaining experience, or being taught (LongmanDictionary online), and
may be offered in the formal or informal process. Formal learning takes
place within an organized and structured context of formal education, is
intentional from the learner's perspective, and normally, leads to formal
recognition (e.g., diploma, certificate) (Colardyn & Bjornavold, 2004).
Formal education is not equipped well enough anymore to fulfill the
growth in expectations and learning needs of individuals and communities in the rapidly changing global society (Steenekamp and Singh,
2012, p. 6). But, non-formal learning usually takes place outside the
traditional systems of education and training. It can be intentional, but
usually does not lead to formalized certificates. Informal learning is
embedded in daily life activities, is mostly non-intentional from the
learner's point of view, and is often related to experiential learning or is
considered as accidental learning (Colardyn & Bjornavold, 2004). This
sort of learning occurs at any time and in any place; and when and
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where the learner desires so, it provides more flexible and open forms of
Lifelong learning is all learning activities undertaken throughout
life, with the aim of providing knowledge, skills and competencies with
a personal, civil, social and/or employment-related perspective
(Making a European Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality, 2001, p. 9). So,
it means embracin g learning at all stages of life, from the cradle to the
grave (Punie et al., 2006). In today's globalized world, lifelong learning
is seen more and more as an indispensable component in the development of cities and towns, particularly for those cities whose munucipalities care for the prosperity, stability and personal development of
the citizens (Kerezi, Renaud, Mitchell, & Vodden, 2013).
The term “learning environment” refers to the physical or virtual
space in which learning takes place for the purpose of achieving the
desired learning outcomes via learning content, resources, and processes (Liu, Huang, & Wosinski, 2017; learning environments: Where
Space, Technology, and Culture Converge, 2009). A physical learning
environment suggests a physical location (place), consisting of buildings, equipment, human resources (people as learners and teachers or
tutors), and technologies corresponding to the requirements of learning
policies and programs in which learning is intended to occur
(Borkowska & Osborne, 2018; Toward a Learning Society, 2017; A
place to learn: Lessons from Research on Learning Environments, 2012;
Phillips, McNaught, & Kennedy, 2010; learning environments: Where
Space, Technology, and Culture Converge, 2009). The term most often
refers to school classrooms or universities, but may include any designated places of learning such as science laboratories, art galleries and
studios, libraries, tutoring centers, museums and many other locations
like outdoor spaces (Tan & Atencio, 2016; A place to learn: Lessons
from Research on Learning Environments, 2012; Phillips et al., 2010;
learning environments: Where Space, Technology, and Culture Converge, 2009). Today, many learning environment are mostly nonformal learning spaces which foster learning tailored to the needs and
wants of individuals, due to the shift of focus from education to life-long
learning (Liu et al., 2017; learning environments: Where Space, Technolog y, and Culture Converge, 2009).
parts of the city and form a physical web, because the passage from one
public space to another almost always occurs through public spaces
(Charter of Public Space, 2013; Madanipour, 2003). People move
through linear public spaces (streets, sidewalks and pedestrian ways) to
focal public spaces (squares, plazas) on foot, or using transporttion
systems (Charter of Public Space, 2013; Madanipour, 2003; Pancholi,
Yigitcanlar, & Guaralda, 2015). Therefore, there are public space-topublic space flows of people in the cities, which means any learning
projects in the net of public spaces will continue in all over the city, as
citizens and visitors stay or pass through. In addition, public spaces link
other types of learning environment (schools, colleges, universities,
firms, offices, etc.) in the physical organization of cities as well.
Another spatial dimension of public spaces for creating a learning
environment is that many of urban public spaces are the spaces between
the volume of buildings (or trees and green space) that physicallygeometrically shape a 3D space surrounded by facades defines with a
floor, like a big room. With some intervention in facades and floor, it is
possible to make a pleasant learning environment by using visual aesthetics or to use them as learning tools. Besides, urban public spaces are
ornamented by seats, lights, screens, shelters and other urban furniture,
so, in such a condition, everyone and everything can be a learning tool
to the same extent. Thus, via thorough design of facades, floor, landscapes, furniture and other elements in public places, the learner's interest can be stimulated (Candy, 2003), a more pleasant and attractive
condition for learning can be produced, and all those designs can be
utilized as learning tools.
Public spaces are the spaces openly and freely accessible to inhabitants and visitors to come, pass or stay for a while. All citizens,
regardless of their class, ethnic origin, gender, and age, are the users of
public spaces (Charter of Public Space, 2013; Public Spaces for All,
2015), gathering there for meeting and speaking, and spending their
leisure time. So, traditionally the users of public spaces connect and
communicate with others, meet and see others, feel and hear different
things in those spaces, explore the events and news, gain and share
information, and experience learning situations through others and the
environment, all of which indicate that public spaces act as a gateway
to transmit ideas and information resources for the purpose of learning.
Thus, by using new methods of planning and designing novel approaches, public spaces could change into the places with higher levels
of exchanging information resources for the learning purposes.
Today, public spaces like streets, squares, plazas, parks, and pedestrian ways host more people than before; so, they can be deemed as
public learning places where more people can meet as learners. Also,
since people spend much time in the public spaces of cities, especially in
big cities, such spaces can be a place to promote people's awareness of
culture, civic rights, citizenship, and any education or learning
knowledge (Amini, Mahdavinejad, Bemanian, & Hatami Varzaneh,
2014), with no need to have any pre-planned time for learning; however, the presence of the users of public spaces is required.
According to some perspectives, beside the public ownership, public
spaces could be under the private ownership of companies, institutions,
and individuals as well (for example Carmona et al., 2008, pp. 4, 10);
however, there is a widespread belief that public spaces are publicly
owned, managed and maintained by the local government, not by any
individuals or groups (Gencel & Velibeyoglu, 2006; Tonnelat, 2010).
Therefore, public spaces that are publicly owned offer more stable
opportunities for a learning environment by reducing the extra costs of
making a new learning environment by the local government. However,
today many public spaces of cities are under private ownership serving
the public (Carmona, 2015; Pancholi et al., 2015); and such places can
also be learning places via establishing collaboration between private
and public sectors.
In conclusion, some fundamental aspects of public spaces, such as
open and free access for their users and the public ownership of government or local authorities, provide opportunities for the presence and
gatherings of the users from different social groups for recreation,
2.2. Urban public space as the learning environment
Different researchers have propounded different definitions for the
term ‘public space’; however, for the purpose of this paper, the definition was adopted in the various research books, papers, projects and
Public spaces relate to all those parts of the built and natural environment that is openly and freely accessible and useable to all comers
(Neal, 2010; Carmona, de Magalhaes, & Hammond, 2008, pp. 4–5;
Nissen, 2008; Parkinson, 2008; Madanipour, 2003), including those
predominantly used for residential, commercial or community/civic
purposes (Carmona et al., 2008, p. 5), and intended for social interaction, relaxation or passage (Cybriwsky, 1999). Public spaces are the
places in which people come, pass or stay for a while, and encounter
with one another, and which are used as a stage to perform particular
social interactions (Pachenkov & Voronkova, 2010, p. 23). Such spaces
can be either indoors or outdoors, and in cities and towns they may
include streets, sidewalks, squares, gardens, parks, walkways, plazas,
shopping malls, bus and train stations, and various other open areas
where people may sit, gather or pass through, and are recognized as
urban public spaces (Akkar Ercan, 2007; Charter of Public Space, 2013;
Cybriwsky, 1999; Vander Ploeg, 2006). Each public space has its own
spatial, historic, environmental, social and economic features, and by
virtue of possessing a clear identity, can be defined as “places” (Kim and
Kwon, 2018; Charter of Public Space, 2013).
Public spaces have always been important parts of cities, having
much to do with basic routines in a city's life, (Cybriwsky, 1999), and
considering some of their aspects, they provide the opportunity for
making learning environment. Public spaces of a city connect different
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of each individual pupil by providing tailored feedback (Peron et al.,
2010; Learning Environments: Where Space, Technology, and Culture
Converge, 2009; The Impact of ICT on Learning and Teaching, 2002).
ICTs have influenced cities and their public spaces in recent years to
a great extent, especially public spaces of big cities in both developed
and developing countries. As the use of ICTs continues to grow in the
public and private sectors of the cities, more public spaces are equipped
with ICTs, such as the accessibility of the internet for the users and the
use of displays and software for transferring data among individuals,
groups, companies and authorities in order to enhance the physical and
nonphysical qualities of spaces, for the purpose of winning the intense
competition between the owners of these spaces to attract more people
and investment. Today, in urban public spaces, ICTs increasingly turn
the facades, floor, furniture and landscape into a medium for information exchanges, for safety and commercial aims, and for the
augmentation of visual aesthetics. Furthermore, many of the users in
public spaces carry gadgets (mobile phones, tablets etc.) which may
function as facilitators of active learning and increase the users’
knowledge and engagement. Providing access to the real-world data,
tools, and resources, ICTs in public spaces can help users see learning as
part of their lives, and link learning to their daily lives. ICTs provide
opportunities to learn from and with others in the real-time exchange of
ideas and empower citizens, communities and local governments to
create the learning places in urban public spaces.
leisure, and marketing. So, it can be a place for informal learning while
their users are engaged in their optional or social activities.
Furthermore, facades, floor, and furniture as spatially defining aspects
of public spaces can be regarded as learning tools or means of shaping
the learning environment. Because of their physical and mental attachments to cities and citizenship lives and the effectiveness of non
intential learning, any ideas of learning in public spaces can be effective. To put it in other terms, public spaces can potentially be a learning
place in the chain of learning environment in cities and towns, through
the process of teaching the basics to all citizens away from the schools,
universities and formal trainings.
2.3. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the learning
environment of urban public spaces
Information Technology (IT) is an umbrella term to represent a
scientific, technological and engineerning discipline and a management
technique used in handing over the information (Information,
Communication and Educational Technology, 2013, pp. 26–27; Information Technology: Its Impact on Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Information Technology, 1997);
in other words, Information Technology (IT) is the acquisition, storage,
manipulation, management, transmission and dissemination of vocal,
pictorial, textual and numerical information via a combination of
computing tools (Information, Communication And Educational
Technology, 2013, pp. 26–27; Rendulic, 2011; Information Technology:
Its Impact on Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Information Technology, 1997). But, because it is not
possible to work with computers and information systems that are not
connected to the network, some sources add the term “communication”
to this term even though it was part of the concept of IT. Nowadays, it is
common to use the term “Information and Communication Technology”
(ICT), rathr than “Information Technology” (IT) (Rendulic, 2011), in
social, cultural, economic and eduacational fields of knowledge.
Therefore, ICTs are basically information-handling tools and systems - a
varied set of goods, applications and services - which are utilized to
convey, capture, transmit, manipulate, store, display, produce, process,
distribute and exchange information ((Horizon 2020, 2014;
Information, Communication and Educational Technology, 2013; Peron
et al., 2010; Information and Communications Technology, 2009;
Information Communications Technology for Development, 2001; Role
of ICTs in Education and Development Potential, Pitfall and Challenges,
ICTs may contribute to creating powerful learning environment in
numerous ways. Owing to reducing boundaries and increasing access to
information and education (Peron et al., 2010), ICTs have made it
possible to find and distribute information quickly (Ogbomo &
Ogbomo, 2008). Due to augmenting the representation of a wide
variety of content in digital forms, ICTs bring about easier and cheaper
duplication (Robert Lee, 2002), make the learning experiences more
pleasure, and make complex processes easier to understand through
simulations, visualization, the illustration of concepts and ideas, and
the presention of dynamic graphics, sounds and videos (Kwok & Yang,
2017; Peron et al., 2010; Learning Environments: Where Space,
Technology, and Culture Converge, 2009; The Impact of ICT on
Learning and Teaching, 2002). Furthermore, ICTs bring more informational resources into the learning environments, and as a result
facilitate learning in a more convenient way, enhance motivation for
learning, contribute to authentic learning environment, provide opportunities to use multiple information resources and to perceive information from multiple perspectives, and make the availability of
updated data easy, and thus, foster the authenticity of learning environment (Peron et al., 2010; learning environments: Where Space,
Technology, and Culture Converge, 2009; The Impact of ICT on
Learning and Teaching, 2002). Also, ICTs provide opportunities for
adapting the learning content and tasks to the needs and ability levels
3. Case Study & analysis
In this research, the ICTs were selected based on their popularity
with users, their accessablity, and the local government's pre-used exprience. The first type of ICTs is mobile phones, which are the ICTs that
have reshaped and revolutionized communication globally (Ogbomo &
Ogbomo, 2008). Today, smart phones or the third and fourth generation of mobile phones offer many services including GPS, camera,
browsing, downloading, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and gaming. A smart phone
is a full-featured mobile phone having some features of personal computers such as functionality and can be utilized for various learning
situations. The number of mobile phones' users in Iran are about 112
million in 2017 (mci,; itanalyze, http://itanalyze.
com/) and among the users of mobile phones in 2017, 40 million own
smart phones (ictnews,, which makes these
devices suitable for facilitating the learning processes of their users in
public spaces throutgh SMS, applications, and internet services.
The second type of ICTs that were selected in this study is displays
and screens which, due to being an increasingly pervasive resource in
urban public spaces, have the potential to become a powerful new
medium for learning in public spaces (Abdel-Aziz, Abdel-Salam, & ElSayad, 2016; Chang, Hsu, & Yu, 2011). Screens and displays in learning
environment not only enable us to display and compare various sources
of information for learning, but also give more visual aesthetics to
learning environment. On screens, the multi-image presentation with
an effective information density allows learners to process larger
amounts of information in a short time (Chang et al., 2011). Digital
displays can be used on an entire building façade or some part of it, or
in smaller sizes on some furniture. The municipality of Tehran uses
many digital displays in public spaces for commercial aims, traffic
management, and broadcasting of news. Most of them were situated in
main streets and squares, but many of these displays are isolated installations neither being at the service of users' real needs nor placing in
proper locations according to the users’ viewpoints. So, this research
was designed to scrutinize the capabilities of digital displays as learning
mediums and to find ways to enhance the visual aesthetics of urban
public spaces in order to make the learning environment more pleasant
and enjoyable for learning.
The third ICT for this research is the internet. Probably, the internet
constitutes the best way for accessing entertainment, learning and information, as well as for establishing socialization processes and
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Image 2. Urban Public Spaces:1, 2- Arg Square, 3, 4- Subway Station Entrance, 5-Panzdah-e-Khordad Pedestrian Way, 6- Soor-e-Esrafil Pedestrain Way, 7- Bazzar
Reza, 8- Sabz-e-Meidan Square.
understand their physical and non-physical aspects for learning. In
addition, these public spaces have been under construction or renovation undertaken by municipality in recent years to upgrade environmental qualities; so, in comparison with other public spaces, the selected spaces have the initial environmental qualities, which makes
them elegant choices to evaluate the concept of learning through the
Site visits were conducted from late May to late June, around 10am
– 5pm on weekdays to observation and meet users for interviews.
According to the researchers’ field survey, the non-temporary users of
these urban public spaces consisted of the employees of governmental,
cultural and mixed use buildings (Radio Tehran, Gove-e-Ghazaeye and
Daraie, Golestan Palace), the shopkeepers of pedestrian ways (Panzdahe-Khordad, Soor-e-Esrafil) and Bazaars (Grand Bazaar, Bazaar Reza),
and even workers on services and business parts. The temporary users
were customers, national and international tourists, and people from
neighborhoods (Shoosh, Bazaar, Park-e-Shahr).
The instrument for data collection was a deep survey from the users
of urban public spaces. The participants of this deep survey were a
sample of 54 respondents in age group 61 + years (3 user), in age
group 41–60 years (16 users), in age group 21–40 years (23 users), and
in age group 15–20 years (12 users), according to the number of the
users by gender, age, temporary or non-temporary users, and local or
visitors who uses selected urban public spaces over the time (Table 1).
The participants answered open questions (orally) on a domain of study
inside the selected urban public spaces. The average time to complete a
survey was approximately 30 min–70 min. All interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded to simple phrases and words as much as
possible by the researchers to make interprations easy, and make the
results clear to understand. With regard to data analysis, this paper used
communication among people (Papanis, Giavrimis, & Papani, 2010).
The internet is one of the most important ICT applications that have had
a considerable impact on today's learning environment. About 60 percent (45 million) of people in Iran is the users of the internet, and 40
percent of these users ages 20–29 years old, also the use of the cellphone internet is more than that of the other types (iriu, http://www. This research analyzed the role of two aspects of internet access in creating learning environment in urban public spaces. The first
aspect is communication tools (chat rooms, the forums) and tools for
accessing the information (websites and databases), and the second one
is the internet access zones in urban public spaces.
The urban public spaces selected for this study were located in the
central part of Tehran. These spaces were four pedestrian-oriented
places, namely, Panzdah-e-Khordad pedestrian way, Soor-e-Esrafil pedestrian way, Arg Square and Sabz-e-Meidan Square, all of which are
connected spatially. Furthermore, the site consists of a subway entrance
(Panzdah-e-Khordad station), Grand Bazaar (Bazaar), and Bazaar Reza
as other public spaces (Fig. 2). These publicly owned urban public
spaces were chosen primarily due to their location in the central part of
Tehran where a variety of land use from commercial, official, service,
recreation, green spaces to historical and cultural spaces provides vibrant and alive urban public spaces and hosts numerous people daily
(Ghavampour, Mohhamadzade, Khaligi, & Falahatparvar, 2008). Another reason for this selection was the variety of their physical and
nonphysical aspects that differ from one public place to another, the
diversity of human density and activities, pedestrian flows, the rate of
high, modern and historic buildings, and the rate of sitting places and
green spaces, all of which assisted in collecting more data.
Due to being pedestrian-oriented, these urban public spaces are less
challengeable than mixed pedestrian and motoric public spaces to
Table 1
General Information
Temporary/Non-Temporary * and Duration of use of public spaces
Non-Temporary = 25 (Sat-Sur 8 a.m.- 5pm continuously)
Temporary = 29 (Sat-Fri non-continuously)
Neighborhoods = 14
Area = 18
City = 14
Out of the town = 8
Up to diploma = 4
Diploma = 21
Bachelor = 16
Master = 7
Not mentioned = 6
Female = 23
Male = 31
61+ = 3
41-61 = 16
21-40 = 23
15-20 = 12
Total = 54
* Non-Temporary users' work place is in the area of research (workplace at shopkeepers, employees in official buildings) and temporary users work place is not in the
area of research or are users from neighborhoods (Shoosh, Bazzar, Park-e-Shahr).
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“the seats in the sun in summer”, “lack of seats”, “the crowd”, “the
presence of many shops around it which makes it even more crowded”,
“the absence of peace and quiet”, “a lot of noise”, “lack of sufficient
seats for resting and the location of the available ones in the sun”, all of
which make it an undesirable place for long-time learning. However, in
the Panzdah-e-Khordad pedestrian way, there are many facades of
buildings that can be used for short time learning through displays (see
4.4. The ICTs for learning). About Soor-e-Esrafil, it has a small number
of shops and greater number of official buildings in comparison with
the Panzdah-e-Khordad pedestrian way which has many shops and
Bazaars; therefore, Panzdah-e-Khordad pedestrian way is always more
crowded, while the flow of people is less in Soor-e-Esrafil. The presence
of temporary users were rare in Soor-e-Esrafil and they thought it was
“empty of people”, “has nothing interesting” and “so quiet”, but a few
shopkeepers working there were interested in learning in that place. So,
the learning idea in this area by the ICT they interest in (displays)
would be more useful for shopkeepers than for the other users. Regarding low flow of temporary users in Soor-e-Esrafil, the implementation of Wi-Fi zones would not be economical; however, it
should be considered that the presence of Wi-Fi zones would attract
users from the neighborhoods (Shoosh, Bazaar, Park-e-Shahr) to this
place, as they mentioned.
The users were more enthusiatic about outdoor public spaces (Arg
squar and Panzdah-e-khordad pedestrian way) for learning rather than
indoors (Bazaar and Bazaar Reza) with a roof (see Appendix 3, Part 1, B
and C). Maybe, when users go shopping in crowded spaces, such spaces
especially Bazaar don't provide a proper condition to understand
learning contents; in other terms, the lack of enough space for movement and the inadequate size of such spaces turn them into non-desirable places for learning. Nonetheless, some of them would rather
learn things in front of Bazaar Reza, a modern mall in Panzdah-ekhordad pedestrian way, where there are no seats but a good situation
for standing in a short time especially while “waiting for a friend”, or
“meeting a friend”, is provided, and “people know about it, thus choose
it as a good place for waiting for someone or for standing there".
On the whole, these findings led the researchers to conclude that
learning in the places with greater social interactions, like Arg square
and Panzdah-e-Khordad, are more desirable according to the user’
perspective, in comparison with the places used mainly for economic
transactions (shopping and selling) like Bazaar and Bazaar Reza.
However, when the number of individuals grows to a certain level, that
place goes undesirable (Panzdah-e-Khordad in comparison with Arg
Square), and when the number of individuals are very small, it is not
desirable either (Soor-e-Esrafil in comparison with Arg Square). So, the
presence of others is as much important to the users as the existence of
places with seats or seating facilities with amazing views (Arg Square in
comparison with Panzdah-e-Khordad). Thus, the researchers found out
that since Arg square is mixed land use with many buildings in different
heights (official buildings, Golestan Palace, Radio Tehran) around it, in
order to increase the users' interest, designers can use the facades of
these buildings to locate displays (see 4.4. the ICTs for learning) to
create an learning urban public space for long-time learning (and
seating). However, some of them are historical buildings, and therefore,
can't be used for this purpose, and some other ones have more than 7
floors; therefore, it should be considered that displays on last floors are
easily visible to pedestrians. Some of the old non-historical buildings
have facades with less visual quality. Such buildings can be used for
displays, which enhances their aesthetic features as well. In addition,
there is a need to equip the façade of Bazaar Reza's entrance and some
facades in Panzdah-e-Khordad with displays (see 4.4. The ICTs for
learning) for short time stay and learning (standing or moving).
Many of the users would rather receive data for learning in meeting
points that for a while they meet their friends or co-workers (see
Appendix 2, L). The interview revealed that when they mention a
meeting point most of the time want to learn there (see Appendix 1, 7).
So, these meeting points are good options to prepare learning
an inductive approach in which the data were analyzed with little or no
predetermined theory, structure or framework and the actual data itself
were utilized to derive the structure of analysis (see for more information Burnard, Gill, Stewart, Treasure, & Chadwick, 2008; Groat &
Wang, 2002). But, due to the lack of space here, the initial codings
(Interview transcripts) were excluded to present the data as succinctly
as possible, exclusion of and just the results are explained. However,
some of the initial coddings were mentioned for direct adressing in the
context. The most prominent issues were the preferences of users in the
urban public spaces for learning via ICTs, the needs and comfort of
them to lead researchers for physical intervention to make learning
urban public spaces by ICTs.
4. Findings and discussion
4.1. The need for gaining information and learning
The users in the public spaces liked to receive information classified
based on their learning needs. They were eager to receive data for
learning and believed that if someone yearns for information why she/
he should not receive it in such spaces (see Appendix1, 1). Other similar
statements indicated that while seating, walking, working, shopping,
relaxing or waiting in the Arg square, Panzdah-e-khordad and Soor-eEsrafil pedestrian ways, the temporary and non-temporary users of
urban public places were interested in being a learner and adding
knowledge. Nonetheless, some of them did not mention the exact term
“learn”, instead they mentioned other terms such as “know”, “have
some information”, “get data”, “gain information”, “have some
knowledge” whose meanings are similar to the core concept of learning.
Thus, the users expressed an interest in the learning idea in these urban
public spaces (see Appendix 2, D).
4.2. The things to learn by the users (content)
Most of the users were interested to know more about these places
(the urban public spaces), even if they had some pre-learned experiences (see Appendix 1, 2). The non-temporary users of public spaces
(shopkeepers, employees in official buildings) were enthusiastic to
learn various ways of engagement and participation in events related to
public spaces more than the other facts (see Appendix 1, 3 and
Appendix 2, G). While the users of public spaces from neighborhoods
(Shoosh, Bazaar, Park-e-Shahr) want a learning situation of historical
and cultural facts of the areas under investigation for the other users as
themselves (see Appendix 1, 4 and Appendix 2, F and H). Related
statements show the users’ more appetite first for the knowledge that
are related to the specifics and facts of urban public spaces and second
for the information associated with other issues rather than with
learning skill or training.
4.3. The places of learning
The users’ responses were different with respect to the most appropriate places to learn, but they shared some commonalities in fundamental aspects. Many of the participants referred to Arg Square (see
Appendix 1, 5). Even participants who were interviewed far from Arg
squar (Sabz-e-Meydan Square, Panzdah-e-Khordad and Soor-e-Esrafil
pedestrian ways) mentioned Arg Square as an appropriate place for
learning (see Appendix 1, 6). Other statements about Arg Square for
learning were: “a beautiful ", “clean”, “green”, and “cool” “with suitable
seats”, “giving good feelings” and “having historical values”, “having
good floor pavements”, “seats to rest”, and “good scene to look around”,
“being able to seat on grass” and “not being so crowded as Panzdah-eKhordad (pedestrian way), not being so empty as Soor-e-Esrafil (pedestrian way)". Less number of the users mentioned Panzdah-e-khordad
pedestrian way and Sabz-e-Meydan Square as proper places for learning
because of “bad feelings they have while facing the flows of people”,
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Z. Nouri, et al.
4.5. Addressing pre-experienced situations and awareness for learning
conditions for users. Besides, some of them have suitable amenities and
urban furniture (seats, etc) in different shapes that can be used to meet
the users’ need for staying and using Wi-fi zones (see 4.4.The ICTs for
learning), and in this way, it is possible to make more long-time stay
learning. Furthermore, the facades around Arg square, Panzdah-eKhordad subway station enterance, and Bazzar Reza could be used for
displays of different sizes. In Arg Square, there is a larg digital dispaly
set on the ground, whose content is required to managed for learning
purposes in this meeting point.
During the interviews, the users referenced to the pre-experienced
situations of learning by ICTs in the urban public spaces, which they
thought might be useful or not for designing new learning situations
(see Appendix 1, 14). Such experience shape how users think about
learning via ICTs in urban public spaces. However, the fact that there is
no pre-experience situations for using SMSs or reactive screens for
learning could have a considerable effect on the users' understanding of
learning via ICTs. Pre-experience situations play an important role in
the way users judge ICTs as a means of learning, and the lack of experience limits the use of some ICTs for learning in urban public spaces.
Thus, the first phase of turning these spaces into learning environment
is to use pre-used ICTs with some unused ICTs, which may increase
users’ understanding of learning via different ICTs and prepare them for
the next phase.
4.4. The ICTs for learning
The users mentioned that: “it would be intriguing to learn via
modern technologies”, and “it is useful for youth”. But, there are some
issues that need to be considered, for instance users don't like sounds
when relaxing in public spaces or in crowded public spaces. When
people are in public spaces, they prefer screen based learning (see
Appendix 1, 8).
Many of the users preferred attractive mixed of videos, pictures and
slid shows with no text or little text (see Appendix 2, K). Therefore, it
seems screen based ICTs (digital displays, screens etc.) are more useful
for learning. Some of them liked an interactive situation for displays
like “touchable screens” and “response to touch” (see Appendix 2, J)
but no one mentioned interactive response to people behaviors, maybe
owing to the lack of pre-experienced situation (see 4.5. Addressing preexperienced situation and awareness for learning preferences).
All respondents reported that they always use mobile phones in
their everyday lives, and in public spaces. They use them to send SMSs
to their friends and to find them and locate their place. But, in public
spaces, users are interested more in the ICTs which are less challengeable for learning, such as screens, than in other types like SMS (see
Appendix 1, 9).
Young users of the public spaces (age groups 15–20 and 21–40) used
the internet via PCs and smart phones for information, entertainment,
social networks and shopping. But, they thought any connection
through the internet in public spaces would be for personal aims
(downloads, chat rooms and social networks). When people are out of
public spaces, they use the internet for learning (website, forum) but
when they are in, they use the internet differently (see Appendix 1, 10).
Thus, the internet use in urban public spaces has no capability for
learning purposes. However, Wi-Fi zones encourage users to come and
stay in that space, attracts and gathers them; so, at least it increases the
number of individuals there. Therefore, increasing the number of
learners, especially the youth, can be a good reason to support the idea
of creating learning urban public spaces that equipped with displays.
Another explanation is that the learners could share their experiences
with others using Wi-Fi via social networks or chat rooms, and any
other learning experience may be shared in this way.
Some of the users thought if we connect learning content to the real
life in urban public spaces it would be more useful (see Appendix 1, 11).
Another issue worth considering for users is the management of ICTs
tailoring with the users' needs and all-time services when users are in
public spaces (see Appendix 1, 12 and Appendix 3 part 2, B and C).
Therefore, checking ICTs' capabilities and limitations for learning over
the time and all times learning as user's activities and presence in urban
public spaces are important to attain desired outcomes.
Besides, the results of the interviews revealed that the non-temporary users of these urban public spaces had a clear understanding of
the suitable ICTs for learning in those spaces. They were more familiar
with those urban public spaces’ characteristics; so, they considered
more factors required for a suitable ICT to be implemented there (see
Appendix 1, 13). So, any implementation of ICTs to these urban public
spaces, also any development and monitoring of the results should
consider with non-temporary users cues for preventing extra costs.
5. Conclusion
This paper pinpoints that by using information and communication
technologies (ICTs), contemporary urban public spaces will represent a
place consisting of many people as learners, and provide environmental
facilitating conditions for lifelong informal learning. Thus, such spaces
make it economical for governments and local authorities to create a
learning place and pursue it over the time. In order to improve their
own public learning spaces, municipalities will need to find out the
local physical and non-physical aspects of those spaces and ICTs capabilities, and utilize and adapt them to make learning content available
for this experience in the right form to the right user and at the right
time in the right place. In this case, the urban public spaces that are
meeting places (used for meeting friends or waiting for someone) are
suitable for short time (standing) or long time (seating) learning of
users. So, one of the physical interventions in these urban public spaces
can be to provide displays on facades of non-historic buildings and
buildings with low aesthetics based on their users’ interest. The content
of these displays would be slide shows, pictures and videos first related
to the historical, cultural, management and participation facts of urban
public spaces and second to other national and international issues. In
addition, adding Wi-Fi zones to the places with environmental qualities
(green space, urban furniture for seating, shadows in summer), with
social interactions indirectly boosts the number of learners by increasing their coming and long lasting stay in the spaces that has been
equipped with such displays before.
The researchers of this paper tried to choose individuals who are
users of selected urban public spaces and ICTs, as well as being familiar
with the concept of learning, then interviewing with them in or nearby
of those public spaces, and these limited the sample size during site
visits. However, the viewpoint of experts of urban studies (urban designers/planners, managers) and ICTs area, would prepare more data
and complete the topic alongside the results of users' interviews, to
identify detailed process of how these urban public spaces using ICTs
create experiences for the users to be a learner, which is suggested for
future researches.
The authors would like to thank all of the participants for their
cooperation in the interviews, and for their time, thoughts, and patience.
Appendix A. Supplementary data
Supplementary data to this article can be found online at https://
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