The City of Horrors

Institution: Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB)
Designer: Ignasi Rifé
URL: http://www.cccb.org/laciutatdelshorrors/old.php?l=en [Old version of the website (participation open to submit and vote photos)]
http://www.cccb.org/laciutatdelshorrors/ [(Recent version of the website (participation closed and mosaic completed)]
Category: Exhibition

This past year, the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) held an exhibition regarding urban and human landscape of the cities of Barcelona, Valencia, and Palma. Part of this exhibition showed the effects of urban planning corruption and tourism on the cities, and sections were created from the results of a participatory project, “The City of Horrors.” This was a two part project, the first of which was a website, where visitors could submit and vote for photographs of ugly places (horrors) in those three cities, and the second of which was a mural at the CCCB that was created from those images that were voted the ugliest.

There were many reasons why I liked this site. First off, I love the idea of mixing the virtual world with the physical world, and allowing virtual users to have an impact on a very real, physical exhibition that took place at CCCB. Second, the design of the site is very appealing. It is intuitive and very easy to use; there is only as much text as is necessary, icons like arrows and “X”s are universally understood. The site is extremely interactive; hovering over images changes them from black and white to color, you can add your own images, as well as vote. Feedback is also great: after voting, the number of total votes is displayed, as well as the percentages of how people voted, and “Vote counted correctly. Thank you for taking part.” This is very reassuring, as people want to know that their votes count! Finally,

Of course, there were also some aspects that frustrated me. One problem I had was that there is a question mark in the upper right hand corner, which I assumed would either lead me to help or to more information about the project. Instead, I got nothing, just black space with a big “X” at the bottom, which led me back to the main page when clicked. For English users (the site was viewable in either English, Spanish, or Catalan), the intro to the mural was in Spanish, and some text was cut off (“Do you want to contribute to an exhibition at the”).

My major concern has to do with the search functionality, which was very limited. One could search by city, by category (monuments/buildings, squares/parks, streets/avenues, furnishings, lettering/shop windows, or all), or by location (residential zone, old town, extensions, harbours/beaches, suburbs/periphery, neighborhood or all). There was no keyword searching; before uploading an image, the user has to choose from the vocabulary offered before submitting, and cannot chose their own tags. With the exception of searching by city, I found the categories that I was given to choose from not all that helpful. For example, under the category of “furnishings,” there were all kinds of photos, most of which had nothing to do with furnishings (e.g. a statue of a lion, a balcony, a bike, some barbed wire, a utility box on the outside of a building, a wall). The same goes for the options under location, many of which seemed to overlap, and from which many categories seemed to missing (business district, for example). Additionally, you could not use the arrows to get you from image to image within a certain set of search results; the arrows would only work to get you from one image to another within the entire set of images.

I found it pretty fascinating to see what people uploaded as being horrifying, and found it fun to vote to see how other people voted. It became clear to me that people have very different opinions of what horrifying means.

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