Expressing Vibrancy Project, lead by Hamilton non-profit organization CoBALT Connects. #hamont @cobaltconnects

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Volunteers are needed to help determine what makes a neighbourhood “vibrant” as part of the Expressing Vibrancy Project, lead by Hamilton non-profit organization CoBALT Connects.

Volunteers will participate in an audience session at McMaster’s LIVE Lab, where they will view images and videos of neighbourhoods, and provide responses to that footage on distributed tablets. A portion of participants who take part will have their brain waves, heart rate and breathing rate measured. This opportunity requires a commitment of approximately 2.5 hours, and compensation for on-campus parking or HSR travel to and from campus can be provided.

Be part of this unique experience by volunteering for one of the scheduled audience sessions:

Tuesday, May 20th – 10am
Wednesday, May 21st  – 7pm
Thursday, May 22nd – 1pm
Thursday, May 22nd – 7pm
Friday, May 23rd – 11am
Saturday, May 24th – 11am

Participants would be required to commit to one of the above sessions; they must be residents of Hamilton (any ward), and at least 13 years of age. For more information, or to ask us a question, get in touch any time. | 905-777-0787


April 29, 2014

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Finding the DNA of city vibrancy

By Meredith MacLeod, the Hamillton Spectator Tuesday, April 22nd

What makes one neighbourhood teem with life while another seems to wither?

Cobalt Connects hopes its Expressing Vibrancy project can find the recipe.

This will be the first research done in the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind’s new LIVE Lab.

Cobalt Connects needs 500 volunteers to spend a few hours in the lab in May. All will look at videos of neighbourhoods and input their reactions on tablets. A few will be wired up with a skull cap of electrodes and other body monitors that will measure brainwaves, heartbeats, breathing and sweat on their skin.

The data will be crunched with the overall goal of figuring out the ingredients of vibrancy so planners and city builders can build them into designs.

Cobalt Connects hopes to get groups of volunteers that broadly represent the city by age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and where they live in Hamilton.

The first phase of the project involved researchers surveying eight subject streets and neighbourhoods — Waterdown, downtown Dundas, Westdale, Concession Street, Barton Street, James Street, Locke Street and Ottawa Street — to build an inventory of “cultural assets.”



April 8, 2014

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“Vibrancy” is one of those words that is almost meaningless.

By Adam Carter, CBC News  posted: Apr 08, 2014

It’s a lot like “synergy,” and “engagement.” These words are used constantly — especially in political and corporate spheres — but what do they really mean?

Yet the word “vibrant” shows up on four different pages in the city’s cultural plan, so it must be important, right? That’s why the team at Cobalt Connects is setting out to define it — using hundreds of volunteers and lots of electrodes.

“Rarely can you attach the word to something specific,” said Jeremy Freiburger, chief connector and cultural strategist. “Cultural plans all say they want ‘vibrant’ neighbourhoods but no one can accurately define it.”

But that’s set to change, thanks to Cobalt’s Expressing Vibrancy project, which was created to define the attributes that make up a “vibrant” civic space. The arts organization started the project by studying eight Hamilton neighbourhoods — in Waterdown, Downtown Dundas and Westdale, as well as on Concession Street, Barton Street, James Street, Locke Street and Ottawa Street. A team walked through each neighbourhood and counted “cultural assets” like graffiti, trees, neighbourhood-specific architecture and signs in languages other than English.

Then 250 volunteers from varying age ranges and backgrounds strolled through those neighbourhoods while filling out a survey, reporting on what they saw and felt, and how it relates to vibrancy. “That way we can get a real sense of what they’re connecting with,” Freiburger said.


That data — coupled with demographic data gleaned from Statistics Canada reports — would no doubt be enough for a normal report to city council. Freiburger and his crew, however, are taking it step further to almost Clockwork Orange-like levels at McMaster University’s Live Lab to test physiological responses.

“It’s a little spooky when we look at how closely we’re looking at the answers here, but that’s what culture does every day,” Freiburger said.The Live Lab is a one of a kind facility that can be used to test how people react to visual and auditory information. Volunteers in the study will be hooked up to devices that measure brainwaves, heart rate, sweat levels and breathing patterns while viewing video, pictures and listening to sounds from the eight Hamilton neighbourhoods in the study. Their biological responses then get catalogued to truly define how people react to something that is supposedly “vibrant.”

The participants will be the first people to use the Live Lab, he added. “It’s a really cool opportunity.”

Once all the data has been analyzed, factor[e] design studio will turn it into an interactive website, where users can watch video from each neighbourhood with biometric data from the participants layered over it. Yup, viewers will be able to take a video tour down Locke Street and see the study group’s heartbeat and sweat fluctuations. Or monitor their brainwaves as they wander down Barton Street.


All this data will be hugely beneficial when it comes to city officials making informed decisions about culture in municipalities, Freiburger says — and understanding that vibrant means different things to different people.

“Our hope is that when we’re done, we can say [to the city] ‘these are the factors you can use to measure vibrancy, we’ve now verified how specific demographics respond to them, so go forth an plan,’” he said.

“If you want to build a wicked retirement village, here’s what people over 65 think is vibrant. If you want to retain students in the downtown core, here are the top 10 things students hated, so don’t do these.”

In the end, it all comes down to using tax dollars wisely to invest in culture. Municipalities use cultural and urban plans to make decisions about where to invest tax dollars in everything from arts funding to park amenities, so they should be doing it with a real set of guidelines to plan wisely, Freiburger says.

“And if these new plans have ‘vibrancy’ as the new goal, then we need to define it.”

Original article here

Then 140 adults and 70 high school students took walking tours of the neighbourhoods and answered 15 questions about their impressions of the area’s energy, safety, creative spaces, built heritage and the visual cues that were tipping them off to all of that.

All the data will become an interactive website created by Factor(e) Design that will allow users to watch neighbourhood videos taken with a 360-degree camera that incorporates all the biometric reactions.

Freiburger expects there will be lots of answers as to what creates vibrancy.

“So we could say if you want a great seniors’ community, here’s how you get it. Or if you want to keep students living here, here’s what they want to see.”

Register to volunteer at, or 905-777-0787. Volunteers must be at least 13 and live somewhere in Hamilton.

The original article can be found here



23. April 2014 by Gunner
Categories: Events, Hamilton Arts Community | Tags: , , | 24 comments

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