Competition Update 10/10/18

October 10, 2018

Hello Wikitopians 🙂

I’d like to give a brief update on the status of the Phase 1 Competition (the deadline was more than two weeks ago — time flies indeed), and also a little bit of info regarding Phase 2 whose call will be open soon.

For Phase 1 of the Wikitopia International Competition, we received 117 submissions in total. In terms of sheer numbers this was a bit lower than we had anticipated, but the quality of the entries totally blew us away. We’re truly honored to see a host of such creative, diverse works that obviously were the products of serious time and dedication — big, big thanks to everyone who has submitted entries! Of the 117 submissions, approximately two thirds came from outside Japan (we’re judging from names and affiliations here). This was a nice surprise, since with many of the organizing members being in Tokyo, we were always worried whether we’ll see enough submissions from abroad to justify calling this an “international” competition. It’s too bad we didn’t ask entrants to list their nationalities when submitting, we could have created a nice-looking map that showcases how we received contributions from all over the world.

After closing the submission system, we did some initial screening on the 117 entries, which narrowed down the list to 101 valid submissions. This screening was performed not by the jury but by us (meaning the organizing team), so we avoided making any decisions based on content; basically we filtered out entries that didn’t conform to our formatting requirements. However, we noticed that many (and I mean many!) submissions didn’t follow the requirements regarding the square representative image and the 150 word summary text (requirements #6 and #7 on the competition website). We also saw several submissions laid out vertically instead of horizontally. After some thought we decided to be lax with these requirements — if this many entries failed to adhere the fault probably lies with us, I guess our instructions weren’t as clear as we had hoped. So we only eliminated entries with (what we deemed as) more egregious formatting violations, like those with more than 3 pages for example.

The jury has already looked into all of the 101 valid entries, and gone through many hours of discussion both in person and online. In fact we’re almost (but not quite) ready to announce the winners at this point. The only thing holding us back is that we still have too many honorable mention candidates; the jury is having a hard time narrowing these down to 4 or 5 as they see them as being of roughly equal merit. Maybe we’ll have to consider giving out more than 5 honorable mentions? That’ll mean increased expenses but fairness is paramount.

As I mentioned in my earlier entry, I’m not part of the jury and so have no say in the winner selection process. However, as the director of the entire Wikitopia project I’ve been keeping a close eye on the process — I have to say it’s quite remarkable how the jury members have drastically different (but equally convincing) opinions about what constitutes a strong entry to this competition, in other words a strong contribution to the Wikitopia vision. This is the nature of interdisciplinary endeavors. We cannot expect to reach quick agreements when the entire concept of Wikitopia is still so amorphous, and hence there is a paradoxical aspect to this competition; we are trying to choose “winners” when no criteria yet exists for doing so. Please keep that in mind when you look at the list of winners that will be announced later this month.

From here, we’ll try to create an online gallery showcasing the Phase 1 entries as soon as possible (this should have been completed by now but we’re a bit behind schedule here). We’re also busy preparing for the physical exhibition, scheduled to be held in central Tokyo (Nomura Conference Plaza Nihonbashi) from November 25 to 28. We’re planning to build the exhibition space ourselves, tactical urbanism style — more details will be announced soon on our website, so please stay tuned!

Ok so let’s now move on the the Phase 2 Competition. As mentioned in our website, there are several noteworthy details that differentiate this round from Phase 1.

The first is the site. This time, the target site is limited to Ginza Sony Park, or areas in its immediate vicinity. (We don’t have a strict definition regarding what counts as vicinity, but let’s just say short walking distance.) If you live outside Japan and are not familiar with the site, please do not feel discouraged as we’ll do our best to provide as much details about the site on our website. We’re also in discussion with the Sony Park team to actually consider deploying some of the ideas proposed in this phase. This does not mean we’re looking only for immediately deployable ideas, however — what we’ll probably be doing is to first pick several ideas that interest the Sony Park team, and then try to turn them into more workable ideas through a three-way collaboration between us (Wikitopia Project), the Sony Park team, and the entrants who had submitted the ideas.

The second difference is that entries for this phase need to be built on one or more of the Phase 1 entries. This is an experimental initiative inspired by how open-source software is developed; it is routine for programmers to use existing software as building blocks when writing their own new code. The Phase 2 submission system will ask entrants to specify which one(s) of the Phase 1 entries the proposed idea is based on. Let me emphasize that there won’t be any inherent advantages to building on the (soon-to-be-announced) award-winning entries as opposed to others — novelty will be considered as part of the evaluation criteria, so even if you propose an extremely slick, well-thought-out idea, the jury probably will not rate it highly if it’s hardly different from the idea(s) it’s based on.

The third difference is the winner selection process. As with Phase 1, the jury will select a winner and a few finalists, but we’ll also introduce a new award called the Wikitopia Prize — a sort of a “people’s choice” award whose recipient is chosen democratically via input from everyone who has participated in the Phase 1 and Phase 2 Competitions. Details of this process are still undecided, but we’ll be building our own dedicated web app which will (hopefully) be more sophisticated than simple online voting.

So that wraps up our quick update — thanks again to everyone who has participated in the Phase 1 Competition, and we hope to see many great submissions for Phase 2!!


YUICHIRO TAKEUCHI is a Toronto-born, Tokyo-based computer scientist whose work explores the intersection of digital technology and architecture / urban design. Currently he works as a researcher at Sony Computer Science Laboratories Kyoto, and also directs the nonprofit Wikitopia Institute. He holds a PhD in Informatics from The University of Tokyo, and an MDes from Harvard Graduate School of Design.