Middle Ground: Experiments in Urban Social Science

October 1st, 2017 - September 30th, 2020 | PROJECT

The Exploratorium, in collaboration with the city of San Francisco, the Tenderloin and Civic Center communities, and national museum-community partners, are excited to announce Middle Ground: Experiments in Urban Social Science (fka Street Smarts), a project to bring research on social psychology to public urban environments. Middle Ground combines recent work by the Exploratorium in social science exhibitry and urban learning spaces to develop a novel contribution to science learning in public spaces. The project will produce an outdoor learning installation in front of San Francisco City Hall that will serve the exceptionally diverse audiences that frequent the area. The installation will be populated with exhibits that engage this public in social observation and participatory experiences, promoting learning about the science of social polarization, social dilemmas, and social norms. The project will also produce an online "Guide to People Watching" for the general public, with additional materials to support professionals in the creation of social science learning experiences. The project will be supported by a community of practice of professionals engaged in educational place-making. Finally, Middle Ground will produce new research on how to design experiences that prompt structured, quasi-scientific social observation skills and foster empathy for the social experience of others.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

2019 AISL PI Meeting Poster: Middle Ground - An Experiment in Urban Social Science
Creating Middle Ground: Transforming Urban Outdoor Spaces with Social Science Exhibits and Facilitation about Biases
Middle Ground: Reconsidering Ourselves and Others - Select Preliminary Summative Evaluation Results
Middle Ground: Reconsidering Ourselves and Others Summative Evaluation

Team Members

Shawn Lani, Principal Investigator, Exploratorium
Josh Gutwill, Co-Principal Investigator, Exploratorium


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 1713638
Funding Amount: $1,944,738


Access and Inclusion: Urban
Audience: General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Social science and psychology
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Parks | Outdoor | Garden Exhibits