Sharing the theoretical background which considers that the Social Technologies (ST) are the ones aimed to social inclusion and understanding the necessity of involving the user in all housing production stages, a research group from eight universities is developing the project Morar.TS. This seeks the ST development for construction, recuperation, maintenance and sustainable use of housing, especially of social interest.

In this context, the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel) invests on Information Technologies (IT) which enhance the Social Technologies, increasing the interaction between the academic community and the society.

In this project, the work presents a methodology called Participatory Urban Appraisal (PUA). This method consists of a number of techniques for the collection of necessary information to obtain deficiencies diagnostic of a certain place, besides selecting possible solutions and identifying their potential. The case study was held at Balsa, a low income community located in Pelotas, Brazil.

PUA arises from similar works carried out in low income communities in Africa. There the information obtained through interviews with the community was written in small cards, being later grouped and ranked by themes in a panel with the direct intervention of the participants. The method avoids the use of long, expensive researches, excessive data collection and late production of results, besides presenting the characteristics of flexibility and interactivity.

To foster this tool through the introduction of ITs in the PUA application in the community, “mind maps” and “word clouds” were used as a way to organize the key words mentioned by the population to describe the positive and negative aspects of their environment. These tools were introduced through free softwares, reducing the costs and favoring the replicability of the technique.

The use of the interactive screen was also introduced, with the possibility of complementing and reviewing conceptual maps based on feedback provided by the dwellers. Thus, the key words listed can be changed, grouped, highlighted or connected to others, as well as illustrated by images obtained in the field survey. This technique was seen as efficient for the interaction, though the disadvantage is the need of a tool opertator’s training, which prevents the residents to interact with the equipment without the help of a technician.

As a result, the residents set the pavement of the streets as a priority. So a project is being elaborated along with the City Government and a technical catalog is being developed with alternative ideas of qualifying elements of the urban space, including pavement sidewalks, forestation, garbage collecting, walls and fences, demands mentioned by the community.

Finally, the PUA was a fundamental tool in the project, guiding the next stages of studies and actions with the population. Based on it, it was possible to diagnose and visualize the real necessities of the Balsa residents, through the participation of the population. However, difficulties were found in the use of ITs resources due to the precariousness of the communities. In many situations, the traditional use of the PUA, through analogical means, is seen as more adaptable to local characteristics.