Video: Right to the Smart City Session 2: Urban Commons

If you missed the video of the presentation in Session 1 on citizenship, you can watch them here.



Citizens for Digital Social Innovation: Between Smartness and Commoning?
Ramon Ribera-Fumaz (UoC, Barcelona)

Smart City strategies has been widely criticised as top-down post-political forms of governance. More recently, however, the idea of smart citizens empowered by smart technologies has gained prominence in the smart city discourse. For its advocates, the deployment of ICT in urban development promises more informed and efficient citizens, who are able to become active actors of economic growth and urban management and politics. In contrast, in recent years, there have been emerging counter-smart strategies on how to implicate and re-politicise citizens in more democratic forms through the intensive use of technologies. In both cases, it is argued that this is possible thanks to (a) new technological architectures and infrastructures that allow to put the citizen in the middle of urban governance (e.g. open source software, open data, crowdsourcing, Internet of things, low-cost hardware, etc), and, (b) new forms of urban governance such as quadruple helix models, public-private-people partnerships or sharing economy platforms in the case of Smart solutions, and p2p and communing for the later based on those architectures. In particular, these new, a priori emancipatory, forms of social organization are framed and argued through discourses of social innovation and more recently Digital Social Innovation (DSI). This paper explores the deployment of DSI initiatives aimed at empowering citizens in Barcelona. In doing so it contrasts how citizenship and DSI are conceptualised both under the umbrella of Smart City and Urban Commons strategies and what are the limits and potentialities in productively reframe, reimagine and remade citizenship and democracy through technologically driven urban governance.


Datafying the commons: data publics and smart citizenship
Michiel de Lange (Utrecht, Netherlands)

The proliferation of (big) urban data is spurring a research and design agenda that aims to increase and improve civic participation in the smart city. This agenda around civic media attempts to counter or complement the dominant rhetoric of efficiency and solutionism in corporate smart city visions. The promise of data is that it helps to address some of the complex societal ‘wicked problems’ that cities face. A variety of organizations work on fostering a ’data commons’ as a potentially valuable new resource for making decisions about urban futures, ideally with the involvement of people. A well-known example is Code for America and its various offsprings in other places in the world. By now it has become clear that just opening up data is not yet going to do much yet. How can we reimagine data as civic data, fostering engagement among so-called smart citizens with issues of common concern?
My starting point is to understand the ways data shape our notion of urban commons and publics. I discern three dominant theoretical imaginaries of urban publicness, each with their own ’urban interface’. This allows me to explore how data-driven urbanism may constitute new commonality and publicness.
First is a rational view of urban publicness. This entails a deliberative and supra-identitarian search for commonality, while ignoring difference. In terms of urban interfacing, this type of public is situated in early metropolis coffee houses with reading and debating tables.
Second is an emotional foundation of publicness, based on experiencing and consuming co-presence and difference though sensations, affect, and embodiment. Personal preferences are not something to be overcome but at the heart of this communal spectacle. The urban interfaces here are the sensual gazes and bodies of modern metropolitan flaneurs revelling in a dramaturgy of staging and watching.
Thirdly, a ritual publicness emerges from everyday symbolic interactions such as civil inattention, typically in spaces of mobility in the late modern city. The urban interface here is ‘code’: scripted common behavior between urban strangers.
The next step is to consider how data may support new kinds of publicness and civic participation. I so by building on the ownership framework developed in earlier work, which bears strong similarities to the Lefebvrian idea of the right to the city. Both refer to a non-contractual collective sense of common stewardship, and the right to appropriate. A series of short cases illustrate how data can play in role in:
1. Creating data-driven networked publics
2. Articulating an otherwise abstract issue through data
3. Engaging people with an issue by sensing and/or narrating through data
4. Providing a horizon for action
5. Pooling resources in reciprocal ways.
In the final part I reflect on the some of the challenges and questions that arise from the above. Issues that are addressed include the tension between self-description vs other-ascription, agency and the governance of/by platforms, splintering urban publics, and institutional legitimacy of governing civic data. This section ends by tentatively exploring how this affects existing imaginaries of data-driven urban publicness, and may impel us to imagine new ones.


Smart Commons or a smart approach to the Commons?
Paolo Cardullo (Maynooth)

The paper offers a critical evaluation of smart cities (SC) in relation to the urban commons. This is intended as the space produced through practices of urban commoning, processes of cooperation and social reproduction, and entitlement rights. Both supporters and critics of the SC often claim to tap into the ‘collective intelligence of the crowd’, a socially accrued value which we can refer to, at its best, as a ‘smart commons’. However, this view hides the social relationship the commons implies because the maintenance of the commons is intrinsically linked to the everyday materiality of social reproduction. Instead, the paper suggests a ‘smart approach’ to the commons, which takes into account both the city as a commons and the way in which urban commons is produced under advanced capitalism. The ‘communal city’ would re-imagine the exchange of value and utilities between SC and its citizens and it can develop, the paper argues, only by taking into account established and expanding collective rights and entitlements such as: shared ownership of critical infrastructures, ‘rent’ and mechanisms of remuneration for digital labour, and processes of governance with Lo-Fi or non-tech practices of urban commoning which produce collectivities rather than interconnected individuals.

One thought on “Video: Right to the Smart City Session 2: Urban Commons

  1. Pingback: Workshop “The Right to the Smart City”, 5-6 Sept 2017, Maynooth University – Michiel de Lange

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