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robertogreco : elcampodecebada   3

The smartest cities rely on citizen cunning and unglamorous technology | Cities | The Guardian
"Ignore the futuristic visions of governments and developers, it’s humble urban communities who lead the way in showing how networked technologies can strengthen a city’s social fabric"



"We are lucky enough to live at a time in which a furious wave of innovation is breaking across the cities of the global south, spurred on both by the blistering pace of urbanisation, and by the rising popular demand for access to high-quality infrastructure that follows in its wake.

From Porto Alegre’s participatory budgeting and the literally destratifying cable cars of Caracas, to Nairobi’s “digital matatus” and the repurposed bus-ferries of Manila, the communities of the south are responsible for an ever-lengthening parade of social and technical innovations that rival anything the developed world has to offer for ingenuity and practical utility.

Nor is India an exception to this tendency. Transparent Chennai’s participatory maps and the work of the Mumbai-based practices CRIT and URBZ are better-known globally, but it is the tactics of daily survival devised by the unheralded multitude that really inspire urbanists. These techniques maximise the transactive capacity of the urban fabric, wrest the very last increment of value from the energy invested in the production of manufactured goods, and allow millions to eke a living, however precarious, from the most unpromising of circumstances. At a time of vertiginously spiralling economic and environmental stress globally, these are insights many of us in the developed north would be well advised to attend to – and by no means merely the poorest among us.

But, for whatever reason, this is not the face of urban innovation official India wants to share with the world – perhaps small-scale projects or the tactics of the poor simply aren’t dramatic enough to convey the magnitude and force of national ambition. We hear, instead, of schemes like Palava City, a nominally futuristic vision of digital technology minutely interwoven into the texture of everday urban life. Headlines were made around the planet this year when Narendra Modi’s government announced it had committed to building no fewer than 100 similarly “smart” cities.

Because definitions of the smart city remain so vague, I think it’s worth thinking carefully about what this might mean – beyond, that is, the 7,000 billion rupees (£70bn) in financing that India’s high powered expert committee on urban infrastructure believes the scheme will require over the next 20 years. It is one thing, after all, to reinforce the basic infrastructures that undergird the quality of urban life everywhere; quite another to propose saddling India’s cities with expensive, untested technology at a time when reliable access to electricity, clean drinking water or safe sanitary facilities remain beyond reach for too many.

We can take it as read that our networked technologies will continue to play some fairly considerable role in shaping the circumstances and possibilities experienced by billions of city-dwellers worldwide. So it’s only appropriate to consider the ways in which these technologies might inform decisions about urban land use, mobility and governance.

However, especially at a time of such enthusiasm for the notion in India, I think it’s vital to point out that “the smart city” is not the only way of bringing advanced information technology to bear on these questions of urban life. It’s but one selection from a sheaf of available possibilities, and not anywhere near the most responsive, equitable or fructifying among them.

We can see this most easily by considering just who it is the smart city is intended for – by seeking to discover what model of urban subjectivity is inscribed in the scenarios offered by the multinational IT vendors that developed the smart city concept in the first place, and who are heavily involved in sites like Palava. When you examine their internal documentation, marketing materials and extant interventions, it becomes evident there is a pronounced way of thinking about the civic that is bound up in all of them, with rather grim implications for the politics of participation.

A close reading leaves little room for doubt that vendors like Microsoft, IBM, Siemens, Cisco and Hitachi construct the resident of the smart city as someone without agency; merely a passive consumer of municipal services – at best, perhaps, a generator of data that can later be aggregated, mined for relevant inference, and acted upon. Should he or she attempt to practise democracy in any form that spills on to the public way, the smart city has no way of accounting for this activity other than interpreting it as an untoward disruption to the orderly flow of circulation. (This is explicit in Palava’s marketing materials, as well.) All in all, it’s a brutally reductive conception of civic life, and one with little to offer those of us whose notions of citizenhood are more robust."



"The true enablers of participation turn out to be nothing more exciting than cheap commodity devices, reliable access to sufficiently high- bandwidth connectivity, and generic cloud services. These implications should be carefully mulled over by developers, those responsible for crafting municipal and national policy, and funding bodies in the philanthropic sector.

In both these cases, ordinary people used technologies of connection to help them steer their own affairs, not merely managing complex domains to a minimal threshold of competence, but outperforming the official bodies formally entrusted with their stewardship. This presents us with the intriguing prospect that more of the circumstances of everyday urban life might be managed this way, on a participatory basis, by autonomous neighbourhood groups networked with one another in something amounting to a city-wide federation.

In order to understand how we might get there from here, we need to invoke a notion drawn from the study of dynamic systems. Metastability is the idea that there are multiple stable configurations a system can assume within a larger possibility space; the shape that system takes at the moment may simply be one among many that are potentially available to it. Seen in this light, it’s clear that all the paraphernalia we regard as the sign and substance of government may in fact merely constitute what a dynamicist would think of as a “local maximum”. There remain available to us other possible states, in which we might connect to one another in different ways, giving rise to different implications, different conceptions of urban citizenship, and profoundly different outcomes.

The sociologist Bruno Latour warns us not to speak airily of “potential”, reminding us that we have to actually do the work of bringing some state of affairs into being before we can know whether it was indeed a possible future state of the system – and also that work is never accomplished without some cost. I nevertheless believe, given the very substantial benefits we know people and communities enjoy when afforded real control over the conditions of their being, that whatever the cost incurred in this exploration, it would be one well worth bearing.

The evidence before us strongly suggests that investment in the unglamorous technologies, frameworks and infrastructures that are already known to underwrite citizen participation would result in better outcomes for tens of millions of ordinary Indians – and would shoulder the state with far-less onerous a financial burden – than investment in the high-tech chimeras of centralised control. The wisest course would be to plan technological interventions to come on the understanding that the true intelligence of the Indian city will continue to reside where it always has: in the people who live and work in it, who animate it and give it a voice."

[See also: http://boingboing.net/2014/12/24/why-smart-cities-should-be.html ]
2014  adamgreenfield  urban  urbanism  collectivism  cities  innovation  smartcities  chennai  caracas  nairobi  portoalegre  digitalmatatus  manila  infrastructure  palavacity  technology  power  control  democracy  ows  occupywallstreet  urbz  crit  transparency  occupysandy  nyc  elcampodecebada  madrid  zuloark  zuloarkcollective  collectives  twitter  facebook  troughofdisallusionment  darkweather  networks  internetofpeople  brunolatour  grassroots  systems  systemsthinking  metastability  dynamicsystems 
december 2014 by robertogreco
What I’m working on lately: Practices of the minimum viable utopia (long) | Speedbird
"In the fusion of each of these three archetypal processes, el Campo de Cebada, Godsbanen and Unto This Last, we can see the outlines of something truly radical and terribly exciting beginning to resolve. What can be made out, gleaming in the darkness, is a — partial, incomplete, necessarily insufficient, but hugely important — way of responding to the disappearance of meaningful jobs from our cities, as well as all the baleful second-order effects that attend that disappearance.

When apologists for the technology industry trumpet the decontextualized factoid that each “tech” job ostensibly creates five new service positions as a secondary effect, what they neglect to mention is that the lion’s share of those jobs will as a matter of course prove to be the kind of insecure, short-term, benefits-lacking, at-or-close-to-minimum-wage positions that typify the contemporary service sector. This sort of employment can’t come anywhere close to the (typically unionized) industrial-sector jobs of the twentieth century in their capacity to bind a community together, either in the income and benefits they produce by way of compensation, in the conception of self and competence they generate in those who hold them, or in the sense of solidarity with others similarly situated that they generally evoke.

At the same time, though, like many others, I too believe it would be foolish to artifically inflate employment by propping up declining smokestack industries with public-sector subsidies. Why, for example, continue to maintain Detroit’s automobile manufacturers on taxpayer-funded life support, when their approach to the world is so deeply retrograde, their product so very corrosive environmentally and socially, their behavior so irresponsible and their management so blitheringly, hamfistedly incompetent? That which is falling should also be pushed, surely. But that can’t ethically be done until something of comparable scale has been found to replace industrial manufacturing jobs as the generator of local economic vitality and the nexus of local community.

So where might meaningful, valued, value-generating employment be found — “employment” in the deepest sense of that word? I have two ways of answering that question:

- In the immediate term, I believe in the material and economic significance of digital fabrication technologies largely using free and open-source plans, deployed in small, clean, city-center workshops, under democratic community control. While these will never remotely be of a scale to replace all the vanished industrial jobs of the past, they offer us at least one favorable prospect those industrial jobs never could: the direct production of items immediately useful and valuable in one’s own life. Should such workshops be organized in such a way as to offer skills training (perhaps for laid-off service-sector workers, elders or at-risk youth), they present a genuinely potent economic and social proposition.

There are provisos. The Surly Urbanist correctly suggests that any positions created in such an endeavor need to be good jobs, i.e. not simply minimum-wage dronework, and my friend Rena Tom also notes that the skills training involved should be something more comprehensive than a simple set of instructions on how to run a CNC milling machine — that any such course of instruction would be most enduringly valuable if it amounted to an apprenticeship first in the manual and only later the numeric working of materials. I also want to be very clear that, per the kind of inclusive decision-making processes used at el Campo de Cebada, such a workshop would have to be something a community itself collectively thinks is worth experimenting with and investing in, not something inflicted upon it by guileless technoutopians from afar.

- In the fullness of time, I believe that the use of relatively high-technology techniques to accomplish not merely the local, autonomous production of everyday objects, furnitures and infrastructures, but their refit and repair, will come to be an economically salient activity in the global North. In this I see a congelation of several existing tendencies, logics or dynamics: the ideologically-driven retreat of the State from responsibility for stewardship of the everyday environment; the accelerating attrition and degradation of the West’s dated and undermaintained infrastructures, and their concomitant need for upgrade or replacement; increasing belief in the desirability of densifying urban infill; the rising awareness in the developed world of jugaad, gambiarra and other cultures of repair, reuse and improvisation; the emergence of fabricator-enabled adaptive upcycling; the circulation of a massive stock of recyclable componentry (in the form of obsolescent structures as well as landfill-bound but effectively nondegradable consumer items), coupled to the emergence of a favorable economics of materials recovery; broader experience with and understanding of networked, horizontal and leaderless organizational structures; the creation of a robust informational commons, including repositories of freely-downloadable specifications; and finally the clear capability of online platforms to facilitate development and sharing of the necessary knowledge, maintain some degree of standardization (or at least harmonization) of practice, suggest sites where citizen repair might constitute a useful intervention, and support processes of democratic decision-making."
utopia  2014  adamgreenfield  openstudioproject  pocketsofresistance  resistance  institutforx  godbanen  aarhus  madrid  spain  españa  elcampodecebada  untothislast  london  making  makerculture  economics  production  fabrication  democracy  labor  upcycling  collectivism  collaboration  repair  furniture  agency  denmark  davidharvey  postcapitalism  sharingeconomy  sharing  libraries  lcproject  community  communities  cooperatives  anilbawa-cavia  renatom  airbnb  couchsurfing  kintsugi  seams  minimumviableutopia  douglasmeehan  idealism  practicalism  jeremyrifkin  self-reliance  murraybookchin  jugaad  fabbing  gambiarra  fixing  maintenance  cv  repairing 
april 2014 by robertogreco
El campo de cebada | Vecinas y vecinos del Distrito Centro de Madrid, agrupados para fomentar el uso temporal del solar del derribado polideportivo de La Latina.
"… cultivando ideas para este espacio vacio.

Somos vecinos y vecinas del Distrito Centro agrupados, para fomentar el uso temporal del solar del derribado polideportivo de La Latina, durante el tiempo en el que las obras previstas para su nuevo uso urbanistíco no se lleven a cabo; se prevee que pasen años antes de que esto ocurra y no queremos un espacio vacío y abandonado en el centro de Madrid. Creemos en el disfrute del espacio público frente a los espacios ofrecidos por entidades privadas, en donde el dialogo y las relaciones sociales entre vecin€s apenas se dan.

La intención es que el solar de cabida a todo tipo de propuestas/actividades/proyectos de tipo cultural, social, artistíco, deportivo… para el uso y disfrute de las personas del barrio y de Madrid.

Queremos ser los propios vecinos los que participemos en las decisiones de las actividades y proyectos a desarrollar, gestionando con responsabilidad el uso del espacio y fomentando el encuentro y las relaciones sociales entre todos. Creemos que este espacio debe ser disfrutado y compartido entre todos: vecin@s, comerciantes, colectivos y asociaciones del barrio."

[via: Can you smell what I'm brewing, beloved? Mate these 3 things: http://www.untothislast.co.uk/ http://www.institutforx.dk/ http://elcampodecebada.org/ Wildcat production in the city center! Things made for use! Lifelong skills training! A feeling of pride in using what one has made!

https://twitter.com/agpublic/status/452873190432579584
https://twitter.com/agpublic/status/452873398608486400
https://twitter.com/agpublic/status/451765570028179456 ]
spain  españa  madrid  openstudioproject  lcproject  placemaking  elcampodecebada 
april 2014 by robertogreco

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