Moments and Modes for Triggering Civic Participation at the Urban Level

Moments and Modes for Triggering Civic Participation at the Urban Level

Fiorella De Cindio (Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-152-0.ch007
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Abstract

After more than a decade of e-participation initiatives at the urban level, what remains obscure is the alchemy—i.e., the “arcane” combination of elements—that triggers and keeps citizens’ involvement in major decisions that affect the local community alive. The Community Informatics Lab’s experience with the Milan Community Network since 1994 and its two more recent spin-off initiatives enable us to provide a tentative answer to this question. This chapter presents these experiments and looks at election campaigns and protests as triggers for (e-)participation. It also discusses these events as opportunities to engender more sustained participation aided by appropriate technology tools such as software that is deliberately conceived and designed to support participation and managed with the required expertise.
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Background

We take community networks (CNs) as the starting point of our analysis, because they can be considered pioneer experiences for supporting e-participation in local communities. Even though, over time, many community networks have declined or even disappeared (Luisi 2001; Schuler 2009, forthcoming), they remain landmarks, providing significant input for the design of socio-technical systems aimed at empowering active citizen participation. Community Networks as conceived in the 1990s (Schuler 1994; Bishop 1994; Silver 2004) were virtual (or online) communities, strongly rooted in a specific territory, whose shared focus of interest was ‘public affairs’. They provided a framework for gathering civic intelligence (Schuler 2001), for supporting the development of people’s projects (De Cindio, 2004), and for promoting public dialogue among citizens and between citizens and local institutions (e.g., Casapulla et al, 1998; Ranerup 2000; De Cindio et al., 2007). Kubiceck and Wagner’s (2002) “ex post” analysis of CN development is helpful in understanding the evolution of CNs as generational succession, with one generation following upon another in a common line of tradition. They state that every generation of community networks is characterized by the advent of new technologies (which represent the formative “collective event” for each generation) and by changes in cultural context under the influences both of the preceding generation and of its own Zeitgeist. On the other hand, Selznick (1996) stresses that the emergence of community is based on opportunity for, and the impulse toward, comprehensive interaction, commitment, and responsibility. Extending these considerations, we claim that participation rises within a specific socio-technical context around particular opportunities and impulses.

In the following section, we therefore examine today’s socio-technical context in order to show that all conditions for a new “generation” of participation are fulfilled. Against this backdrop, we then identify moments that can trigger participation and modes for transforming these opportunities into well-rooted participatory practice. We also provide examples of these moments and modes, analyzing them through some statistical indicators.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Community Manager: The community manager orchestrates the ongoing life and the structure of the online community. S/he also activates and coordinates the community’s activities.

Blog: A blog is a frequently updated site (often on daily basis) where posts have the form of journal or diary entries. The blogger’s (the owner of a blog) posts often are opened for discussions, generating online conversations.

Moderator: In online communities, the moderator has the role of mediator among the actors in a discussion. S/he typically determines messages’ approval according to the community rules. So her/his activity should not be seen as censorship, but as a necessity and a protective service to the community. (De Cindio et. al, 2003)

Forum: Inspired from ancient fora (the public spaces in the middle of a Roman city which held public meeting or assembly for open discussion), online forums allows for messages to be posted and kept on a website for further (public) readings and discussions.

Web 2.0: The term “Web 2.0” was coined by O’Reilly Media at a conference in 2004 (O’Reilly, 2005) and it has become the label to refer to the next generation Web. The main characteristic of Web 2.0 is the central role that individuals play in creating social interactions, collaborating and sharing information online.

E-participation: Participatory processes supported by ICT (information and communication technologies). E-participation is the use of ICT to broaden political participation by enabling citizens to connect with one another and with their elected representatives (Macintosh, 2006). Usually, e-participation is used as a macro-category that includes a variety of areas such as e-consultation, e-legislation, e-petition and e-deliberation.

Community Network (CN): Community Networks (and related initiatives, such as “free nets” and “civic nets”) are online enabling environments that promote citizens participation in community affaires (Schuler, 2000).

Facilitator: An individual who enables groups and organizations to work more effectively, collaborate and achieve synergy. Within online discussions, a facilitator helps participants listen to each other and envisage solutions together.

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Table of Contents
Foreword
Anthony Townsend
Preface
Marcus Foth
Acknowledgment
Marcus Foth
Chapter 1
Amanda Williams, Erica Robles, Paul Dourish
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Urbane-ing the City: Examining and Refining the Assumptions Behind Urban Informatics
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Chapter 2
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To Connect and Flow in Seoul: Ubiquitous Technologies, Urban Infrastructure and Everyday Life in the Contemporary Korean City
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Chapter 3
Nancy Odendaal
Recent literature on African cities examines the way in which social networks function as critical livelihood arteries in the ongoing survival... Sample PDF
Creating an Analytical Lens for Understanding Digital Networks in Urban South Africa
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Chapter 4
Wayne Beyea
Community planning is facing many challenges around the world, such as the rapid growth of megacities as well as urban sprawl. The State of Michigan... Sample PDF
Place Making Through Participatory Planning
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Chapter 5
Mike Ananny, Carol Strohecker
In this paper, we describe the design and installation of a new kind of public opinion forum—TexTales, a public, large-scale interactive projection... Sample PDF
TexTales: Creating Interactive Forums with Urban Publics
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Chapter 6
Jenny Preece
This chapter describes a small networked community in which residents of an apartment building in Washington, D.C., USA supplement their... Sample PDF
An Event-Driven Community in Washington, DC: Forces That Influence Participation
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Chapter 7
Fiorella De Cindio
After more than a decade of e-participation initiatives at the urban level, what remains obscure is the alchemy—i.e., the “arcane” combination of... Sample PDF
Moments and Modes for Triggering Civic Participation at the Urban Level
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Chapter 8
Michael Veith
Societies face serious challenges when trying to integrate migrant communities. One-sided solutions do not pay tribute to the complexity of this... Sample PDF
Fostering Communities in Urban Multi-Cultural Neighbourhoods: Some Methodological Reflections
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Chapter 9
Victor M. Gonzalez, Kenneth L. Kraemer, Luis A. Castro
The practical use of information technology devices in domestic and residential contexts often results in radical changes from their envisioned... Sample PDF
Beyond Safety Concerns: On the Practical Applications of Urban Neighbourhood Video Cameras
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Chapter 10
Colleen Morgan
This chapter explores how we may design located information and communication technologies (ICTs) to foster community sentiment. It focuses... Sample PDF
The Figmentum Project: Appropriating Information and Communication Technologies to Animate Our Urban Fabric
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Chapter 11
Barbara Crow, Michael Longford, Kim Sawchuk, Andrea Zeffiro
The Mobile Media Lab (MML) is a Canadian interdisciplinary research team exploring wireless communications, mobile technologies and locative media... Sample PDF
Voices from Beyond: Ephemeral Histories, Locative Media and the Volatile Interface
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Chapter 12
Helen Klaebe
This chapter defines, explores and Illustrates research at the intersection of people, place and technology in cities. First, we theorise the notion... Sample PDF
Embedding an Ecology Notion in the Social Production of Urban Space
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Chapter 13
Vassilis Kostakos, Eamonn O’Neill
In this paper, we describe a platform that enables us to systematically study online social networks alongside their real-world counterparts. Our... Sample PDF
Cityware: Urban Computing to Bridge Online and Real-World Social Networks
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Chapter 14
Katharine S. Willis
In our everyday lives, we are surrounded by information which weaves itself silently into the very fabric of our existence. Much of the time we act... Sample PDF
Information Places: Navigating Interfaces between Physical and Digital Space
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Chapter 15
Viktor Bedö
This chapter contributes to the ongoing effort to understand the nature of locative urban information by proposing that locative urban information... Sample PDF
A Visual Approach to Locative Urban Information
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Chapter 16
Tristan Thielmann
Car navigation systems, based on “augmented reality,” no longer direct the driver through traffic by simply using arrows, but represent the... Sample PDF
Navigation Becomes Travel Scouting: The Augmented Spaces of Car Navigation Systems
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Chapter 17
Daisuke Tamada
A lot of street view services, which present views of urban landscapes, have recently appeared. The conventional method for making street views... Sample PDF
QyoroView: Creating a Large-Scale Street View as User-Generated Content
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Chapter 18
Hideyuki Nakanishi, Toru Ishida, Satoshi Koizumi
Many research projects have studied various aspects of smart environments including smart rooms, home, and offices. Few projects, however, have... Sample PDF
Virtual Cities for Simulating Smart Urban Public Spaces
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Chapter 19
Andrew Hudson-Smith
Digital cities are moving well beyond their original conceptions as entities representing the way computers and communications are hard wired into... Sample PDF
The Neogeography of Virtual Cities: Digital Mirrors into a Recursive World
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Chapter 20
Laura Forlano
This chapter introduces the role of community wireless networks (CWNs) in reconfiguring people, places and information in cities. CWNs are important... Sample PDF
Codespaces: Community Wireless Networks and the Reconfiguration of Cities
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Chapter 21
Katrina Jungnickel, Genevieve Bell
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Home is Where the Hub Is? Wireless Infrastructures and the Nature of Domestic Culture in Australia
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Chapter 22
Andres Sevtsuk
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Mapping the MIT Campus in Real Time Using WiFi
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Chapter 23
John M. Carroll
We discuss the vision, plan, and status of a research project investigating community-oriented services and applications, comprising a wireless... Sample PDF
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Chapter 24
Christine Satchell
Early 21st century societies are evolving into a hybrid of real and synthetic worlds where everyday activities are mediated by technology. The... Sample PDF
From Social Butterfly to Urban Citizen: The Evolution of Mobile Phone Practice
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Chapter 25
Jong-Sung Hwang
u-City is South Korea’s answer to urban community challenges leveraging ubiquitous computing technology to deliver state-of-the-art urban services.... Sample PDF
u-City: The Next Paradigm of Urban Development
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Chapter 26
Dan Shang, Jean-François Doulet, Michael Keane
This chapter examines the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in urban China, focusing mainly on their impact on social... Sample PDF
Urban Informatics in China: Exploring the Emergence of the Chinese City 2.0
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Chapter 27
Francesco Calabrese
The real-time city is now real! The increasing deployment of sensors and handheld electronic devices in recent years allows for a new approach to... Sample PDF
WikiCity: Real-Time Location-Sensitive Tools for the City
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Chapter 28
Eric Paulos, RJ Honicky, Ben Hooker
In this chapter, we present an important new shift in mobile phone usage—from communication tool to “networked mobile personal measurement... Sample PDF
Citizen Science: Enabling Participatory Urbanism
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Chapter 29
Mark Shepard
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Extreme Informatics: Toward the De-Saturated City
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Chapter 30
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