Recombining Place: COVID-19 and Community Action Networks in South Africa

Recombining Place: COVID-19 and Community Action Networks in South Africa

Nancy Odendaal (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/IJEPR.20210401.oa11
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Abstract

The lockdown response taken by many governments in flattening the curve of coronavirus infections has of course increased the reliance on digital tools to enable work (for those able to do so) and social interaction. There are emergent, somewhat contingent, and coproductive dynamics at work between platforms and urban life and space with the contextual specificities of each, no doubt, leading to different ICT-informed solutions. In South Africa, the state has taken a phased but stronghold approach with unfortunate impacts on livelihoods and food security, especially those in the informal economy and those with part-time or insecure employment. The community action network (CAN) initiative started as a means to enable neighbourhood assistance through WhatsApp groups in Cape Town. In this article, the author reflects on how this initiative reflects the early hopes of William Mitchell (and others) that saw the potential for informational spaces to become more democratic as interfaces of connection. In Cape Town, one may see Mitchell's vision fulfilled.
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2. Platform Urbanism And Recombination

Over the last two decades a scholarly interest has increased in the participatory cultures of networked mobile use as the smart phone has become increasingly embroiled in urban activism and community mobilisation. Barns argues that this was an emergent form of platform urbanism, the term originating with her work. The contribution of urban informatics as providing more “fluid, mobile and networked imaginaries…” in understanding the makings of the smart city means that the user is not passive: “Engaging with platform services is today an integral part of being an urban citizen and as such involves many different kinds of value-sharing, not only the value extracted by technology companies.” (Barns 2019: 576). In what is referred to as an architecture of interaction, this ‘read-write urbanism’ recognises the agency generated through techno-social assemblages, or participatory cultures of networked mobile use.

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