Exploring the Tools of the Urban Bottom-Up Movement

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* Article: Smart Citizens: Exploring the Tools of the Urban Bottom-Up Movement. By S. Niederer and Ruurd Priester. Computer Supported Cooperative Work 25(2-3) · March 2016

URL = https://www.researchgate.net/publication/298907649_Smart_Citizens_Exploring_the_Tools_of_the_Urban_Bottom-Up_Movement


"As web technology and (big) data continue to transform how we organize ourselves, scholarly research increasingly zooms in on the socio-material conditions of citizen participation and public engagement, the objects and devices that organize publics. Where social issues may often be the driver of such public engagement, increasingly the city and, more specifically, the neighborhood itself have become a central objects connecting their inhabitants through online networks and neighborhood events. Tools and apps for citizen participation then weave together neighborhood stakeholders (e.g. inhabitants, municipal parties and entrepreneurs). This paper zooms in on a sample of 40 such tools that enable and organize bottom-up citizen participation in the city of Amsterdam. Combining a theoretical framework with content analysis, digital methods and data visualization, this paper marks the starting point of a longitudinal analysis of online tools for the urban bottom-up movement."


Participation and the role of objects

Sabine Niederer and Ruurd Priester:

"In her publication Material Participation: Technology, the environment, and Everyday Publics (2012), Marres builds on what is referred to as the object-turn in social, cultural and political theory, with aforementioned scholars such as Knorr Cetina (1997), Latour as well as Lash and Lury and others who argue that we must recognize that material entities equally make an important positive contribution tothe organization of social, political, and moral life in industrialized societies (p. 6). Marres takes the case of the smart meters and other green home technologies, andregards them as lightweight means of participation. E.g., one does not need to understand the complexities of global warming to engage with the issue on a daily basis through smart meters that reduce one’s footprint. This object turn both overlaps with and differs from the participatory turn mentioned earlier. In short, it is a matter of perspective, whether you recognize in participatory initiatives attempts to render objects more central to participation or efforts to render participation more central to object-centered practices(p. 16). Just as the (media) attention for issues may fluctuate, so do the issue-lives of objects, as objects may be politicized easily, but their normative charge may be lost or transformed into something as lively just as quickly (p. 21). Marres studies this variability or multivalency of participatory objects in a case study of the environmental home, with its smart meters for everyday carbon accounting, and sensors in walls that measure humidity levels, and webcams to demonstrate how to make tea in an environmentally friendly manner\(p. 21). That these green or sustainabe living experiments are both highly empirical and mediatized (through blogs and other publicity) make them a suitable site and object of study of the role of devices, settings and objects in the organization and performance of public engagement and participation."