Improve the Neighborhood Project - Netherlands
= Verbeter de buurt (verbeterdebuurt.nl) is a data commons project in the Netherlands, similar to FixMyStreet (complaints filing) but allowing contributions by citizens who want to improve their neighborhoods
Michiel de Lange:
"Verbeterdebuurt (www.verbeterdebuurt.nl, “improve the neighbourhood”) is a platform that allows users to report problems and contribute ideas in urban public space and connect them to local city councils. The platform was inspired by the UK-based FixMyStreet project but wanted to allow people to also contribute with ideas and not just complaints. The interface uses a proprietary Google Maps backend as a geospatial canvas for pinning problems and ideas using a browser or mobile app. The platform can also be embedded in local authority webpages or other neighborhood websites. Different data inputs appear as fairly intuitive icons on the map: A red pin signals a reported problem, a yellow light bulb indicates an idea, and a green flag a solved problem. During an interview I conducted, one of the founders of the platform recounted the story of two young boys from the small city of Hoorn who wanted to have skate park in their neighborhood.6 Their initial direct request to the local authorities was not honored. Then, they started a campaign on the platform and collected 200 signatures of support, which resulted in the municipality indeed building a skate ramp in their neighborhood. In the context of this contribution, I take this story to be about the production of a common good. The boys managed to generate a social “currency,” a quantified and visible number of backers, that provided value to a community. Datafication of an issue allowed for the translation of group desires into a quantified social constituency exerting political force, in a manner similar to Latour’s (1990) early actor-network analysis of a weight attached to a hotel key, which translates the manager’s desire to have keys returned at the front desk. Datafication also helped in collectivization: the production of a subculture around a controversy, namely the lack of shared space for a hobby that individuals have in common. Through self-generated data entries (the backing of the idea), this fairly unorganized and spatially distributed subculture became visible as a group on the platform. This led to a readjustment of the relationship between local authorities and citizens. An insight from this anecdotal case is that data played a minor but nonetheless decisive role. Decisive, because the data allowed for what Teli et al. (2015, p. 20) call “recursive engagement,” namely “the capability of a public of being able to take care of the infrastructure that allows its existence as a public.” Without the data, there would have been no “thing” around which to establish a public. The common good consisted of a digital/material hybrid: collective desires, a pinned light bulb on the platform, quantified shows of support, a list of signatures, a formal decision, a skate ramp, and a community of skaters. Another tentative insight is that the commons can be nested inside closed platforms. Instead of categorically treating closed and open platforms as incommensurable, I suggest that the commons, in a case like this, spills over when it becomes an interface between private, communal, and public interests."
- The Right to the Datafied City: Interfacing the Urban Data Commons. By Michiel de Lange. Chapter 5 of: The Right to the Smart City. Emerald Pubn, pp. 71-83, 2019