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Exuma Garden of Dreams

Category : ⚐ EN + ecosistema urbano + sustainability + technologies + urban social design

Sobrevolando el Caribe

Puedes ver la versión en español de este post aquí.

Exuma is a district of the Bahamas, consisting of over 360 islands (or cays). The largest of the cays is Great Exuma, which is 37 mi (60 km) in length. The capital and largest city in the district is George Town founded 1793 and located on Great Exuma. The Tropic of Cancer runs across a beach close to the city. The entire island chain is 130 mi (209 km) long and 72 sq. mi (187 km²) in area.

Last February, Ecosistema urbano has started a cooperation with the project A Sustainable future for Exuma: Environmental Management, Design, and Planning, a multi-year ecological planning project as a collaboration among the Government of the Bahamas, the Bahamas National Trust and Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD).

Situación de Exuma

The location of Exuma

The goal is to facilitate the design and management of a more sustainable future for the Exuma archipelago, and The Bahamas more generally.
The project has two parallel and mutually informing components: research and education. These components work to inform the development of proposals and interventions as well as the building of capabilities for local empowerment.

Resumen del trabajo de campo - Fuente: Exuma Topics

Field work summary – Source: Exuma Topics

Ecosistema Urbano’s role, within the overall framework of the project, has been to design a series of activities and workshops to promote dialogue within the local community, reflecting on the future of the islands and publicizing the existence and content of this future project. As a final outcome of this debate, there is a need to implement a catalytic intervention in the public space of Georgetown, as a sign of change and transformation for the future of the island.

While interacting within the local community, we obtained key information about how residents feel, what their expectations, perceptions and needs are, etc…The debate essentially stood between two scales: the general area of ​​Exuma and the local environment of George Town, the main town of the district, where most social activity takes place.

Among the many topics that emerged, some are as important as food, energy supply, education, waste, water, transport, tourism, identity or infrastructure.

There have been great moments of collective reflection on the present and future of this beautiful and fragile environment, and it has been particularly interesting to listen to the younger generation, who despite their young age, have a very clear vision of what are the challenges and problems they face to improve their future prospects.

Llegando a Gran Exuma

The toolkit and workshops that have been implemented to probe the wishes and aspirations of the local community are as follows:

1. Street photo tour

Our friend and extraordinary photographer, Emilio P. Doiztua, accompanied us on this trip, making a great record of many of the participants and activities.
We thought it was important to collect the testimonies of those who wanted to participate in more organized activities, but also of those who preferred to express their ideas spontaneously in the street, just off the Church or the market. People were very open to participate and eager to answer our questions.

Algunas de las fotografías tomadas durante el "tour"

Some of the photographs taken during the “tour”

2. Creative workshops

During the week we have been active in the primary schools of St. Andrew’s, Moss Town, George Town, Williams Town and the LN Coakley High School, working with young people between 7 and 18 years. In parallel there have been two meetings with adults, both in St. Andrew’s Community Center.

We designed a set of 2 questions, as a triggering exercise, using the colors red and blue, to symbolize the changes needed and the desired dreams respectively. Each participant was interviewed and answered these two simple questions, as an individual exercise and then proceeded to the collective exercise, in groups of 4 or 5 people.

Azul y rojo, sueños y cambios

Blue and red, dreams and changes

Many and varied were the answers, and it has been very interesting to see the clarity of ideas of the youngest (7-10 years) who suggested changes and proposed ideas fluently, both about their immediate surroundings (their school, their neighborhood, their town) as well as for the broader context, Exuma.

At the end of each workshop, through a simple origami exercise, the red and blue pages symbolizing the desired changes and dreams for the future, were converted into petals to later become paper flowers.

Plantillas usadas para las propuestas y el origami

Templates used for the proposals and the origami – click to see and download in high resolution

Proceso de plegado del origami

Folding origami

For the collective exercises we worked with aerial photos, words, producing collages and staging. There has been a reflection to 3 scales: Exuma, Georgetown and at a more local scale, around a vital public space in town, the daily most frequented place by children, youth and families.

"The park", el principal espacio público de Georgetown

“The park”, the main public space in Georgetown

This space is a natural meeting place for the teenagers and has got a great potential as a space for social interaction on the island due to its proximity to Lake Victoria and for being in the center of Georgetown.

Ubicación de este "parque" en Georgetown

Location of this “park” in Georgetown

features and allow it to be more active, inclusive and comfortable public space. Some of the ideas collected included: shade, playgrounds, street furniture, water, wifi, stands, community gardens, garden, sports facilities, cultural events, concerts, etc.

Añadiendo propuestas al panel de exposición

Adding proposals to the exhibition panel

Puesta en común

Presentation

Puesta en común

Presentation

Trabajando en los "pétalos"

Working on the “petals”

Algunos niños posando con sus propuestas

Some kids with their ideas

Aprendiendo y enseñando a plegar el origami

Learning and teaching how to fold the papers

Some “flowers” start to appear

Mostrando el resultado

Showing the result

In a local highschool

Using the digital application

Using the digital application

Adults workshop

Workshop with adults, both tourists and locals

Sharing results and reflections

Sharing results and reflections

3. Digital Exuma: www.exumadreams.org

As in previous occasions, and after adapting the graphics, we used Whatif [Edit 2015: now called local in] for digitally collecting ideas from participants. The resulting platform www.exumadreams.org, is and will remain active for the next few months as an open communication channel with all those who want to maintain the dialogue and continue to participate.

For those of you who are not familiar with the tool, Whatif is a web and mobile application designed to the publication of geolocated messages: Users write their ideas, opinions or proposals in 140 characters and classified by category and location so that they can be consulted, valued and shared in real time. We developed it as a tool to assist public participation processes and collective creativity, facilitating the tasks of consultation, exploration and visualization of a wide variety of data.
The application is open source and available for free download on the official website, which will soon be announcing a new, improved version.

exumadreams con whatif - captura de la pantalla principal

exumadreams on whatif – screenshot of the main page

exumadreams con whatif - captura de la entrada al formulario

exumadreams on whatif – screenshot of the entry form

exumadreams con whatif - captura de la vista de mapa

exumadreams on whatif – screenshot of the map view

exumadreams con whatif - captura de la vista de mensajes

exumadreams on whatif – screenshot of the messages view

exumadreams con whatif - captura de la vista de etiquetas

exumadreams on whatif – screenshot of the tags view

www.exumadreams.org

4. Origami garden of exuma dreams- Jardín de los sueños

The last day of our stay, we arranged an installation with all the ideas compiled during the entire process, an ephemeral and symbolic collection of wishes for Exuma, George Town and the public space of the city. A red and blue paper flower garden, each containing 5 petals with different ideas and desires embedded.

The Garden of Dreams allowed us to show the local community the work done throughout the process of workshops and activities, while temporarily transform a public space in Georgetown, drawing attention to the need to revitalize this space.

Boceto de concepto para la instalación

Concept drawing for the installation

La "flor" resultante

The resulting “flower”…

... y las flores formando un jardín

… and the garden these flowers form.

Personas visitando la instalación

People visiting the installation

Personas visitando la instalación

People visiting the installation

Vista nocturna de la instalación

Night view of the installation

Vista nocturna de la instalación

Night view of the installation

Otra vista nocturna de la instalación

Another night view of the installation

Now we are back and the ‘lab’ work begins. It is necessary to process all the collected material and transform the hopes and dreams of the citizens of Georgetown designing a catalytic intervention for this important public space for the community life.

More information about the project:
www.sustainableexuma.org
www.exumatopics.org/about

More pictures about the project at their Facebook page

El equipo visitante, de izquierda a derecha: Gareth Doherty, Jose Luis Vallejo, Belinda Tato, Jose María Ortiz y Mariano Gomez

The visiting team, left to right: Gareth Doherty, Jose Luis Vallejo, Belinda Tato, Jose María Ortiz and Mariano Gomez

Cheers from Exuma!

Cheers from Exuma!

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Jardín de Sueños en Exuma

Category : ⚐ ES + ecosistema urbano + sostenibilidad + tecnologías + urban social design

Sobrevolando el Caribe

You can see the English version of this post here.

Exuma es un distrito de las Bahamas que consta de más de 360 islas (o cayos). El mayor de los cayos es Gran Exuma, de unos 60 km de longitud, y en él se sitúa la ciudad más grande del distrito, Georgetown, fundada en 1793. El Trópico de Cáncer pasa por la ciudad. Toda la cadena de islas es de 209 km de largo y unos 72 km².

Ecosistema Urbano ha iniciado en el mes de febrero de 2014 una colaboración con el proyecto A Sustainable future for Exuma: Environmental Management, Design, and Planning, que surge de la cooperación entre el Gobierno de las Bahamas, el Bahamas National Trust y Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD).

Situación de Exuma

Situación de Exuma

“A sustainable future for Exuma” es un proyecto de 3 años de duración con múltiples ramificaciones dentro de dos áreas de intervención principales (investigación y cooperación académica) cuyo objetivo final es diseñar el futuro planeamiento para las islas.

Resumen del trabajo de campo - Fuente: Exuma Topics

Resumen del trabajo de campo – Fuente: Exuma Topics

La misión de Ecosistema Urbano, dentro del marco general del proyecto, ha sido la de diseñar una serie de actividades y talleres para promover el diálogo dentro de la comunidad local, reflexionando sobre el futuro de las islas y dando a conocer la existencia y el contenido de este proyecto de futuro. Como desenlace final de este debate, se plantea la necesidad de materializar a muy corto plazo una intervención catalizadora en el espacio público de Georgetown, como señal de cambio y transformación para el futuro de la isla.

Mientras interactuábamos con la comunidad local, íbamos obteniendo información fundamental sobre cómo se sienten sus habitantes, cuáles son sus expectativas, su percepción, sus necesidades, etc. El debate se situó fundamentalmente entre dos escalas: el ámbito general de Exuma y el entorno local de Georgetown, la población principal del distrito, donde se desarrolla la mayor actividad social.

De entre los numerosos temas tratados han surgido algunos tan importantes como la alimentación, el suministro energético, la educación, los residuos, el agua, el transporte, el turismo, la identidad o las infraestructuras.

Ha habido momentos fantásticos de reflexión colectiva sobre el presente y el futuro de este entorno tan bello y frágil a la vez; y ha sido especialmente interesante escuchar a los más jóvenes, quienes a pesar de su corta edad, tienen una visión muy clara de cuáles son los retos y problemas que les afectan y que deben afrontan para mejorar sus expectativas de futuro.

Llegando a Gran Exuma

Las herramientas y talleres que hemos puesto en práctica para sondear los deseos y aspiraciones de la comunidad local han sido los siguientes:

1. Street photo tour

Nuestro amigo y extraordinario fotógrafo, Emilio P. Doiztua, nos ha acompañado en este viaje, realizando un magnífico registro de muchos de los participantes y las actividades. Creímos importante recoger los testimonios tanto de aquellos que querían participar en las actividades más organizadas, como de los que preferían expresar sus ideas de manera espontánea en la calle, a la salida de la Iglesia o del mercado. La gente se mostró muy abierta a participar y contestar nuestras preguntas.

Algunas de las fotografías tomadas durante el "tour"

Algunas de las fotografías tomadas durante el “tour”

2. Creative workshops

Durante esta semana hemos realizado actividades en los colegios de educación primaria de St. Andrew’s, Moss Town, Georgetown, Williams Town y en el Instituto L.N. Coackley High School, trabajando con jóvenes de entre 7 y 18 años. Paralelamente se han realizado dos encuentros con adultos, ambos en St. Andrew’s Community center.

Como ejercicio detonante, diseñamos un set de 2 preguntas, utilizando los colores rojo y azul, para simbolizar los cambios necesarios y los sueños deseados respectivamente. Cada entrevistado y participante debía responder a estas dos sencillas cuestiones, como ejercicio individual para después proceder a un trabajo de reflexión colectiva, trabajando en grupos de 4 ó 5 personas.

Azul y rojo, sueños y cambios

Azul y rojo, sueños y cambios

Muchas y muy distintas han sido las respuestas, y ha sido muy interesante constatar la claridad de ideas que tienen los más jóvenes (7-10 años) a la hora de sugerir cambios y proponer ideas, tanto sobre su entorno más inmediato (su colegio, su barrio, su ciudad) como del contexto más amplio, Exuma.

Al final de cada taller, a través de un sencillo ejercicio de origami, las páginas rojas y azules que simbolizan los cambios deseados o los sueños de futuro, se convierten primero en pétalos y más tarde en flores de papel.

Plantillas usadas para las propuestas y el origami

Plantillas usadas para las propuestas y el origami – clic para ver y descargar en alta resolución

Proceso de plegado del origami

Proceso de plegado del origami

Para los ejercicios colectivos se ha trabajado con fotos aéreas, palabras, producción de collages y escenificación. Se ha realizado una reflexión a 3 escalas: Exuma, Georgetown y a escala más local, sobre un espacio público vital en la ciudad, el lugar más frecuentado a diario por niños, jóvenes y familias.

"The park", el principal espacio público de Georgetown

“The park”, el principal espacio público de Georgetown

Este espacio es un lugar de encuentro natural para los jóvenes y tiene un gran potencial como espacio para la interacción social de la isla por su proximidad a la laguna Victoria y por encontrarse en el centro de Georgetown.

Ubicación de este "parque" en Georgetown

Ubicación de este “parque” en Georgetown

A lo largo de una semana recibimos infinidad de ideas y propuestas para transformarlo y dotarlo de mejores instalaciones, más funciones y permitir que sea un espacio público más activo, inclusivo y confortable. Algunas de las ideas recogidas incluyeron: sombra, juegos infantiles, mobiliario urbano, agua, wifi, gradas, huertas urbanas, jardín, zonas deportivas, eventos culturales, conciertos, etc.

Añadiendo propuestas al panel de exposición

Añadiendo propuestas al panel de exposición

Puesta en común

Puesta en común

Puesta en común

Puesta en común

Trabajando en los "pétalos"

Trabajando en los “pétalos”

Algunos niños posando con sus propuestas

Algunos niños posando con sus propuestas

Aprendiendo y enseñando a plegar el origami

Aprendiendo y enseñando a plegar los papeles

Empiezan a aparecer “flores”

Mostrando el resultado

Mostrando el resultado

En un instituto local

Using the digital application

Usando la aplicación digital

Adults workshop

Talleres con adultos, tanto turistas como locales

Sharing results and reflections

Sharing results and reflections

3. Digital Exuma: www.exumadreams.org

Como en otras ocasiones hemos utilizado, previa adaptación a nivel gráfico, la herramienta Whatif [Editado 2015: ahora llamada local in] para recoger de manera digital las ideas de los participantes. La plataforma resultante, www.exumadreams.org está y seguirá estando activa durante los próximos meses como canal abierto de comunicación con todos aquellos que quieran mantener el diálogo y seguir participando.

Para los que no estéis familiarizados con la herramienta, Whatif es una aplicación web y móvil adaptada a la publicación de mensajes geolocalizados: los usuarios escriben sus ideas, opiniones o propuestas en 140 caracteres y las clasifican por categorías y ubicación, de modo que puedan ser consultadas, valoradas y compartidas en tiempo real. La desarrollamos como una herramienta para asistir procesos de participación ciudadana y creatividad colectiva, facilitando las tareas de consulta, prospección y visualización de una gran variedad de datos.

La aplicación es open source y está disponible para su libre descarga en la página oficial, en la que en breve anunciaremos una nueva versión bastante mejorada.

exumadreams con whatif - captura de la pantalla principal

exumadreams con whatif – captura de la pantalla principal

exumadreams con whatif - captura de la entrada al formulario

exumadreams con whatif – captura de la entrada al formulario

exumadreams con whatif - captura de la vista de mapa

exumadreams con whatif – captura de la vista de mapa

exumadreams con whatif - captura de la vista de mensajes

exumadreams con whatif – captura de la vista de mensajes

exumadreams con whatif - captura de la vista de etiquetas

exumadreams con whatif – captura de la vista de etiquetas

www.exumadreams.org

4. Origami garden of exuma dreams- Jardín de los sueños

El último día de la semana, realizamos una instalación con todas las ideas recogidas durante todo el proceso, un montaje efímero y simbólico de los deseos para Exuma, Georgetown y el espacio público de la ciudad. Un jardín de flores de papel rojas y azules, cada una de ellas de 5 pétalos con las diferentes ideas y deseos.

Este Jardín de sueños nos permitió mostrar a la comunidad local el trabajo realizado durante todo el proceso de talleres y actividades, al mismo tiempo que transformamos temporalmente el espacio público de Georgetown, atrayendo la atención sobre la necesidad de revitalizar este espacio.

Boceto de concepto para la instalación

Boceto de concepto para la instalación

En cada flor se instaló una micro-lámpara LED de luz intermitente, creando un efecto lumínico vibrante que contribuía a destacar la multiplicidad y variedad de las ideas recogidas. La gente paseó por el Jardín de los sueños leyendo y descubriendo las reflexiones colectivas.

La "flor" resultante

La “flor” resultante…

... y las flores formando un jardín

… y las flores formando un jardín

Personas visitando la instalación

Personas visitando la instalación

Personas visitando la instalación

Personas visitando la instalación

Vista nocturna de la instalación

Vista nocturna de la instalación

Vista nocturna de la instalación

Vista nocturna de la instalación

Otra vista nocturna de la instalación

Otra vista nocturna de la instalación

Una vez de vuelta, comienza el trabajo de laboratorio. Procesar todo el material recogido y transformar los deseos y sueños de los habitantes de Georgetown diseñando una intervención catalizadora para este espacio público tan importante para la vida de esta comunidad.

Más información sobre el proyecto:
www.sustainableexuma.org
www.exumatopics.org/about

Más fotografías sobre el proyecto en su página de Facebook

El equipo visitante, de izquierda a derecha: Gareth Doherty, Jose Luis Vallejo, Belinda Tato, Jose María Ortiz y Mariano Gomez

El equipo visitante, de izquierda a derecha: Gareth Doherty, Jose Luis Vallejo, Belinda Tato, Jose María Ortiz y Mariano Gomez

Cheers from Exuma!

¡Saludos desde Exuma!

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Digital social tools for the city l New series: Social Toolbox

Category : ⚐ EN + social toolbox + technologies

Today we present a coming series of posts about digital social tools. With this term we mean digital platforms, software, and online projects developed for the improvement of cities and neighbourhoods through direct participation by their citizens. Digital social tools can be open platforms that allow anyone to sign up and collaborate or applications that can be applied to different participatory projects.

What is the social potential of information technology and of the development of open source software and web-based social projects? To answer this question we will begin by establishing a theoretical framework contextualizing this spreading phenomena in contemporary society. In the end we will propose a system for a graphic representation to help us better understand and compare their underlying structure.

 Marta Battistella

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Mass culture: How to not die of

Category : ⚐ EN + city + sustainability + urbanism

Last summer, different cities from different parts of the world screamed through their squares and streets, and the messages from their voices revealed more than what we could see at first sight.

2013 Taksim Gezi Park by Flashstorm

2013 Taksim Gezi Park by Flashstorm

In Turkey, protests clashed initially in Gezi Park in Istanbul, where the government wanted to impose a new shopping center in the middle of the city, where a green park stood. The protests appeared trivial and useless, as the decision to build another shopping center, commonly and always justified as part of innovation and development of a country, could not compete with citizens’ willingness to keep a green area in the city center. Anyway it appeared incredible that due to this occupation, government military forces started a real fight against the ‘riots’, so that from a little episode, the phenomena started to expand to the whole country, augmenting the size of the protest and people’s involvement.

Photo by Diren Gezi Parki on Facebook

Photo by Diren Gezi Parki on Facebook

Likewise, Brazilian people began to occupy their streets in the name of stopping their Government for what they considered a waste of money and resources: the forthcoming World Football Championship. As it is known, the investment for this is a huge cost, involving the building and the re-organization of new spaces. Citizens occupied the streets asking to invest that money in more urgent sectors, as education, health and security. For sure, behind this people movements, behind their complaints and their need of being listened to, there are several dimensions of a same problem.

The ‘problem’ is that people would like to be part of a democracy, as the Governments define themselves, and have access to a democratic life, having the chance to be active part of the decisions taken. Mass culture takes part as a dimension of the phenomena. We can try to understand why and to what extent.

The context for much of the current interest in material culture is a fear. It is a fear of objects supplanting people. That this is currently happening is the explicit contention of much of the debate over postmodernism which is one of the most fashionable approaches within contemporary social science. (Miller, 1998:169)

This statement is extracted from an article where the author explains that the fear described is an overrated feeling in sociology. If we consider the Marxist position, it uses to refer to a distinction between an assumed pre-era, far from material objects, and the modern one, made or dominated by material; anyway there is actually no evidence of this historical distinction from ethnography or past studies, as even old societies were rather engaged with cultural media (Miller, 1998). However, Miller’s thought is contextualized in a different discourse, whilst the theme, that hereby is going to be explored, touches that argument in the most ‘materialist’ way possible: Indeed it will be the consideration of mass culture intended in its symbolic and representative meaning, and especially in which way the symbolic and the representative are intertwined with the material objects and massive quantitative consequences of its use as media tools.

In this case, I would argue that fear is not overrated, rather it is underestimated. Indeed, fear is real as much as deaths due to climate change and revolutions; fear is real to the extent that some people have too much and others have nothing. In this essay mass culture will be discussed from the aspect of its weight on people and planet lives, in particular inside our cities. I would try to discuss mass culture from an ethic point, not asking if we are dominated or whether there is the domination of a Western or capitalist culture, but rather inquiring if we are dominated by mass culture without recognizing its cost in terms of social justice, sustainability and depleting resources, and thus, if we could change something before crashing indirectly also due to mass culture’s effects.

Mass culture and the city

Image by AlexandraGalvis

Image by AlexandraGalvis

Mass culture is, first of all, an incredible phenomenon itself. With this term, I will refer to the huge flowering of cultural products and cultural media that surrounds our daily life, often strongly driven by markets, and that, due to the global streaming, reach masses and are consumed quite globally. Thus, it is clear that within the phenomena, arts, events, shopping and most of the rituals and media we experience daily are directly involved. Above all, mass culture has a relation with the consumerism system and technology development. Furthermore, when we talk about mass culture, we talk about a collective culture production, and thus of a result due to human interaction. (Grazian, 2010).

It is not so difficult to imagine the particular relationship that mass culture engages with cities. Not just because it is possible to observe it directly, but because cities are primarily the first concentration of masses where people live into the network of relationships, where their lives are indeed organized and intertwined within the social system. Literature supports various different traditions and points of view: For sure the city has always been seen as a great place for commercial, business, capitalist trades and often cities have been built according to these interests. For instance, Marx Weber in his classic ‘The city’ (1958) discusses it in these terms, trying to identify their main features, stressing what defines a city and what is not enough:

Both in terms of what it would include and what it would exclude size alone can hardly be sufficient to define the city. Economically defined, the city is a settlement the inhabitants of which live primarily off trade and commerce rather than agriculture.

Certainly, due to chances of trades, relationships and exchanges, the city is the realm of business. Weber also considers citizens according to their consumer role:

Similar to the city of the prince, the inhabitants of which are economically dependent upon the purchasing power of noble households, are cities in which the purchasing power of the other larger consumers, such as reinters, determines the economic opportunities of resident tradesmen and merchants.

Moreover, he claimed that:

Thus, we wish to speak of a ‘city’ only in cases where local inhabitants satisfy an economically substantial part of their daily wants in the local market (…). In the meaning employed here the ‘city’ is a market place. The local market forms the economic center of the colony in which, due the specialization products, both the nonurban population and urbanites satisfy their wants for articles of trade and commerce. (1958)

So, as a central crossroads of activities made of relationships and exchange, soon the city became the symbol of economy, gathering around itself both producers and consumers, and creating for them a whole life, including mainly rituals and tools of innovation concerning demand/buying and offer/selling. This is well explained by Jayne in his essay ‘Cities and Consumption’ (2006). He conducts an analysis about the rising of the industrial revolution, mass production and the consequent mass consumption, and the rituals of shopping and entertainment that had developed around these, collocated in the spaces of the cities, according to class distinctions, social system and capitalist interests. And mainly it is from this process that mass culture developed for the most as we know it today. Jayne stresses also how the dominant class pictured the shape of cities basically operating on the re-organization of spaces in order to respond functionally to a social meaning of class division, but also to respond to new needs of rituals primed by economic growth and capitalist fuel (2006).

It is in the first years of the 20th Century that the consumption of objects as media tools of culture in a massive style starts to be established and spread, thanks to the incentive of mass commodification and the technology advances. As it has been described by Veblen (1899), and Bourdieu later (1984), consumption and possession became icons of status. Precisely, as affirmed with the concept of cultural capital, the consumption of a specific culture and lifestyle became the symbol of distinction within the capitalist societies, where agencies and institutions worked to perpetuate the status quo (Bourdieu, 1984).

A kind of economic frame-centrism seems to exist, indeed economy is often the most considered starting point for analyzing society, as an invasive factor that defines all that it touches. Anyway, according to me, it is necessary not to forget that economy is not the only working force, because, not considering the phenomenon exactly in its whole, we risk to fall into determinism, being partial, and not seeing alternative ways of operating.

Robert Park, the major exponent of Chicago School, in 1916 talks of the city from another point of view, in my opinion also changing the vision of mass culture related. I found his words extremely interesting:

The city, from the point of view of this paper, is something more than a congeries of individual men and of social conveniences-streets, buildings, electric lights, tramways, and telephones, etc.; something more also, than a mere constellation of institutions and administrative devices -courts, hospitals, schools, police, and civil functionaries of various sorts. The city is, rather, a state of mine, a body of customs and traditions, and of the organized attitudes and sentiments that inhere in these customs and are transmitted with this tradition. The city is not, in other words, merely a physical mechanism and an artificial construction. It is involved in the vital process of the people who compose it; it is a product of nature, and particularly of human nature. (1916)

Considering that, I would see mass culture more like something belonging to the city in a virtual and potential way, then created by people and by their relations built there, and as something that is not just derived by economic forces and consumerism traditions. Again, the city characteristics assume a more human look. Park doesn’t forget the economic side and recognizes its importance:

The city is not, however, merely a geographical and ecological unit; it is at the same time an economic unit. The economic organization of the city is based on the division of labor. (…) Much of what we ordinarily regard as the city-its charters, formal organization, buildings, street railways, and so forth-is, or seems to be, mere artifact. But these things in themselves are utilities, adventitious devices which become part of the living city only when, and in so far as, through use and wont they connect themselves, like a tool in the hand of man, with the vital forces resident in individuals and in the community.

Another last important aspect:

The fact is, however, that the city is rooted in the habits and customs of the people who inhabit it. The consequence is that the city possesses a moral as well as a physical organization, and these two mutually interact in characteristic ways to mold and modify each other… (1916)

Thus, the city is first of all the space of human action and the shape and personality of its citizens. It is the place where culture and ideas flourish, as a fruit of human interaction.

Image by Oleksandr Hnatenko

Image by Oleksandr Hnatenko, www.pohtography.com

Following this pattern, we can look at analysis that see the representative idea of a city today, as the core of creativity, the essence of innovation, and the development and growth of a contemporary era. The same Richard Florida best seller ‘The rise of creative class’ (2002) contributed to expand the idea of a different city representation. Together with the ‘The creative city’ by Landry (2000), the authors indicated culture in its whole manifestation as the best creativity booster factor to attract the main potential resource of innovation: creative people.

By the way:

Hall unfolds a very important aspect of urban creativity, i.e. the people involvement. In fact, in the view of many scholars concerned with popular culture, people are not only passively consuming goods, as ‘mass’, they are also creatively determining the production and circulation of culture (Chambers, 1986; Fiske, 1989a, b) and shaping accordingly their view of the city. (Botta, 2006)

Mass culture could be seen as created, influenced, inspired by and consumed in the cities. But, in a double way, the same city is protagonist of mass culture, of narrative and imaginary, recounted and repurposed as representative of an idea of the city itself.

Mass culture, consumption and sustainability

Once the interrelationship between city and mass culture has been observed and after having stressed how there is not an only way to intend this liaison, we could now focus on the weight of mass culture. This weight could seem invisible to most, in first place because they don’t want people to see it, and then because people don’t want to see it either. Indeed, I am talking of a complex plot process among mass culture, consumerism and mass consumption, something that concerns deeply our ‘normal’ representation of daily life, as the best life possible.

Every day we get up and go to work. We work to earn money and with that money we buy everything that can permit us to conduce a comfortable life, possibly happy, healthy and rich. The more we work, the more we earn, the more we want to have. Having objects, first of all, does not imply them to be stupid ones. We love design, we love to show off concern for our culture: So we fill our houses with books, compact discs, vinyls, vintage pieces, clothes, shoes, cars. We love of course an independent big house with all comforts, hot in winter and cool in summer. We love culture, we love style and good food, we love travelling around the world, we love a comfortable life, we love shopping. We love sports, we love concerts and dancing. And above all, we love doing everything in a single very amusing and cozy place: a big city that can offer this and more.

That above seems almost one of those pictures or statements that we can commonly find on the teenager’s timeline on Facebook. A real statement about ideal life underpinned by mass culture. Unfortunately it is a sad reality if observed under another point of view. I regret to communicate that our planet is not big nor rich enough (not anymore) to grant the same treatment to all the teenagers of the world. I am sorry to communicate to my friends that their passion to collect rock compact discs is increasing the garbage that someone else will probably find as plastic junk in the sea. I am sorry to communicate to citizens that our big cities are not going to be livable anymore if the presence of toxic gases will increase. I am sorry to communicate that while your favorite an-alcoholic drink brand, Coca Cola, launches its new advertise, assessing their will to help people and make the world a better place, with children singing in the background, in India their factories are exploiting the country’s water resources to produce their drink and the company is collaborating with Government to privatize the same water, taking it away from people.

Image seen in Global Environments & Societies wiki

Image seen in globalenvironmentssocieties.wikispaces.com

It is not easy put in discussion the best lifestyle possible people’s idea: but it is time to really face the cost of our lifestyle, and our lovely mass culture. Maybe mass culture has become a natural part of our life that it is really difficult try to reason on it in terms of sustainability for the planet in which we live, the only one. This is because mass culture currently concerns almost all the rituals of our everyday life, including education, cultural capital, identity, wealth, traditions, and all the ‘soft’ symbolic part turned on rituals.

Anyway, at this point, it could be useful to make a distinction. For me, when we talk about mass culture we are not talking just and necessarily of consumerism, but perhaps more of rituals and activities that are deep-rooted within the consumerist society; this has then for sure been emphasized to an excess, in quantity and in stimulation and expansion of people’s needs. Indeed, Chandra Mukerji (1983) has historically described examples of consumer culture in the 15th Century Europe, where the exchange of media culture, such as books, exotic pieces from far places, jewels, spices and textures, was usual among royalty and upper classes (Wilk, 2002). Moreover, Peter Corrigan argues that the concept of ‘fashion’ was already well known in the Elizabethan times, when London was the center of trends (1997).

Today the modern consumption and the consumerism culture has achieved an exaggerate level of production of goods, if not waste. We could think that the human nature aims to have as much as possible or that being greedy is a natural component of human behavior; instead it is fairly reasonable that not in all societies, in the past nor now, people have the same need of possession, nor the same notion of richness or comforts. Nowadays, we can also say that not even the whole population belonging to the same society has the same notion of values in life and of our cities. Coming back for a moment to Turkey and Brazil, it is clear that a great number of people doesn’t agree with their Governments about which are the priorities for a good life in their cities. Could another shopping center create better conditions for people or enrich people more than a green space? Could a world event solve the social basic issues of inequity and poverty of a country? People are recognizing more and more that what is really important for their cities are adequate spaces for themselves, where they have the chance to choose their rituals or maybe to create them.

We are in a cyclic system that resembles a treadmill, where the whole society is involved, into the process of producing needs, old and new, and then producing goods. The index to indicate the level of wealth and growth is the GDP that measures the quantity of goods – products in one year per country. Is the huge quantity of goods produced seriously making our societies better and prosper?

Whereas mass culture (or mass cultures) is made of tools, symbols, icons, practices, rituals and it is something concerning people and their consumption in a certain way, what distinguishes pure consumerism today is: The quantity of goods produced; the stimulation and the expansion of needs; the pushing, by few stakeholders, of society towards consumption and possession. For sure marketing and selling strategies have always done a good job to lead practices, rituals and symbols around their products.

Buy More Stuff, Black Friday 2009 - Photo by Michael Holden

Buy More Stuff, Black Friday 2009 – Photo by Michael Holden

Consumerism affects mass culture so much that is primarily a mean of identity and interaction with others, because historically our Western capitalist societies consider money and the quantity of goods as distinctive symbols of wealth and success in life. Sure is that, the existence and the use of mass culture both suffer this deal. But in a society where we are conscious of the issues concerning the exploitation of resources and the return of it under the shape of garbage and where the first value is keeping safe life conditions, mass culture could change look. Already now we are adhering to style trends for smart cities, car sharing, waste recycle and other practices, that if inserted as pieces of mass culture into our lives could help to change mass culture too.

Thus, we cannot just criticize our consumerism society in terms of the damage that we are causing. We should start to reflect on our daily cultural practices, which are indeed made of mass cultural media tools, starting by city spaces, where our activities are concentrated and where more than other we could see the rituals and the proliferation of mass culture. And thus, we should begin thinking of a new approach based on them. I am persuaded that we could indeed change mass culture through mass culture itself.

According to the anthropologist Margaret Mead, there is no single approach working successfully in every society; rather, each one has a “culturally appropriate” approach, concerning the specific characteristics of its individuals (1953). In this perspective, Wilk argues:

They imply that no single set of solutions, technological, legislative, or cultural, is going to work in every society. On the contrary, we should expect great diversity in the ways different countries and cultures deal with sustainability problems. How can we expect things to change in the countries that presently consume so much more than their share of global resources? (2002)

When we talk about cities, we then talk about mass culture too, thus maybe cities could live by a different mass culture. As the city has been the protagonist of growth of mass society and mass culture of consumerism, it could also happen that the city may see the birth of a new and fairer society. Indeed, change should begin from here, from the set of organizations and citizens, in creating different rituals and use of the spaces.

Image by Starkart

Image by Starkart

Bibliography:

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: a Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. Richard Nice. Harvard University Press.
Corrigan, Peter. 1997. The Sociology of Consumption: An Introduction. London: Sage.
Florida, Richard. 2002. The Rise of the Creative Class. New York: Basic Books.
Grazian, David. 2010. Mix It Up: Popular Culture, Mass Media, and Society. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
Jayne, Mark. 2006. Cities and Consumption. New York: Routledge.
Landry, Charles. 2000. The creative city. New York: Routledge.
Mead, Margaret; World Federation for Mental Health. 1953. Cultural patterns and technical change. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Miller, Daniel. 1998. “Coca Cola: A Sweet Black Drink from Trinidad.” Pp. 169-187 in Material Cultures: Why Some Things Matter, edited by D. Miller. London: UCL Press.
Mukerji, Chandra.1983. From Graven Images: Patterns of Modern Materialism New York: Columbia University Press.
Park, Robert. 1916. “The city: suggestions for the investigation of human behavior in the urban environment” Pp. 90 -130 in Classic Essay on the Culture of Cities. New York. 1969, edited by R. Sennett. New York Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Weber, Max. 1958. “The City.” Pp. 23-46 in Classic Essay on the Culture of Cities. New York. 1969, edited by R. Sennett. New York Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Wilk, Richard. 2002. “Culture and Energy Consumption” Pp. 109-130, in Energy: Science, Policy and the Pursuit of Sustainability, edited by Robert Bent, Lloyd Orr, and Randall Baker. Island Press: Washington.
Veblen, Thorstein. 1899 [1973]. The Theory of the Leisure Class. Introduction John Kenneth Galbraith. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

This is a guest article by Simona Ibba (@PenniLeyn). Thanks, Simona!

If you want to get your own article published, see this.

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What if…? Manama | Workshop at Bahrein

Category : ⚐ EN + eu:calls + news + talleres

Next Thursday 23 two of us will be flying to Manama (Al Manāmah, Bahrein)  for a workshop, in the context of the Open Ideas Competition Bab Al Bahrain.

Sattelite view of the site

The workshop, which is open to both architecture students and general public, will take place around Bab al Bahrain (Gateway of Bahrain) on Friday 24 and Saturday 25. During these two days we will try to approach and visualize the identity of the city from the point of view of the citizens, with the aid of the whatif web and mobile application [Edit 2015: now called local in]. We are looking forward to meet you there!

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placemaking | Place au changement

Category : ⚐ EN + placemaking + urban social design

Place au Changement is a co-constructed square and a placemaking process conducted by collectif etc, to create the Giant’s square, a self-managed temporary public space in Saint-Etienne.

Saint Etienne, Châteaucreux. Since 2008, the district entered a long-term process of urban transformation, a process of destruction, reconstruction, renovation, a process where different mutation stages and time-spaces side and cohabit, often leaving voids pending for weeks, months, sometimes years. And why not include these urban gaps in the process? Why not take advantage of change to colonize rather than procastrinate? Such were the questions carried out by the EPASE (Etablissement Public d’Aménagement de Saint Etienne) when announcing the competition “Défrichez-la” – literally suggesting “Clear it” – to temporarily occupy plot 58, at the crossroads of Ferdinand and Cugnot streets.

Place au changement was collectif etc’s response, to design both a square and a participation process. The name itself plays on two layered meanings: the square Of change and the process to Give way to change. The first intention, to reflect the on-going mutations in the neighborhood and remind the square’s temporary condition, was to design the square as a transitional step of its future outcome: on the ground, the imaginary plan of a future apartments building meant to replace plot 58, and on the surrounding wall, its corresponding section. And second, to design a process involving the citizens both in building the proper square and its identity as a public space.

“Make yourself a square !”. The familiar DIY tag line came out as a call for participation while launching the communication warm-up strategy, first step to pave the way for the upcoming event. Following their success in March 2011, collectif etc, along with two graphists – Bérangère Magaud and Léatitia Cordier – initiated the process by making public presentations of the project in local council assemblies, organizing meetings with the concerned political actors, contacting local associations, social centers and foster cares, negotiating with different city services the maintenance of the building site and its subsequent public space, and opening a blog to keep daily track of the project’s evolution, in order to spread the news in the greatest number of circles.

On 14 July, the building site opened to public participation. To involve the local inhabitants in the construction process, the work was organised in three thematic workshops, aiming to target people according to their own field of interest, capacities and knowledge.

The wall painting workshop, to dress the painted cross-section and bordering fronts with real scale drawings of daily objects, mainly involved the children of the Soleil and Cret de Roch neighborhood houses. The nationally renown street-artists Ella & Pitr also made a punctual intervention to paint the huge Giant, which later inspired the square’s actual name, and allowed to arouse national interest and local pride, while valuing the children’s work alongside.

The gardening workshop, to design and plant the green spaces of the square, spontaneously involved neighbors in the long-term. People voluntarily brought plants and tools from their own homes, and shared their knowledge, from which the collective had usually a lot to learn. On the last day, the group built a shelter to keep the tools and a 1000L water tank which was agreed to be regularly filled by the local city service.

The carpentry workshop, to make the square’s framework and furniture, involved any handy volunteer in the construction of the preconceived designs. A member of the collective along with a neighbor who was spontaneously designated foreman by the team, were in charge of driving and supervising the workshop, and helping people with the tools at the participants’ disposal.

Place au Changement proposed to use not only the building site as a public space, but also the building period to schedule on-site events. A building site is an event as such : closed streets, constant noise, and permanent activity. Yet, whereas we tend to call it nuisance, Place au Changement’s constant occupation was other: free and collective meals, tournaments, concerts, activities, performances, meetings…

During three weeks, what was formerly a wasteland became a daily attraction. Every Fridays announced a collective dinner, prepared by the women of the Dames de Côte-Chaude ONG, which gathered up to 80 people around a couscous, tajine and paella. Saturday nights held open concerts, which drew a miscellaneous public around improvised barbecues and cheap drinks.

Sundays gave out out-door movie projections, that welcomed students of the Gobelins to release their own short films. Associations such as Feedback association, who coordinated a circus introduction workshop, and El Caminito who offered tango lessons, made punctual on-site interventions to incite more people to join the process.

Two round-table discussions around the citizen as an actor of public space were also held, as times of reflection and debate with local associations, authorities and professionals, aiming to claim for a more horizontal cooperation and direct communication between the citizens, actors and administrations in projects of urban and public nature.

On 1 August, the construction site ended in a closing event, marking a new step in the process, the opening of a public space in the neighborhood. To promote the citizens’ involvement, the most active participants had their name carved on a pole on-site, a poster was put up to explain the process, again naming all the stakeholders, and a booklet summarizing the project and three weeks of building and lucrative site was given out to the public. A public vote by show of hands, undertaken by the citizens, renamed the space Giant’s square, after Ella & Pitr‘s huge painting on the bordering wall.

The day ended by a closing concert and jam session, and a silent commitment not to lose what had been raised during the past weeks. For beyond an architectural design and a square, Place au Changement built a self-managed community, and stirred up an activity of spontaneous uses – to be continued.

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Whatif | nueva aplicación móvil

Category : ⚐ ES + software social

Como comentábamos en un artículo anterior, a raíz de nuestra colaboración con el proyecto Cáceres Creativa emprendimos junto a PumPun Dixital el desarrollo de una versión móvil de la aplicación web Whatif [ahora llamada Local In]. La aplicación ya está terminada y disponible en el Android Market, y puede ser usada en cualquier versión web de whatif que tenga el plugin instalado. Será cuestión de tiempo que vayan apareciendo otros usos, tanto a raíz de nuestros proyectos como de los que cualquier usuario quiera comenzar por su cuenta, ya que tanto la aplicación web como la versión móvil son libres (de código abierto) y gratuitas.

A continuación describimos algunas de sus principales características y varios detalles de diseño:

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whatif | 2.0 beta version and new official site

Category : ⚐ EN + open culture + social software

Some weeks ago we announced here the coming release of the Whatif web application and commented on its main features. Today we are pleased to be launching the new Whatif 2.0 version and the official website of the project, Whatif.es. [Edit: The website is no longer available and the name has changed, see Local In].

Next you can watch (in spanish) a short video presentation we recorded at the office:

At Whatif.es you will find the following content:

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whatif | versión 2.0 beta y nuevo sitio oficial

Category : ⚐ ES + cultura abierta + software social

Hace ya unas semanas anunciamos aquí el próximo lanzamiento de la herramienta web Whatif y comentamos sus principales características. Hoy tenemos por fin el placer de presentaros la nueva versión Whatif 2.0 y la web oficial del proyecto Whatif.es. [Editado: Actualmente la página ya no existe y la aplicación se llama Local In)

A continuación os dejamos un breve vídeo de presentación que hemos improvisado en el estudio:

En Whatif.es encontraréis el siguiente contenido:

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whatif | reestructuración e imagen renovada

Category : ⚐ ES + diseño + software social

Como seguramente habréis notado por las últimas entradas al respecto, en estos meses anteriores hemos estado avanzando el proyecto hasta ahora llamado Whatif en varios frentes, desde la programación de la aplicación en sí hasta la estrategia general de desarrollo y los proyectos relacionados. [Editado 2015: La aplicación ha sido renombrada como local in y la imagen ha cambiado].

Uno de los aspectos que hemos aprovechado para cambiar es el de la estructuración del trabajo, la imagen y el nombre de los sub-proyectos. Comenzábamos a tener una constelación de proyectos y ámbitos de trabajo con nombres parecidos, que tendían a confundirse: un proyecto de ciudades participativas, una aplicación web, una aplicación móvil, sus correspondientes webs y blogs, y un ámbito de trabajo que lo englobaba todo y algunas cosas más. La situación pedía orden a gritos, y eso es lo que hemos hecho, intentando buscar un criterio unificador y a la vez introduciendo una serie de variaciones que nos permitan diferenciar entre diferentes versiones o implementaciones de cada proyecto

Whatif

Whatif

En primer lugar, tenemos una aplicación que desarrollamos en 2010 a raíz de la exposición What if…? Cities en Copenhague, especialmente diseñado para facilitar tareas de consulta, prospección y visualización en una gran variedad de procesos de participación urbana y creatividad colectiva. Esta aplicación permite la publicación de mensajes breves geolocalizados: los usuarios escriben sus ideas, opiniones o propuestas en 140 caracteres, les adjuntan un vídeo o una imagen, y las clasifican por categorías y ubicación, de modo que puedan ser consultadas, valoradas y compartidas en tiempo real.

Para referirnos a esta aplicación hemos buscado un nombre más compacto y que formase una sola palabra: whatif. El tratamiento gráfico del propio nombre permite mantener una imagen reconocible incluso en su versión de texto. El nuevo logotipo está compuesto por un icono y el nombre de la aplicación, utilizables de forma separada o conjunta, y en los que se ha añadido un tercer color (el gris) para hacer de puente neutro a los otros dos colores, de por sí tan llamativos que no pueden usarse en contacto directo uno con el otro sin producir aberraciones visuales.

Web + plugin + móvil

Usando la forma base del icono y los tres colores se producen todo el resto de variaciones necesarias. Así, su versión web, consistente en un tema de WordPress, se denomina ahora whatif.w; la versión móvil, actualmente recién salida del horno, pasa a llamarse whatif.m; y el plugin necesario para conectarlas, whatif.+.

What if…? Cities

What if...? Cities

El proyecto What if…? Cities,  aunque fue en esencia el origen de whatif, se trata ahora como una primera implementación propia de esta aplicación, la primera de muchas otras posibles que esperamos que aparezcan con el tiempo, ya sea por nuestra propia iniciativa o de mano de terceros. Su objetivo es la creación de una red de ciudades que comparten una forma de ver el urbanismo y el uso de una serie de herramientas y recursos para favorecer la participación ciudadana. Mantiene su imagen anterior, muy parecida a la de la aplicación, pero con variaciones propias.

EU | social toolbox

Por último, y englobando todo lo anterior —junto a futuros desarrollos— en un solo ámbito de trabajo, dentro de Ecosistema Urbano hemos creado una sección llamada EU | social toolbox, dedicada expresamente a la investigación y desarrollo de herramientas y metodologías para facilitar procesos de participación ciudadana. Esta sección engloba proyectos anteriormente dispersos como los anteriores, así como otros que se desarrollaron con anterioridad, como La Noche de los Niños, Localmood, etc. Esto nos permite unificar los recursos y el conocimiento que vamos acumulando sobre el tema, y ser más organizados y ágiles a la hora de sacar nuevas propuestas y soluciones, ya sea en forma de software social, de talleres, o de proyectos participativos de otro tipo.

ecosistema urbano | social toolbox