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Open Source Urbanism | Open Source City

Category: ⚐ EN+open culture+urbanism

Image by Joshua Gajownik modified by Francesco Cingolani.

Today I want to share an article that was previously published in Studio Magazine. On this occasion, I would like to thank their coordination team for inviting me to join their first release.

Summary /Overview

Traditional media don’t broadcast what the citizens are debating or organizing on a daily basis. Nevertheless, thanks to Social Networks, people can receive information and interact in real time with others, taking part in debates and social movements; and the 15th of May in Spain is an example of this.

This new information ecosystem reduces the influence of the mass media and slowly forces local authorities to relate to citizens in a more direct and horizontal way.

This is a great opportunity to generate a new “social control” model, pushing local authorities to take public opinion into account.

The digital media offers a broad environment for communication so that the organisation of any given action is greatly improved; everything becomes decentralized while simultaneously connected and synchronized.

On the urban scale, we speak of the “Sentient City”, a model based on a technological/social ecosystem, where knowledge, collective actions, and interactions between individuals and groups are encouraged, taking advantage of the new possibilities offered by hybridizing physical and digital layers.

In reversing the supremacy of centralisation over individual actions, citizens can become aware of their power and organize themselves on the web.
We have the necessary technology, knowledge and dynamics to put in place more open processes of urban administration and management. Citizens have already started to move; and although public administration could take advantage of such independent and autonomous processes to deal with complex situations, it appears that a clear political will is still lacking.

The fragmented city

Today, the dimensions of time and space, which were historically strongly linked in a space-time continuum, are increasingly growing apart and becoming independent, in a fragmented spatial perception. Nowadays a large number of people are moving from one point to another of the city to reach their workplace, and go back home. The distance between these two points (spatial dimension) and what happens between them does not affect or interest these people in any way. Indeed, the only thing people are concerned with is the duration of the trip (time dimension).
The city is no longer a continuous place, but a structure of nodes connected in a network (network city). These nodes become increasingly more defined, organised and efficient and, the journeys between them shorter and faster thanks to technical progress. The spaces of a city that have no particular characteristics and a unique function, that is to say everything that is not a node, loose significance, including public spaces.

In such city – the “fragmented city” – we use low cost technologies (internet, telephone and transport) to move, to manage our social relationships, and to communicate with people with whom we don’t necesarilly share a common physical space like a neighbourhood.

Very often the complexity of one point exclusively consists in giving access to other points, hence the importance that movement has acquired today. Instead of living in a continuous space, we continuously move between discontinuous spaces (points or nodes).

This networked structure, unlike a continuous structure, reduces diversity and complexity. The less diversity and complexity, the greater the need to move. Every point has its function and identity. Everything seems more organised and easier to find. However, to find what we are looking for, we are compelled to move constantly to other nodes.

The majority of these journeys are done by means of transport, at a speed that does not allow any relationship with the surroundings. There is a starting point and a finishing point, with little opportunity for a surprise or a change. All this implies an impoverishment of the intermediate spaces, spaces that link different points: places are consequently public spaces.

In order to transform these kinds of cities, it is essential to intervene in everyday aspects of life which might appear to have no relationship with the design of public spaces in urban areas.

Our lifestyles are two dimensional: in situ and virtual. Now we are able to intervene in the new dimension, what we commonly call “virtual” or “digital”, . As the sociologist Manuel Castells says “Everything we do, from when the day begins until it is over, we do it with internet […] the connexion between in-situ (not real because reality is virtual and in situ at the same time) and virtual is established by us. There are not two different societies, there are two kinds of social activities and relations within ourselves. We are the ones that have to search the best way to arrange and adapt them.

fragmented cityImage by Francesco Cingolani |

Public Space, Sentient Space

According to Daniel Innerarty, in the city the homogeneous and non changing area is nothing more than an extreme case within a global area of connected local multiplicities. Instead of neighbourhoods, local networks are developed, and public debate takes place in a virtual area. In this scenario, streets and squares have ceased to be the main meeting areas.

Internet seems to offer an alternative “space” for social relationships as compared to “traditional” spaces. This can be seen as a problem leading to empty public spaces; or on the contrary, it can be considered an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen social relationships by creating the necessary budgets to improve the vitality of public spaces. Today the Internet is the “place” where community models of management are being experimented.

I believe it is important to reconsider the city as something built by everyone, and to see public areas as the ground where this process can take place. Today we have tools available that are able to act as a catalyst for participatory dynamics that were previously impossible to coordinate. There are increasing examples of processes of creation by citizens, linked to the use of new technologies. It is undeniable that Internet is a key factor contributing to changing the society. That being said I believe it is obvious that we cannot think of public space without taking into consideration the potentialities of these technologies, how they are used and how they can be an added value.

We should begin to talk about a new type of public space, a hybrid space, where technology could become a catalyst for hybridising dynamics between activities that are not traditionally connected or that are located in other (private) spaces.

Juan Freire explains this clearly: “The differentiation between spaces and physical and virtual communities is outdated. We are witnessing a hybridising process which modifies our individual identities, communitarian and territorial. Internet has contributed to the development of global networks, but paradoxically it has had a less noticeable influence in local spheres. However, digital technologies modify radically the way in which we are organised and we relate to our environment so we are already living in territories where the digital realm is as important as the physical. The hyper-local networks and hybrid public spaces are the new realities which we confront with the advent of Internet and digital culture in our local environment”.

According to Juan Freire the crisis of public (physical) spaces in urban areas is also due to the lack of (open) design, giving the citizens, once more, the opportunity to take a real interest in its use. It has also brought into debate concepts such as “hybrid spaces”, to refer to the opportunities that the hybridising of the physical with the digital sphere offers in public spaces.
We can grant the assumption of the existence of a digital skin that characterizes public spaces and devote ourselves to defining its qualities and characteristics. Instead of “hybrid” I like to use the concept of “sensitive”. “Sensitive space” refers to the “living” character of these spaces; to their capacity to promote a two-way relationship with its users, to catalyse hyper-local social networks and to visualise information related to the environment in a transparent manner.

prosumerImage by Francesco Cingolani |

Social networks and Self-organization

If we analyze the increase in the use of social networks on the Internet we realize that we are witnessing a process of change that will lead to the disappearance of the current dissociation between digital and in-situ identity.
Most people can continue living in complete normality without having to take care of their digital (identity) presence in social networks. Nevertheless, it is highly probable that in a few years time the concept of identity will inevitably integrate both the digital and the physical dimension. Consequently, each person will be forced to take as much care of their digital identity as of their physical identity, something that many people have been doing for some time already.

We must take several specific factors of this new kind of identity into consideration such as its peculiar time dimension. The building process of the digital identity over time leaves a footprint on the web, a visible footprint that is accessible to any user. The end result is an identity that is perceived as a sum of the past (footprint) and present identity.

Generally we control our public image by showing at each time only what we wish. However, when our identity leaves a footprint on the internet, we no longer have exclusive control over it but it is shared amongst friends and acquaintances (namely the peer group).

Each person that knows me can publish information (photographs, texts, etc…) that are directly or indirectly related to my identity without the need of my approval. This is what happens in most of the social networks.

Certainly, my digital identity will be entirely integrated in the learning process and will be increasingly associated to a physical space; that is, the idea we had about a parallel digital identity that is detached from reality does not, I think, interest anyone: in fact we do not even have time to create parallel identities.

Our identity is not only formed by way of the information that my friends and I have published, but also through the information that my devices publish. An example could be the use of services like Foursquare that allows me to upload posts in my social networks about my location at any time, taking advantage of the internet connection of our mobile phones.

To explain this phenomenon Tim Berners-Lee mentions Giant Global Graph, this means, the future Semantic Web with which we shall go from gathering the relationship between people to focus on the relationship between people and their interests (documents). Thus, if the “Internet” has allowed us to connect computers and the “Web” has allowed us to connect documents, then the “Graph” will allow us to link the documents (places, objects, etc.) and the people. So we could define the Graph as the third level of abstraction, taking into account that in each layer (Internet, Web, or Graph) we have handed over some control only in order to reach bigger benefits. A direct consequence of these dynamics is the definite statement of a (unique) identity on the web that can be recognized by any agent, person or application.

This unmistakable digital identity facilitates the development of innovative social hardware projects based on participation of a non-collective nature, where the dynamics of collaboration are the result of individual action and interaction. We are progressively discovering the self-organisation of informed societies that are capable of revolutionizing their own structures taking advantage of the virtual mirror phenomenon that enables the association of information on a given situation with individual decisions.

open source urbanismImage by Francesco Cingolani | based on flickr images by & See-ming Lee

Control and decentralization

Social networks reinforce a new type of control: a decentralized control operated by a diversity of independent individuals that collaborate, using shared and mobile capacities of calculation and communication. Information and Communication Technologies do not present a solution, but an opportunity to improve our ability to manage territories. ICT’s can be used for many different purposes. On the one hand their enormous capacity for processing data can be used to centralize all the information and try to “solve” urban complexity; but they can also be used to open and decentralize decision-making.

The aim is to research on how ICT’s allow us to define an urban administration structure where discontinued points of control exist in an environment of self-determination (appropriation) and liberty. This is an idea that is close to the definition of tensegrity that Buckminster Fuller mentions: “islands in compression inside a tense ocean“.

The introduction of digital technologies within the physical space enables the development of new communication dynamics and relations between neighbours that improves the cohesion of local communities and their quality of life, offering a feeling of greater security.

Thanks to new technologies and to some cultural “mutations”, systems and worlds that were previously closed and not very transparent, are now open to the participation of agents (and people) who are external to their organisational structures. Citizens become more available to participate and collaborate because they are better informed and they are finally considered as useful partners for the urban administration. Architects and urban planners can reasonably begin to work keeping in touch constantly with citizens, “sharing” their decision-making “powers”.

To explain this phenomenon we can refer to the concept of “long tail” coined by Cris Anderson. The Internet and the digital environment have changed the (power) distribution laws and the market rules. The present political and economic system is based on a pyramid structure where the power (or the economic or creative potential) of many is considered inferior to the power of those that stand on the highest part of the pyramid. There is a new system based on the addition or accumulation of all the small potentials (or powers) of the mass of citizens that, thanks to the systems of communication on the internet, can equal or exceed the power (or potential) of those who are in a privileged position today. These are the old markets of masses and the new niche of markets that are pictured at the top and the bottom of the well known graph of statistical distribution.

The presence of a centralized identity is not needed when the control and feedback devices allow the actors to visualize or to become aware of the consequence of their actions. The unconscious self-organisation phenomenon becomes conscious and intended control when the individuals are allowed to understand the effects of their actions. The concept of tensegrity comes in here when it refers to an administration model where decentralized and centralized decisions are joined, avoiding the appearance of any closed and omnipresent control dynamics.

Reversing the supremacy of centralization over individual decisions, citizens can become aware of their actions and intentionally coordinate them. This process may help to restore the necessary legitimacy and credibility to the interventions that take place in degraded urban areas.

control y descentralizacion Image by Francesco Cingolani |

Towards participation: Accountability and open data

“Participation demands an information system, an observatory and indicators that will regularly reflect the situation of what we consider as key variables to establish our evolution, that should be accessible and comprehensible for citizens” (Agustín Hernández Aja, 2002)

In 2002, Hernández Aja, Urban planning professor at the Universidad Politécnica in Madrid, describes the essential assumptions for citizen participation. A decade later, communication models and administration dynamics that bring us close to these assumptions start to become popular.

I would like to highlight (point out) accountability and the Open Data movement.

Approaching the term accountability we can create an ecosystem of communication and transparency that can enable citizens to demand responsibilities from governing bodies. This would help us to reach the objective of decentralizing control, which is necessary for a true democracy.

Open Parlamento ( is a great example of how to work to achieve accountability. It is a web-based tool that enables distributed monitoring of the work of the members of parliament in the Italian parliament.

The web page offers lots of information on draft legislation, and in general, about all the activities in the Parliament. Most interesting of all is the distributed monitoring system that allows for control of every Member of Parliament’s political activities. Every citizen can “adopt” a member and publish all their declarations and confront them with their parliamentary activity.

We can imagine this same system applied on a local scale, where citizens have greater organization capacities and power to exert pressure. The control to which all the local administrators would be subject to, would be so intense that they would nearly be obliged to start up a transformation of the administrative structures towards a more open and participatory model.

The Open Data movement is an important drive towards achieving transparency over public administration. Open Data consists of making Public Administration data available for the public, such as data related to projects that are financed with public money or managed by public institutions.

The aim is to take advantage of the data that the public administrations do not want or do not have the capacity to analyze. Releasing this data enables any person or organization to build new consultation and visualization formulas, to simplify, diversify and even to enrich the initial information.

In Spain, within this new tendency, the Open Data Euskadi project should be highlighted. It is part of the Open Government initiative of the Bask Government: a website dedicated to the exhibition of public data in a re-usable format, under open licenses. On an urban scale, two projects stand out that have been activated by two Spanish cities; Zaragoza and Córdoba. They are beginning to take their first steps in the world of Open Data.

I am convinced that citizen pressure will force all the big cities to join this process of openness and transparency.

sentient cityImage by Francesco Cingolani | REAL-TIME CITY | a proposal for Smart Turin by HDA | Hugh Dutton Associés.

Open source and Network Awareness

As we mentioned previously, reversing the supremacy of centralization over individual actions, citizens can become aware of their “power” and begin to organize in networks.
We have the technology the knowledge and the dynamics available to introduce more open urban administration processes. Citizens have begun to move; the administrations could take advantage of these autonomous and independent processes, to manage very complex situations. However, a clear political will is still lacking.

Probably the administrators have managed to delay the transition towards a new participatory administration model, thanks to the indirect or even direct support of what is known as the “fourth power”: the media. The current information system still offers the administrators and the “powerful” a wide opportunity to manipulate and control certain processes.
The emergence of a more distributed information model is beginning to offer to any citizen the possibility to produce relevant local information. A communication ecosystem based on social media is born.
This new information ecosystem can reduce the influence of the mass media and therefore force the local administrators to enforce accountability regarding the decisions that are taken. The administrators will be compelled to relate to this new, more horizontal and distributed form of communication: an opportunity to generate “social control” that can improve transparency and force the local administrators to take the public opinion into account.

A clear example of what is being presented here, are the latest citizen mobilizations that are happening in Spain. After the 15M demonstration, an organized and authorized event, many occupations took place in numerous squares in the whole of Spain. These camps were organized in a matter of hours using Twitter and Facebook. It is impossible to exert control over these information flows and action catalysts like the occupations. Steps have been taken towards a model in which governors and administrators are going to have to understand that they cannot continue to ignore the citizens while they defend the interests of others.

We are witnessing an innovative construction process of a new communal and public sphere; the development of a new model of public space that we have called “sensitive space”. Traditional media don’t communicate what we the people are debating on a daily basis, nonetheless, thanks to Social Networks, people can receive information and interact in real time with others taking part in debates and social movements, the example of the occupation of public squares is an example of this.

It is interesting to note that the in-situ (on-site) realm is absolutely essential and how the digital media is simply offering a wider environment for communication so that the organisation of any given action is greatly improved; everything becomes decentralized while at the same time connected and synchronized.

These processes seem to be nearly inevitable. Once they are established as natural local administration processes then we will be speaking about a more favorable environment, for an Open Source City, that is, a city open to everyone’s participation.

Flickr image by Julio Albarrán

This article was originally published in and Studio Magazine.

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Ciudades de Código Abierto. Hacia nuevos modelos de gobernanza local

Category: ⚐ ES+cultura abierta+espacios sensibles | sentient city+LCV

Imagen de Joshua Gajownik modificada por Francesco Cingolani.

Control y Descentralización

Las redes sociales potencian un nuevo tipo de control: un control descentralizado operado por una pluralidad de individuos independientes que colaboran utilizando capacidades repartidas de comunicación horizontal. Las Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación (TICs) representan una oportunidad para mejorar nuestra capacidad de gestión del territorio. Éstas se pueden usar para fines completamente distintos y contrapuestos. Por un lado, se puede aprovechar su enorme capacidad de proceso de datos para centralizar toda la información e intentar “solucionar” la complejidad urbana; pero también se pueden usar para abrir y descentralizar la toma de decisiones.

Sería interesante investigar cómo las TICs permiten definir una estructura de gestión urbana donde polos de control discontinuo vivan entre un entorno de auto-determinación y libertad. Una idea muy cercana a la definición del concepto de “tensegrity” que hace Buckminster Fuller: “islas en compresión dentro un océano en tensión”.

Gracias a las nuevas tecnologías y a algunas “mutaciones” culturales, sistemas y mundos, antes totalmente cerrados y muchas veces poco transparentes, se abren a la participación de agentes (y personas) externas a sus estructuras organizativas. Los ciudadanos se vuelven más disponibles a participar y a colaborar porque son mejor informados y finalmente son considerados interlocutores útiles para la gestión urbana. Arquitectos y urbanistas pueden razonablemente empezar a trabajar en constante comunicación con los ciudadanos, “compartiendo” con ellos su “poder” de decisión.

Para explicar este fenómeno se puede hacer referencia al concepto de “larga cola” de Chris Anderson. Internet y el entorno digital han cambiado las leyes de distribución (del poder) y las reglas del mercado. El actual sistema económico y político se basa en una estructura piramidal donde el poder (o el potencial económico o creativo) de muchos se considera inferior al de los pocos que están en la parte más alta de la pirámide. Existe un nuevo sistema basado en la suma o acumulación de todas las pequeñas potencialidades (o poderes) de la masa, que gracias a los sistemas de comunicación en red ofrecidos por Internet pueden igualar o superar el poder (o potencial) de los que hoy se encuentran en una posición privilegiada. Son el antiguo mercado de masas y el nuevo nicho de mercados, representados por la cabeza y la cola de la conocida gráfica de distribución estadística.

Representación gráfica de la ‘larga cola’ (en amarillo) | fuente: Hay Kranen

La presencia de una entidad centralizada no es necesaria cuando los dispositivos de control y de retorno de la información (feedback), permiten a los actores visualizar o tomar conciencia de las consecuencias de sus acciones. El fenómeno de auto-organización inconsciente se vuelve control consciente e intencionado cuando se permite a los individuos entender los efectos de sus acciones. Aquí entra el concepto de tensegrity, cuando se refiere a un modelo de gestión donde las decisiones descentralizadas se juntan a las centralizadas evitando una dinámica de control totalmente cerrada y omnipresente.

Invirtiendo la supremacía de la centralización sobre las decisiones individuales, se consigue que los ciudadanos tomen consciencia de sus acciones y así coordinarlas de manera intencionada. Este proceso puede conseguir devolver la necesaria legitimidad y credibilidad a las intervenciones en las áreas urbanas degradadas.

Accountability y Open Data

“La participación demanda de un sistema de información, de un observatorio y de unos indicadores que reflejen periódicamente la situación de aquellas variables que estimemos como claves para establecer nuestra evolución y que sean accesibles y comprensibles por los ciudadanos.” (Agustín Hernández Aja, 2002)

Así, en 2002, Hernández Aja, catedrático de Urbanismo de la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, describe los supuestos indispensables para la participación ciudadana. Una década más tarde empiezan a popularizarse modelos de comunicación y dinámicas de gestión que nos acercan mucho a estos supuestos. Entre ellos me gustaría destacar el accountability y el movimiento Open Data.

Accountability es un término anglosajón que podríamos traducir por “responsabilidad” u “obligación de rendir cuentas”. Aproximándonos al concepto de accountability podemos crear un ecosistema de comunicación y transparencia que permita al ciudadano exigir responsabilidades a la administración. Lo cual nos ayuda a cumplir el objetivo de descentralizar el control necesario para una verdadera democracia.

Open Parlamento ( es un ejemplo estupendo de como trabajar para mejorar y conseguir accountability. Se trata de una herramienta Web que permite monitorizar de forma distribuida el trabajo de los diputados del parlamento italiano. La pagina Web ofrece mucha información sobre los proyectos de ley y en general sobre toda la actividad del Parlamento Italiano. Lo más interesante es su sistema de seguimiento distribuido que permite controlar la actividad política de cada diputado. Cada ciudadano puede “adoptar” un diputado, publicar todas sus declaraciones y confrontarlas con su actividad parlamentaria.

Imaginemos este mismo sistema aplicado a escala local, donde los ciudadanos tienen una mayor capacidad de organización y de ejercer presión. El control al que se someterían todos los administradores locales serían tan intenso que estos se verían casi obligados a poner en marcha un proceso de transformación de la estructura administrativa hacia un modelo más abierto y participativo.

El movimiento Open Data supone uno de los mayores empujes para conseguir transparencia sobre la gestión pública. Open Data consiste en poner a disposición de la sociedad datos de la Administración Pública, como son datos de proyectos financiados con dinero público o gestionados por instituciones públicas.

El objetivo es sacar provecho de esos datos que las organizaciones públicas no quieren o no tienen capacidad de analizar. Liberar esos datos permite a cualquier persona u organización construir nuevas fórmulas de consultación y visualización, simplificar, diversificar e incluso enriquecer las informaciones iniciales.

En España, entre los ejemplos de esta nueva tendencia destaca el proyecto de Open Data Euskadi, parte integrante de la iniciativa de Open Government del Gobierno Vasco: un portal de exposición de los datos públicos en formato reutilizable, bajo licencias abiertas. A escala urbana, destacan los proyectos activados por dos ciudades españolas como Zaragoza y Córdoba, que empiezan a dar sus primeros pasos en el mundo del Open Data.

Estoy convencido de que la presión ciudadana obligará en muy poco tiempo a todas las grandes ciudades a sumarse a este proceso de apertura y transparencia.

Open Source y Conciencia de Red

Imagen de Jorge del Corral modificada por Francesco Cingolani.

Como decíamos, invirtiendo la supremacía de la centralización sobre las acciones individuales, los ciudadanos toman consciencia de su “poder” y empiezan a organizarse en red.

Disponemos de la tecnología, el conocimiento y las dinámicas necesarias para poner en marcha procesos de gestión urbana más abiertos. Los ciudadanos ya han empezado a moverse; las administraciones podrían aprovechar estos procesos autónomos e independientes para la gestión de situaciones muy complejas, sin embargo sigue faltando una clara voluntad política.

Probablemente los administradores han conseguido retrasar el paso hacia un nuevo modelo de gestión participada gracias al apoyo indirecto e incluso directo del denominado “cuarto poder”: la prensa. El sistema de información actual todavía ofrece a los administradores y a los “poderosos” amplia oportunidad para manipular y controlar ciertos procesos.

La emergencia de un modelo de información mucho más distribuido, empieza a ofrecer a cualquier ciudadano la posibilidad de producir información local relevante. Nace un ecosistema de comunicación basado en el social media.

Este nuevo ecosistema de información puede reducir la influencia de los medios de comunicación de masa y por ende obligar los administradores locales a rendir cuentas de sus decisiones. Los administradores se verán obligados a relacionarse con este nuevo tipo de comunicación, más horizontal y distribuida: una oportunidad para generar una especie de “control social” que mejore la transparencia y obligue a los administradores locales a tener en cuenta la opinión pública.

Un ejemplo muy claro de todo lo que estamos presentando aquí son las últimas movilizaciones ciudadanas que están teniendo lugar en España. Tras la manifestación del 15M, un evento autorizado y organizado durante semanas, que congregó a decenas de miles de personas, nacen unas acampadas en numerosas plazas en toda España. Estas acampadas se organizaron en cuestión de horas, usando únicamente Twitter y Facebook. Ejercer un control sobre todos estos flujos de información y catalizadores de acciones como las acampadas es imposible. Se ha dado un paso hacia un modelo en el que gobernantes y administradores van a tener que entender, que no pueden seguir ignorando a los ciudadanos y defendiendo los intereses de otros.

Nos encontramos delante a un innovador proceso de construcción de un nuevo ámbito de lo público y de lo común; el desarrollo de un nuevo modelo de espacio público que hemos denominado espacio sensible. Los medios tradicionales no consiguen comunicar lo que cotidianamente los ciudadanos estamos debatiendo u organizando, sin embargo gracias a los Social Network, cualquier persona puede informarse e interactuar a tiempo real con aquellas personas que están protagonizando nuevos debates o movimientos, como es el caso de las acampadas en las plazas públicas.

Es interesante comprobar como lo presencial es absolutamente imprescindible y lo digital está ofreciendo un entorno de comunicación y organización aumentado, que permite ir más allá de las posibilidades de organización de cualquier acción que se quede exclusivamente en lo presencial: todo se vuelve descentralizado y al mismo tiempo conectado y sincronizado.

Estos procesos parecen ser casi inevitables y una vez instaurados como procesos naturales de gestión local, entonces estaremos hablando de un entorno más que favorable para una Ciudad de Código Abierto, es decir una ciudad abierta a la participación de todos.

Texto de Domenico Di Siena para Ecosistema Urbano previamente publicado en el blog La Ciudad Viva.